WELLINGTON, Feb 15  (AFP) - A New Zealand television decency watchdog Tuesday ruled that footage showing a man stapling his penis to a crucifix and setting it alight did not breech its good taste rules.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority said in a ruling the stunt was "unusual and macabre" but the edited video footage shown on state-owned Television New Zealands Havoc 2000 Deluxe show just avoided breaking broadcasting good taste boundaries.
Television New Zealand (TVNZ) is currently under fierce attack from Prime Minister Helen Clark who accuses it of being ratings driven.
Two people complained about the clips in the show which saw Christchurch student Thomas Hendry win 500 NZ dollars (245 US) cash and a 500 dollar bar tab last year in a Christchurch tavern's How Far Will You Go? promotion.
Hendry stapled his penis to a cross 18 times with an industrial-strength stapler, before dousing it with cigarette lighter fluid and setting it alight before a video camera.
TVNZ said it knew the humour was not to everyone's liking, but the show's viewers expected eccentric humour and bizarre behaviour, tying in with the "deliberately mischievous streak" of the show's presenters.
The footage came at the end of the late-night show and viewers had been repeatedly warned it was quite shocking, graphic and disgusting, TVNZ said.
The authority said the video excluded the most explicit aspects. What was shown was "relatively ambiguous" -- in fact so low key it was unlikely viewers would have known what was going on if not for the commentary.