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A complaint about young women posing topless in mud in an episode of New Zealand's Next Top Model has not been upheld by the country's broadcasting watchdog.

In the episode of the TV3 reality series, broadcast at 7.30pm on Friday, 20 August, contestants posed for a female photographer, wearing bikinis and accessories, with their bodies covered in mud.

However, some of the girls posed topless, although their breasts were covered in mud and concealed by steam rising from the pools.

One 16-year-old girl, series runner-up Michaela Steenkamp, said as she prepared to pose topless that though she was a Christian, "I don't think that's going to stop me from a lot of things as long as I have confidence in myself and confidence in the Lord."

At the end of the programme, judges evaluated the girls and their photographs and the 16-year-old Christian told one of the judges, "It's not really in my comfort zone, like I'm religious and I felt kind of bad."

The photo of Miss Steenkamp was altered on the TV3 website after complaints that her breasts were clearly visible.

A viewer complained to the Broadcasting Standards, Authority, alleging that the nudity in the photo shoot breached standards of good taste and decency, and said she was "disgusted and disappointed to see a 16-year-old girl being exploited".

In its response, TV3 broadcaster TVWorks said that the programme's executive producer had said that the comfort and wellbeing of contestants was taken seriously.

"They have female chaperones with them 24 hours a day, their stylist on this particular occasion was a woman, as was the photographer. The models are free at any time to opt out of any situation with which they feel uncomfortable, so far this has not been the case," the executive producer said.

The complainant referred the matter to the BSA, which in its decision noted that the programme was broadcast at 7.30pm, was rated Parental Guidance Recommended and was preceded by a verbal and written warning about coarse language.

The BSA said that the nudity was effectively masked by the mud that covered the girl's body and the steam rising from the pools.

TVNZ website not subject to broadcasting standards

In another decision, the BSA has ruled the TVNZ website was not subject to broadcasting standards, following a complaint about a One News item.

The complainant had missed the 20-working day deadline for making a complaint about the original broadcast of the television, but argued as the item was still available on the broadcaster's website, his complaint still fell within the timeframe.

TVNZ argued the availability of the item on its website was not "broadcasting" as defined by the Broadcasting Act and therefore the BSA had no jurisdiction to consider it.

The Broadcasting Act's definition of broadcasting excludes the transmission of programmes "made on the demand of a particular person for reception only by that person".

In its decision, the BSA said the complainant argued there was a "technical distinction between material which must first be downloaded onto a viewer's computer before playing, and material which can be played directly from a website (streamed)".

However, the BSA found although the item did not require a user to transfer the material to their own computer before viewing it, the data was still being "downloaded" and played in small chunks as it downloaded.

"This content is not transmitted over the internet until the user requests it and, therefore, we consider that it is "on demand" content," the decision said.

It said this type of transmission falls outside the definition of "broadcasting" in the Broadcasting Act because it is "made on the demand of a particular person for reception only by that person".

The BSA ruled it had no jurisdiction to accept the complaint.