Brian Edwards Media

Is New Zealand TV suffering from thelephobia*?

WitchHere are two breast cancer awareness ads – one from New Zealand, one from Scotland.

Which one do you find more compelling?



There have been some rather strange explanations as to why nipples are inappropriate for NZ television viewers. It seems to boil down to time-of-broadcast restrictions, which are in place for several categories of advertisement in New Zealand, including alcohol. This would hardly be a hindrance to the message getting out there, since the target audience for these ads is allowed to stay up past 8:30 or 9:00pm. Thus our children would be protected from being permanently damaged by the sight of an adult female nipple – the only sort of nipple that appears to be a problem.

My question is: are we thelephobic? Or just ridiculously prudish?

*thelephobia: fear of nipples



  1. That first New Zealand version is disgusting. It evokes some kind of Margaret Atwood, dystopian, reality. The message here is that women’s bodies are abnormal, possibly abhorrent so we are going to replace the actual graphic with flower pots and cherries.
    Dickhead censors.
    Conversely, the Scottish version is grittier but far more attractive.

    • That’s very interesting Monique – your thought that women’s bits must be so disgusting you can’t show them for fear of revolting the viewers! Never thought of censorship like that before, but it’s a perfectly valid point. What a load of tripe: everyone’s got nipples but only half of us have them connected to anything worthwhile.

      • Interesting that you never thought about it like that – many women feel that way, particularly when we see topfree men displaying their nipples on broadcast television at the beach, BBQ, or while mowing the lawn. Surely that’s gratuitous nudity, and should only be available in the evening? While topfree women, educating the population about breast cancer, are not at all shocking or gratuitous, and should be doing their job, saving lives, during the day as well as at night?

        • I suppose the exposure thing is tied up with the sex bit. The common perception is that ladies nipples are dual-purpose and that bloke’s buttons are deemed to be somewhat less so. Maybe they’re traditionally hidden to stop blokes having to work out which function they might be next employed for.

          Having said that, and having holidayed in Europe several times, I’ve spent too much of my life tut-tutting at the concept of topless sunbathing. Just because blokes can doesn’t mean women should, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t either. I don’t know why women do it, and don’t understand why it’s OK for the hotel’s barman or other holiday makers to view, but all hell lets loose if Spotty Billy from accounts should chance to turn up on the same beach.

          Call me a prude, but I do think the Scottish woman’s nipples have been put to some serious good use here.

  2. Monique is certainly right about the Scottish version — much more effective. I suppose it wasn’t the accent that prevented its use here but our thelephobia aversion to exposing children to something with which they were intimately acquainted from a very early age.

  3. I have heard about this ban and am very puzzled because I have seen a show ( TV 2 I think ) called embarrassing bodies. This shows a lot more than nipples. Unbelievable.

  4. Who actually was responsible for banning this in NZ?

  5. The Scottish version, hands down. More compelling and way more informative. Now I know I don’t have to wait until my breasts turn into yellow balloons or flowerpots before realizing that my lop-sidedness or my crusty nipple needs further investigation. This is a bizarrely prudish approach given the extent of nudity one can be exposed to (pun intended) in the course of an evening’s viewing. The companion Scottish ad is also very good; humourous and features, gasp (!), men holding pictures of women’s diseased breasts. Scotland, the brave.

  6. Ha ha. My children were intimately acquainted with my nipples for at least the first nine months to one year of their lives. Today they have a proclivity for Booby nomenclature; “Mommy Booby, Grandma Booby, Funny booby”.

  7. You could call the attitudes of these self-appointed censors infantile – except that infants don’t have any problem with nipples at all. We seem to be determined to follow the idiotic double standards of the sniggering American media with their universal blurring-out of female nipples. The prudish stupidity in coyly censoring these ads for breast cancer reminds me of the feminist inspired furore a few years ago over a cleavage. It was an advert for a NZ Opera production of “Carmen” and very cleverly showed a woman (Carmen) with a jacket draped over each shoulder signifying the vocation of each of her two admirers – soldier and matador. Naturally, between the lapels of the draped jackets was a cleavage. To their lasting shame, NZ Opera gave in to screeches of protest from “women’s groups” and withdrew the poster – at great cost to themselves. It seem we haven’t grown up much since then.

