Shortland Street's gay scene too raunchy for Broadcasting Standard Authority

The Broadcasting Standards Authority today released a decision on a complaint that an episode of Shortland Street was in breach of the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards in the Free to Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The complaint was upheld.

The episode included a scene in which two male characters, Gerald and Lindsay, were involved in a sexual encounter which began with them undressing and kissing; Gerald was in his underwear and Lindsay was shirtless, but still wearing his trousers.

The two characters were then shown lying in bed talking, covered up to their bare chests by blankets. Lindsay went under the blankets and Gerald nervously asked him “where are you going?”. Lindsay popped his head back up and replied “it’s a surprise” before descending back under but came back up when a ticklish Gerald began giggling. After Lindsay went back under the blankets, Gerald moved suddenly and accidentally hit Lindsay in the face with his knee, giving him a bloody nose.

The episode was rated PGR and preceded by the following written and verbal warning:

“The following programme contains sexual material that may not be suitable for a younger audience. We recommend the guidance of a parent or other adult.”

In the Authority’s view, the scene in question was not suitable for child viewers, even when subject to guidance from a parent or adult.

The Authority considered that any sexual content or references during children’s normally accepted viewing times should be subtle and inexplicit, or in the nature of sexual innuendo that would be likely to go over the heads of child viewers. In the Authority’s view, the scene was not sufficiently discreet in its depiction of the sexual content, and was therefore unsuitable for child viewers.

The Authority made it clear that its findings had nothing to do with the fact that the scene involved two men; the scene would have been equally inappropriate if it had involved a heterosexual couple. Irrespective of the characters’ sexual orientation, the broadcaster did not adequately consider the interests of child viewers by including such an unambiguous sex scene in a programme broadcast at 7pm.

The Authority did not impose an order. It said that the decision clarified its expectations surrounding the broadcast of sexual content of this nature during the PGR time-band at 7pm. It noted that TVNZ had reviewed the appraisal process for Shortland Street, and was satisfied that procedures had been put in place to ensure that similar breaches did not occur in the future. In addition, it acknowledged that the decision was likely to receive extensive publicity due to the nature of the complaint and the programme involved.

This is the first time that a complaint against Shortland Street has been upheld by the BSA.

Read the full decision »

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Co-founder of Throng. Favourite TV shows recently: Homeland and The Newsroom.
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  • Rachel

    I’m impressed that this was the first Shortland Street complaint which was upheld. That’s a pretty good record for so many episodes!

  • MorrisTheCat

    And as a parent I am 100% in agreement with the BSA findings. Why do we have to have sexually explicit material bombarded at us these days and especially the increase in what would be described as ‘Gay’ scenes material? It’s a pity Shorty St had to stoop to such a line in the plot and one wonders whether it was as a shock tactic or simply the Producer/Writers wheeling out their own personal Agenda on the whole subject.

    Please TVNZ, can you have a closer look at just how much of this kind of thing is sneaking in so that it doesn’t make it to air until children are well in bed asleep.

  • priscilla

    Anyone reading the BSA’s own description of the scene should be able to discern that the scenario was light-hearted and fun and not at all offensive to anyone with half a brain and a sense of humor. I’d like to know exactly how any child could be damaged or traumatized by two men being affectionate, then NOT having sex. The ruling is blatantly homophobic, and just saying it isn’t doesn’t make it so. Good on Shortie for continuing to foster healthy, open discussion of sexuality. But who will protect NZ’s children from the narrow, backward-thinking bureaucrats of the Broadcasting Standards Authority?

  • Beky

    If people are going to complain about this sort of stuff then they should be complaining about he simpsons too. That isnt exactly child friendly..

  • Uroskin

    I’m impressed that this was the first Shortland Street complaint which was upheld. That’s a pretty good record for so many episodes!
    I was surprised too given Shortland Street has more than overfilled its quota of serial killers, lesbian romps, unhealthy and corrupt straight relationships that should scare teh kidz, not to mention its downmarket production and acting values (have you ever seen a shadow on the set with all that overhead lighting making everything look falt and 2-dimensional?)

  • regan

    I think the ruling was fair. Suggesting oral sex, whether it be between a gay or heterosexual couple, isn’t appropriate for 7:00pm. Sure, adults might be able to see the light-hearted fun but forcing parents to potentially have to have a conversation about something that neither they nor the child may be ready for does infringe on being intruding.

  • GoWriteMale

    Do we need to look at “that” picture on your home page, I think it lowers the whole tone of your web site.
    Like seeing the the Ponsonbies “Hero parade” on the TV news, the woman look as if they are the cream of the “brains trust” while the men look as if they have had their brains removed by the tooth fairy and have been turned into “zombies MK2” (IQ -273).

  • MrCynical

    Why is violence so fine and yet sex is not? For those parents who have to explain to their kids what two people are doing and enjoying in their bedroom, how the frak do they explain why that man is trying to strangle that woman until she dies?

    The serial killer storyline saw massive ratings increases, so was their a massive family sit down on why people want to murder each other and why that is so cool and exciting? The BSA deems that attempting to murder someone is fine for the entire family and from the lack of complaints the families of New Zealand seem to agree.

    Yet consensual sex between adults? Oh no, how will we explain that to little Timmy, he musn’t know about sex, maybe if I tell him that that one man went under the cover so that he could more easily get to the hidden pistol so he can kill him rather than give him pleasure.

  • shantaram

    Hilarious- thanks for posting your IQ GoWriteMale. But you forgot to move the decimal point one place to the left.

  • Tori

    ok honestly, the parents watching this show already know what kind of stuff is on it, and if your kids watched this episode then they obviously watched episodes before. I dont see how this episode is any worse than what has already been on shortie. We have had murder, sex, swearing, etc. They are only reacting because its (hushed whisper now, so no one gets offended) homosexuality. And oh no, we cant let our kids know what that is. Its fine for them to know about heterosexual sex, murder and swear words, but oh dear, dont let them know about homosexuality. For goodness sake. Grow up and deal with it. If you dont like it, don’t let your kids watch it, simple.

  • bobscoffee

    so the question is where do we draw the line? 

  • Charter Obligation

    I can see both sides of this argument. A specific sexual act is suggested – not just a couple going into a bedroom and closing a door. So the decision mgiht be fair.

    I can’t help thinknig the complainant was motivated by homophobia though. There had actually been other quite sexual storylines going on around the same time with opposite-sex couples – no worries there!

    It’s a hard balance to find between keeping audiences interested with salacious stuff, while keeping it tame enought for 7pm. I agree with Mr. Cynical too – harsh violence seems acceptable, whereas hints of sex are considered ‘indecent’. This is particularly a problem in America. So much violence and murder on screens… and then so much drama over Janet Jackson and her bared breast, for example.

  • regan

    I’m sure you’re right CC.  In all likelihood the complaint found its roots in homophobia but I don’t believe that was the motive for the decision as you pointed out.