Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Easy Mix – host made comments about smacking a child – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order, fairness, discrimination and denigration, and responsible programming standards
Standard 2 (law and order) – item did not encourage listeners to break the law or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity – not upheld
Standard 8 (responsible programming) – newsreader made it clear that smacking children was illegal – broadcaster was sufficiently mindful of the effect the programme’s content would have on children listening – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 At approximately 7.30am on Wednesday 16 June 2010 on the radio station Easy Mix, the presenter and newsreader had a brief discussion. The newsreader described coming back from holiday and going through her laundry to find that her young son had used a pair of scissors to cut holes in her bikini top.
 The following exchange took place:
Seriously, the word ‘smack’ is the only one that’s running through my head, but you didn’t.
Newsreader: No, that’s illegal Ali. You can’t smack your children!
Sorry Sue, I’m not talking about belting the living daylights out of them. I’m talking about a tap on the bum, that padded thing, where you keep your pride.
Mummy was very disappointed, but I just added it to the long list of things like the garage door remotes that have gone missing.
 Rebecca Guy made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the presenter’s comments breached broadcasting standards relating to good taste and decency, law and order, fairness, discrimination and denigration and responsible programming.
 The complainant argued that the presenter’s remarks about “smacking” the child were “offensive and disrespectful to the rights of children”. She contended that the broadcast was irresponsible, due to the fact that children could have been listening and because “the presenter used her privileged position to suggest violence against them”.
 Ms Guy pointed out that it was illegal in New Zealand to smack your child as punishment and considered that the comments invited listeners to imitate a criminal offence. She believed that the child referred to had been humiliated and treated unfairly.
 The complainant also argued that the presenter had discriminated against children on the grounds of age.
 Referring to guideline 8a of the responsible programming standard, Ms Guy also contended that the remarks were socially unacceptable and that the broadcaster had not been mindful of the effect the comments would have on children who were listening.
 Standards 2 and 8 and guidelines 2a and 8a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:
Standard 2 Law and Order
Broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order.
Caution should be exercised in broadcasting items which explain the technique of crime in a manner which invites imitation.
Standard 8 Responsible Programming
Broadcasters should ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.
Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme content may have on children during their normally accepted listening times.
 TRN assessed the complaint under Standards 2 and 8. It stated that Easy Mix was an adult music station targeted at women.
 With respect to Standard 2 (law and order), the broadcaster contended that the “smacking legislation introduced in New Zealand is a controversial issue and continues to be opposed from many quarters”. It said that, “In many branches of the media, commentators continue to be opinionated as to whether it is good legislation or not”.
 TRN argued that the presenter was “merely offering her legitimate opinion” and that the existing law did not preclude open discussion about the subject. It noted that the newsreader had told the presenter that smacking was “illegal”. It considered that the conversation was “very tame – a suggestion by one host, refuted by another”. It declined to uphold the Standard 2 complaint.
 Looking at responsible programming, the broadcaster contended that, “Given the target audience (adult women) and their maturity in weighing up the comment for what it was worth, we believe Standard 8 has not been breached”. It stated that, while it was possible that children may have heard and understood the comment, they would also have heard the comment that smacking was illegal.
 TRN declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Guy referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She noted that the broadcaster had not addressed all of the standards that she raised in her formal complaint.
 The complainant considered that the arguments put forward by TRN to defend the presenter’s comments were not sufficient and did not excuse the remarks or the presenter’s “negative attitude toward children”. She maintained that item was offensive and had breached Standards 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8.
 The members of the Authority have listened to 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.
 We note that Ms Guy nominated Standards 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8 in her formal complaint, but that TRN only assessed the complaint under Standards 2 and 8.
 In our view, the broadcaster acted appropriately in assessing the complaint under the law and order and responsible programming standards, as these were the most relevant to the complainant’s concerns.
 The Authority has previously stated (see, for example, Taylor and TVWorks1) that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.
 In our view, the discussion between the presenter and the newsreader fell into the category of light-hearted banter. The presenter’s comments about smacking were made in a non-threatening tone in an attempt at humour and were not intended to be taken seriously.
 We note that the newsreader made it clear to listeners that it is “illegal” to discipline children by smacking them and we consider that the exchange contained nothing that could be said to have encouraged listeners to break the law or which promoted, glamorised or condoned criminal activity.
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that Standard 2 was breached.
 Referring to guideline 8a, Ms Guy argued that the presenter’s remarks were “socially unacceptable” and that the broadcaster was not mindful of the effect the comments would have on child listeners.
 As noted above, we consider that the discussion consisted of light-hearted banter and that the presenter’s comments were hyperbolic. While any children listening would have heard the presenter’s comments about smacking, we agree with TRN that they would also have heard the newsreader’s response that such actions were illegal.
 Further, we consider that the exchange reflected the ongoing social discourse about the legislation and the fact that it was supported by some and not by others.
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the item breached the responsible programming standard.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
14 September 2010
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Rebecca Guy’s formal complaint – 18 June 2010
2. TRN’s response to the formal complaint – 7 July 2010
3. Ms Guy’s referral to the Authority – 19 July 2010
4. TRN’s response to the Authority – 21 July 2010
1Decision No. 2010-008