  8. NZ is not thelephobic but it is afflicted with mind-blowing bureaucracy which thinks it has the right and duty to control every aspect of our lives.

    • That bureaucracy being the communications and media industry self-regulating in this case.

      Also, they assessed the “generally prevailing community standards” such that an ad about breast cancer awareness featuring adult female nipples was deemed too risky to air.

  9. The Kiwi add is ‘prudish’ in the extreme. It looks like a Presbyterian minister made it!

    • Agreed. With the assistance of the Presbyterian Wives’ Club. Side issue – I have the same problem with bad language: if the speech in your programme is so awful you have to bleep out 30% of it, go and make a programme out of something else. Swear words have a place in English whether you use them yourself or not and replacing them with a bleep, like fuzzing ove the nipples, just doesn’t work.

  10. The decision to disallow the Scottish style version is unbelievably prudish and bureaucratic. The resultant NZ version is simply so twee that it becomes ineffective when viewed.

    To the decision makers behind this farce – “for god’s grew up!!”

    • okay – errata – should have said “for god’s sake grow up!!”

      my apologies for poor typing and rotten proof reading :-)

  11. TV in New Zealand had no interest or concerns about their viewers, there attention is firmly fixed on advertisers. They are terrified they may get it wrong. Thank god for the fast forward button.

  12. Where is Patricia Bartlett when we need her?

  13. The NZ version reminded me of “Calendar Girls” but tacky and coy, so the message was lost on me – a mere male.
    The Scottish version reminded me that women’s breasts come in a delightful range of shapes and sizes and should be looked after.

  14. More specifically it would appear to be female nipples that cause panic amongst the guardians of public morals. Rugby players can remove their shirts without a mass swooning taking place or the youth of the nation being corrupted.

    However the easy availability of pornography on the internet to children does not seem to attract the same level of concern.

  15. The Scottish version by far, but I guess that is not what you are really asking Judy. Why do we prudes in NZ need to euphemise a breast cancer ad?

    This story has been picked up globally , it really is a bit embarrassing for NZ
    But …

    The BBC reports the Scottish as “Shocking”
    So it was pretty radical over there as well and also of interest is the Scottish ad was only aired after 9 pm.

    Which is funny considering our censors suggested a post 8:30 pm time slot .

    So why is NZ getting the press on this when the Scots folded to their censor’s demands ?

  16. Breast Cancer is shocking and needs to be given the best chance to be detected. The Scottish ad does this far more effectively .I’m not convinced that the nipple issue is completely to blame. Some ad creators seem to think being smart rather than obvious is their best option. The Scottish add combined with a real story (condensed to ad time limits)of a women being treated (I note the use of the word treated)for breast cancer which has migrated would definitely get peoples attention and ensure a greater number of women being saved . Its the point of the exercise.

  17. Do we have to display the body parts that need to be examined? Are we suggesting the only way to draw attention to the part of the anatomy that needs to be self-examined and/or medically examined is to show it? Really?

    Males should examine their testicles for lumps regularly. Having been told that, I do not need to have shown to me the scrotum or someone performing a self-examination of their testes to know it is an important check to make.

    There are several other checks that we should all make regularly too. Do we need to have a demonstration? Need I elaborate?

  18. One Picture…..

  19. Just to get some clarity .
    This is a media beat up , I include this blog in that .

    This from Rob Hoar, general manager of the Commercial Approvals Bureau (Cab),

    “said had the charity gone through with the plan, the ad would have likely been given an Adults Only classification.

    This would have restricted it to being shown after 8.30pm. In Scotland, the hard-hitting commercial featuring comedienne Elaine C. Smith has to be shown after 9pm but resulted in a 50 per cent rise in the number of women contacting their GP about the disease.

