TV sleaze backlash gathers steam
By John Drinnan Sep 17, 2010
Pressure is building on television networks to reduce the amount of sleaze in early prime time. The Broadcasting Standards Authority is expected to announce a decision next week that will set the new tone. There is particular concern about sexual content on early-evening TV.
BSA chief executive Dominic Sheehan said he was aware of concerns and had spoken to two community groups. He will be suggesting that the BSA board commission more research into the issue of how sexuality is presented, including the effect on early prime time – up to the 8.30pm cut-off for adult viewing. He had met the groups – one of which is Family First [a highly respected registered charity]- and they had raised convincing arguments that the BSA needed to develop its research.
There had been issues about the portrayal of sex in the news and in promotions. Sheehan stressed that the BSA acted only on complaints. It cannot act proactively or make subjective decisions. The authority has been created that way to ensure the industry is self-regulating. But self-regulation has gone out the door as the networks chase ratings.
Sheehan would not discuss an upcoming decision that will have an impact on how the BSA treats complaints about good taste and decency.
Television researcher Ruth Zanker has raised alarm bells about the growing levels of sexual content in early prime time, warning that children were being sacrificed on the altar of higher ratings for TV networks. But if the number of complaints are any judge, New Zealanders are happy with sleazy 7pm shows such as Family Guy.
The show regularly features a paedophile character and themes of incest and bestiality. AGB Nielsen surveys suggest an average 25,000 children aged 7 to 14 watch the show at 7pm each weeknight.
Sheehan said the context of shows – like the different approach of cartoons and of an edgy channel like C4 – was taken into account by the BSA.
TV2’s early prime time show Two and a Half Men regularly had a sexual theme. Another sign of the times in 2010 telly? A programme this week has included a promo for a show where a character is sexually attracted to pregnant women.
From the Archives: Concerns raised with BSA by SPCS re TV3 depiction of gratuitous violence. See: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU0404/S00048.htm