Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item reported on an Italian television personality who groped David Beckham’s genitals – news presenters commented on the incident – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration standard
Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – while the comments were sexist, they were intended to be humorous and lacked the necessary invective for a breach of the standard – item did not encourage discrimination against or denigration of a section of the community – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on One News, broadcast on TV One at 6pm on Friday 22 January 2010, reported that David Beckham had his genitals groped by an Italian television personality during a media interview.
 The sports presenter introduced the item by saying:
Well, finally in Sport, David Beckham’s probably had thousands of interviews during his glittering football career, but his latest would have to be the most painful. Becks was in the middle of a TV interview in Milan when a female reporter copped a feel.
 Footage of the incident was shown in slow motion and was accompanied by dramatic music. The presenter said, “Love the dramatic music and ah, yes, an unamused Beckham was whisked away by his security. The stunt probably didn’t go down that well with his wife Victoria either.”
 One of the news presenters, Simon Dallow, stated, “Talk about getting squeezed for information, you know”. The sports presenter responded by saying, “That woman had a lot of guts, don’t you reckon?” A third presenter then said, “A lot of guts or a lot of something else?”
 The exchange concluded with Mr Dallow saying that “half the audience are crossing their legs right now”. The three presenters laughed together before moving on to the next item.
 Graham Marriott made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item and the presenters’ subsequent comments breached Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration).
 The complainant stated that he was “appalled by the light-hearted and jocular manner” in which the incident involving Mr Beckham was reported on. He stated that the female presenter “even went so far as to congratulate the Italian reporter for having the guts to feel up David Beckham”.
 Mr Marriott argued that the broadcaster had implied that sexual assault was not a serious matter and should be admired and encouraged, “especially if committed against men”. He argued that the item was a clear example of “gender bias and discrimination”.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 7 and guideline 7a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:
Standard 7 Discrimination and Denigration
Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.
This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:
- a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or
- legitimate humour, drama or satire.
 TVNZ stated that the Authority had previously held that encouraging discrimination meant to encourage the different treatment of members of a particular group, to their detriment. It said that denigration had been defined as blackening the reputation of a class of people. It also stated that, in light of the right to free expression contained in the Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high threshold had to be crossed before a breach of Standard 7 could be found.
 The broadcaster stated that the incident involving Mr Beckham had received international media coverage and had been widely reported as a prank made by an Italian television presenter. It contended that, “No apparent harm came to Mr Backham as a result of the prank” and he was reported to have taken the prank in the joking spirit in which it was intended.
 TVNZ noted that the footage was shown in slow motion and was accompanied by overly dramatic music, which it considered signalled to viewers that the item was intended to be comedic. It said that its presenters generally engaged in brief discussions at the end of such news items and argued that the audience would have understood the comments were light-hearted.
 The broadcaster argued that the item had not denigrated or been discriminatory against men and it declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Marriott referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that Standard 7 had been breached, because the item had portrayed “a section of the community (i.e. men) as inherently inferior, or having inherent negative characteristics in that on account of their sex [they] do not deserve protection of the law and are open to ridicule”.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.
 The term "denigration" has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people (see, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1).
 The term “discrimination” has been defined by the Authority as encouraging the different treatment of members of a particular group, to their detriment (see, for example, Teoh and TVNZ2).
 It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (see, for example, McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network3).
 Mr Marriott argued that the broadcaster had implied that sexual assault was not a serious matter and should be admired and encouraged, “especially if committed against men”. We disagree.
 In our view, the item did highlight the apparent double standard alleged by the complainant; if it had been a woman groped by a male it is highly unlikely that similar comments would have been made. However, we consider that the presenter’s light-hearted comments did not amount to encouraging the denigration of, or discrimination against, men as a section of society.
 The item clearly focused on David Beckham, and the presenters’ comments solely and specifically related to him. They did not make any comments relating to the acceptability of assaulting men, nor did imply that men in general deserved less protection from assault than women.
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration).
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
1 June 2010
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Graham Marriott’s formal complaint – 23 January 2010
2. TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 22 February 2010
3. Mr Marriott’s referral to the Authority – 23 February 2010
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 13 April 2010
5. Mr Marriott’s final comment – 20 April 2010
1Decision No. 2006-030
2Decision No. 2008-091
3Decision No. 2002-152