    Mr Hoar said the authority had never banned the advertisement as some media reported.”

    So NZ is no different to Scotland , actually a little bit more liberal.

    • 19.1

      Except CAB had promised to ban it from being shown before 8:30pm. The bureaucrat is quibbling.

      Yes, Scottish bureaucrats are slightly worse and the Scottish charity rather braver than ours.

    • So NZ is no different to Scotland , actually a little bit more liberal.

      In way, in that their ‘Adults Only’ threshold seems to be 9 pm rather than 8.30. But that Herald article then points out the Scottish ad was effective even in that time slot.

      Also, it still leaves the question of why our advertising approvals agency thought that an ad featuring women’s breasts in this context would be at risk to be shown before 8.30. As far as I can see, that seems to be its own judgment, not a formal ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who seemed equivocal about whether a remake of the Scottish ad would pass. The rules that the ASA base their decisions on appear to involve a lot of judgment of the “generally prevailing community standards”, which relates exactly to Judy’s question.

  20. Can I just say that the first time I saw female nipples as a kid was in 1975 (aged 10 or 11) via one of the Monty Python books. These featured Terry Gilliam’s wonderfully airbrushed 1920s pornography – groups of women complete with figleafs, but utterly exposed nipples. Somewhat pleasant for a 10-year-old lad. But, now that I think about it, just a little disturbing given they were born about the same time as my grandmother (early 1900s).

  21. Are we thelephobic or just prudish? …perhaps the rationale for the ‘prudish’ (I thought ‘creative’) approach to this challenging topic was to keep it light and accessible to women who are afraid of confronting their fear?

    Then again, it may just be the young producers who don’t want to challenge Kiwi blokes or offend women …
    were the local producers repulsed by the naked breast images, mostly of older women (?), and thought others would be too?
    Did they decide to offer a Kiwi slant to the topic and give a local team the opportunity to produce the advert? I’m certain there would have been complaints if we had used the Scottish advert!

    Is it the child’s exposure to ‘nipples’ on TV that we need to worry about as much as the bad manners and boorish behaviour modelled by so many NZ males in front of children, and the subsequent problematic body image issues placed on the females of our species which they then project onto others?

    However, it is fascinating reading all these supportive comments for the older breast from the nice well-mannered well-meaning middle class males who read this blog.

    The Scottish advert is more hard hitting; the symbolic advert is colourful and engaging. The real objective is to encourage women, especially Maori and Pacific Island women, to have the confidence to participate in breast health checks.

    Honestly, as an older woman who has had breast cancer, I find the topic irrelevant.

  22. I like the NZ one for two reasons
    – I don’t really want to see other people’s breasts (I’ve got my own and that’s enough) and
    – the pictures in front of the breasts are a visual reminder about what type of problem to look for i.e. the pictures add something
    i.e. walnuts – lumps
    different weathered pots – change in skin’s appearance
    different coloured muffins – breast colour changes
    different size ballons – changes in shape
    different size cameras – changes in size
    a red tear – changes in nipple e.g discharges

    … those pictures get the message across without actually having to show the actual diseased breasts.

  23. Considering the billions of nipples, breasts, and other bits’n’bobs floating around the internet these day, I’d say that mare may’ve well and truly bolted by now…

    However, on a positive note, at least the ads are being shown on our telly, even after 8.30pm – which really, is not that late. And it may be an appropriate time for mums and dads who’ve put little Johnny and Janey to bed and can settle down to a peaceful evening in front of the telly (and probably doze of).

    @ LHP, “Do we have to display the body parts that need to be examined? Are we suggesting the only way to draw attention to the part of the anatomy that needs to be self-examined and/or medically examined is to show it? Really? ”

    Yup, indeed we do. Considering that ignorance (in this case) is not bliss, but a death sentence, this is precisely what the medium of television should be tasked with; informing the community of life and death issues and problems.

    After all, it’s one of the ways we confronted the horrific road toll caused by (amongst other things) drunk drivers.