Sex and language on TV sees big increase in complaints

NZ Herald 14 January 2012
Sex and swearing on TV shows such as Outrageous Fortune has seen a steep increase in complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority over the past five years. The authority says increasing complaints reflect the unease some feel at the speed of change in community standards, but advocacy 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 good taste and decency rose by almost 50 per cent last year to 96 of which 47 – almost half – 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. While the complaints about Outrageous Fortune were upheld, others, dealing with a scene from The Tudors showing a man tortured with a hot steel rod, a scene from Babel where a young girl exposed her genitals and an item on children’s show What Now where a judge said to Cinderella: “Next time I’m holding one of my balls, you’re invited” were not.

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 showed 57 per cent of females and 45 per cent of males agreed there was “too much sex, violence, bad language on TV”. Thirty-eight per cent of females and 58 per cent of males disagreed. Mr 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.”