The Morning Rumble – toilet humour – offensive behaviour
Principle 1 – borderline – majority – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
During "The Morning Rumble", the announcers read out an item called "How to Shite Like A Man". It was broadcast on The Rock on the morning of 21 March 2000.
Margaret and Hugh Kingsford complained to The RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item contained "the most disgusting subject matter [they had] ever heard".
The RadioWorks responded that although the item was "somewhat tasteless" and might have been better suited to broadcast at a later time in the day, it was a serious attempt at humour. It added that the content and language used was commonplace among the station’s target audience of 18 to 34 year old males. It declined to uphold the complaint.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr and Mrs Kingsford referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, a majority of the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence, which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
During "The Morning Rumble" broadcast on the morning of 21 March 2000 on The Rock, the announcers read out an item called "How to Shite Like A Man".
Margaret and Hugh Kingsford complained to The RadioWorks that the item contained "the most disgusting subject matter [they had] ever heard".
In its response to the complaint, The RadioWorks agreed that the item was "somewhat tasteless" and might have been better suited for broadcast at a later time in the day. However, it considered that a serious attempt at humour had been made. It also commented that the content and language used was commonplace among its target audience of males aged between 18 and 34 years. It apologised to the Kingsfords for any distress that might have been caused by the broadcast, but declined to uphold the complaint.
In their referral to the Authority, Mr and Mrs Kingsford wrote that The RadioWorks had shown a "blatant lack of encouragement to young men to observe any form of decency". They asked whether the Rock’s target audience was considered by The RadioWorks to be "of low intelligence, gutter thinking and sexist".
Mr and Mrs Kingsford also commented that they regarded The RadioWorks’ concession that the item was "somewhat tasteless" as an admission that it should not have been broadcast.
In its response to the referral, The RadioWorks maintained that the item broadcast was a legitimate attempt at humour, targeted at The Rock’s "male, blue-collar 18–34 year old audience". Although it agreed that the item might have been better suited to broadcast at a time outside the breakfast show, The RadioWorks did not accept that its broadcast at any time of the day would have contravened broadcasting standards when its audience demographic was taken into account.
In their final comment, Mr and Mrs Kingsford wrote that they considered the "graphic and crude description" was unacceptable for any time of the day. They also asked whether The Rock’s target audience was not "the very age group who should be encouraged to improve their… standards". Lastly, they wrote that they considered unacceptable what they called the blatant assumption made in the item that women should have to clean up after men.
The complaint was considered in the context of Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which reads:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards, which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
1a Broadcasters will take into consideration current norms of decency and good taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast eg time of day, target audience.
The Authority is divided in its decision about this complaint. A majority of the Authority is of the view that the station’s target audience is a relevant contextual factor on this occasion. It accepts that the item was likely to be considered offensive by many people in the community and was on the borderline of acceptability in any context. However, given the clear targeting of the programme towards The Rock’s target audience of 18–34 year old males, the majority considers that the broadcast fell marginally short of breaching standards of good taste and decency. It therefore declines to uphold the complaint that Principle 1 was breached.
The minority disagrees. It is not persuaded by the broadcaster’s argument relating to the station’s target audience, and considers that the material was unsuitable for broadcast early in the day. The minority also considers that the offensiveness of the broadcast was compounded by the fact that it appeared to have been repeatedly "teased" over the course of the morning, prior to its broadcast. The minority upholds the complaint as a breach of Principle 1.
As a final point, the Authority records that it did not consider this complaint under Principle 7, Guideline 7a of the Radio Code, as it was not raised by the complainants in their initial letter of complaint.
For the reasons set forth above, a majority of the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
10 August 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Hugh and Margaret Kingsford’s Formal Complaint to The RadioWorks – 28 March 2000
2. The RadioWorks’ Response to the Formal Complaint – 19 April 2000
3. Mr and Mrs Kingsford’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 1 May 2000
4. The RadioWorks’ Response to the Authority – 9 May 2000
5. Mr and Mrs Kingsford’s Final Comment – 15 May 2000