A scene implicitly depicting oral sex and genital nudity in an episode of Hung shown on TV One breached the good taste and decency standard, a majority of the Broadcasting Standards Authority has found.
Hung is a comedy-drama series about a divorced and financially struggling father, Ray Drecker, who starts working as a male prostitute.
In the episode broadcast on TV One at 9.50pm on Monday 22 March, Ray went on a date with a woman called Lenore.
At approximately 10.10pm Ray was shown lifting up Lenore's skirt and removing her underwear. One brief shot of Lenore's genital area was shown in the scene, which was shot at a short distance in front of her.
Lenore then sat down on a couch and placed her legs over Ray's shoulders. Ray crouched with his head between Lenore's legs and performed oral sex. Lenore's legs and torso were visible as Lenore writhed and moaned on the couch. The top half of
Lenore's body was fully clothed and her genital area was obscured by Ray's head.
A formal complaint was made to Television New Zealand that the scene amounted to soft porn .
In response TVNZ said that the programme had screened at 9.50pm, which was over an hour after the 8.30pm Adults Only (AO) watershed, was classified AO, and was preceded by a written and verbal warning.
The scene complained about had been relatively brief, not detailed, obviously acted and important in the context of the series, TVNZ said.
In its decision a majority of the BSA found that that although the context went some way to alerting viewers to the challenging nature of the programme, the content complained about went well beyond the level of sexual material that viewers would
expect to see on free-to-air television.
In the majority's view, the scene complained about was prolonged, explicit and gratuitous, leaving nothing to the imagination and designed solely for the purpose of shocking and titillating the audience, the decision said.
In these circumstances factors such as the programme's AO classification and the use of a written and verbal warning were not sufficient to prevent the broadcast breaching standards of good taste and decency, the decision said.
The BSA did not make any orders, saying that publication of the decision would be sufficient to clarify its expectations surrounding sexual content of this nature.
New Zealand TV rivals have put aside their differences for a court battle to get sex scenes past the TV censors of the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
Both TVNZ and TV3 say the authority has become increasingly conservative. Their lawyer, Julian Miles QC, has gone as far as challenging the Broadcasting Standards Authority to reach rational decisions, not personal ones. They say recent rulings
are at odds with decisions in the past, and have blamed that on changes to the make-up of the authority because the rulings have obviously been influenced by the change of membership .
They say the BSA has been tougher on the good taste and decency standard since two new members, including the chairman, were appointed in late 2009.
In particular the authority ruled that a man performing oral sex on a woman in the late-night drama Hung , and two teenagers kissing on Home And Away , were inappropriate. Those decisions drove TVNZ and TV3 to join forces last week
to appeal the decisions. The Hung incident involved an episode where a woman's genital area was shown before she put her legs over a man's shoulders.
In court last week, Miles pointed to a 2007 decision on an Outrageous Fortune episode that involved a male and female sex scene. In that case, which Justice Raynor Asher said was comparable, the authority declined to uphold the complaint,
saying the show pushed the limits of what is acceptable but given the time-slot and expected audience it did not breach the standard.
The Home and Away case turned on a classification issue. On March 24, TV3's long-running G-rated programme showed Liam and Martha kissing. Liam removed Martha's bathrobe, revealing her in a bra and pyjama pants. The pair then moved to a kitchen
The authority ruled the scene violated responsible programming and taste and decency standards, and went well beyond what should be included in a G-rated programme .
Miles said a November 2009 Home and Away decision had already dealt with the classification issue. In that ruling, involving teenagers kissing on a bed and a girl removing a boy's T-shirt, the authority dismissed a complaint.
Justice Asher reserved his judgement for a later date.
TVNZ has been fined and ordered to apologise for showing sexually explicit clips from porn movies on its flagship current affairs programme Close Up .
The article on August 11 last year was about porn star Nina Hartley's thoughts on feminism and sexuality.
It showed Ms Hartley posing in only a push-up bra and g-string for photo shoots and acting in porn moves. One scene showed her rubbing her bottom against a man's face while wearing a garter-belt and no underwear, with her pubic hair visible.
