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A homosexual encounter on popular TV2 soap Shortland Street has earned Television New Zealand a rap from the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).

It was the first time a complaint against the popular New Zealand programme had been upheld by the BSA.

Balclutha man Lewis Cross complained to TVNZ about one episode of the programme, which screens five nights a week at 7pm.

"The episode showed in rather graphic physical details, the developing of a potential homosexual relationship between two young men," he said.

He was appalled that "TVNZ is prepared to accept it is suitable viewing to show a pair of men undressing, getting into bed and one disappearing under the blankets to obviously start oral sex with his mate".

Mr Cross said he would "have had enough of a problem explaining to younger kids what might just be happening under the bed clothes if that had been a heterosexual couple".

TVNZ argued that the programme regularly dealt with adult themes, and contended the same scene with a heterosexual couple would not have breached broadcasting standard.

It said the scene did not contain any "actual sex" and while "Lindsay does go under the covers and there is a suggestion of oral sex", it did not occur and ended in comic disaster.

His partner, Gerald, accidentally kneed him in the face, giving his a bloody nose.

The broadcaster said the scene did not stray beyond current norms of good taste and decency.

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response Mr Cross referred his complaint to the BSA.

He contended the scene would have been just as offensive, considering the time slot, if it had involved a heterosexual couple and maintained that a sexual content warning and PGR rating did not justify such content at the time it was broadcast.

The BSA agreed and today released a decision, upholding the complaint that the episode was in breach of the good taste and decency and children's interests standards in the Free to Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

The BSA considered 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.

It said the scene was not sufficiently discreet in its depiction of the sexual content, and was therefore unsuitable for child viewers.

The BSA made it clear 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.

It 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.

The BSA noted TVNZ had reviewed the appraisal process for Shortland Street, and was satisfied that procedures had been put in place to ensure similar breaches did not occur in the future.