The article on Ms Hartley was preceded by a warning saying it would contain adult content and viewer discretion was advised.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) said those images represented an egregious breach of good taste and decency and children's interest rules.
We consider that screening these clips from pornographic movies on free-to-air television and in the PGR time-band [ broadcast at 7pm, PGR means suitable for children to view if they have parental guidance
], amounted to an egregious breach of broadcasting standards. The fact that this item was broadcast, in our view, reflects a significant lapse in judgment by the broadcaster, the decision states.
It ordered TVNZ to air a comprehensive summary of its breaches on Close Up within a month and issued a $3000 fine.
Nutter group Family First has welcomed the BSA decision. Its national director Bob McCoskrie said the sexualisation of news and current affairs was disturbing . He said the article promoted the porn industry under the guise of news.
TVNZ has won a battle against the New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority, which it believes has become increasingly conservative since its panel was reconstituted last year.
The High Court has ruled that an oral sex scene on the show Hung was not gratuitous, and that the authority was plainly wrong to rule against it.
The broadcaster says it is concerned at a number of decisions that lack consistency, and in our opinion fail to interpret public expectations correctly . TVNZ suggested that a review of the structure and operation of broadcasting
standards regulation may be timely .
It indicated last week that it would return to the High Court to challenge the ruling against the Sunday programme in which a police officer used the f-word when describing his heat-of-the-moment exchange with Aramoana killer David Gray.
TVNZ and TV3 joined forces last month to take the authority to the High Court over rulings against Hung and TV3's soap opera Home and Away .
Justice Asher ruled in favour of TVNZ over the Hung decision on the grounds that it was plainly wrong . The authority had said the scene, in which the main character -- a male prostitute -- gives a woman oral sex, was solely for
the purpose of shocking and titillating the audience . Justice Asher disagreed, saying the scene occurred late at night, in an AO-rated show in which sex plays an inevitable part of the narrative .
However Justice Asher upheld the decision against the Home and Away scene, in which a young girl was shown straddling and kissing a boy while wearing only a bra.
That ruling could prove more significant because it rejected a number of approaches the broadcasters were relying on for their appeals. TV3 had argued the authority ignored its own previous similar rulings, ignored context and the content of
other G-rated programmes, and gave insufficient reasons.
Sex and strong language on TV shows such as Outrageous Fortune has seen an increase in complaints to New Zealand's Broadcasting Standards Authority over the past five years.
The authority claims increasing complaints reflect the unease some feel at the speed of change in community standards, but nutter group Family First says those standards are being dragged lower by the authority's permissive stance.
The number of complaints received by the BSA which primarily related to issues of taste and decency rose by almost 50% last year to 96 of which 47 were upheld, according to the authority's annual report.
While last year's numbers were inflated by a rash of complaints about broadcaster Paul Henry, the increase was also driven by complaints about frequent coarse language used on Outrageous Fortune and sex scenes from the programme that were
shown on 3News at 6.35pm.
Bob McCoskrie, head of Family First, said the trend of increasing complaints on issues of good taste and decency reflected growing public unease about the graphic content and profanity of many TV shows.
A recent survey of 600 young New Zealanders aged 15 to 21 commissioned by Family First reported 57% of females and 45 per cent of males agreed there was too much sex, violence, bad language on TV .
McCoskrie said the survey showed greater concern about sex, profanity and violence on television among older survey respondents:
Our concern is that for the younger ones, 15 to 17, it becomes normalised which is our concern with broadcasting standards full stop in what you allow. The BSA tries to argue that they're representing community standards. We argue that they're
creating community standards by normalising it.
But BSA chairman Peter Radich said standards of good taste and decency were changing as they always had:
The pace of change is quickening and this is partly through the influence that the unregulated internet has, more especially on younger people.
Some people find the pace of change unsettling and, as they are entitled to do, they complain. Complaints allow broadcasts to be measured against standards, they allow temperatures to be taken, and for our part, they are welcomed.