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Martin and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-060

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa

Complainant

  • Wilfred Martin of Katikati

Dated

19th August 2009

Number

2009-060

Programme

Breakfast

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Breakfast – host made remarks about his dislike for campervans and the people who use them – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, accuracy and fairness standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – comments intended to be humorous – contextual factors – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – host's comments were personal opinion not points of fact – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – complainant did not identify any individual or organisation taking part or referred to in the programme – campervan owners not a section of the community to which guideline 6g applies – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  During an episode of Breakfast, broadcast on TV One between 6.30am and 9am on 14 April 2009, one of the hosts made a number of remarks about his dislike of campervans and the people who use them.

[2]  The host's comments included:

  • You're in your campervan, other people don't want to share your holiday, other people aren't on holiday with you...just get moving.
  • Bloody campervans.
  • ...we hate [campervans], we hate them.
  • I hate them. They should be outlawed. They are hideous, hideous, hideous...
  • ...and it’s not just the fuel they use. It’s the fuel of all the poor sods stuck behind them, putt, putt, putting at nought miles an hour.
  • You campervan sympathisers are all the bloody same.
  • They are so arrogant and hideous people, campervan people. And yes, I'm talking about you if you’re a campervan person.

[3]  During the episode, the news reader said to the host, "I don't think you should rubbish them as much as you have [name of host] because they are major contributors to this country's economy".

[4]  Later, the host read out viewers’ feedback, all of which was negative towards campervans.

Complaint

[5]  Wilfred Martin made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme had breached standards of good taste and decency, accuracy and fairness.

[6]  The complainant argued that the host's remarks about campervans and the people who use them were derogatory, offensive and hurtful. He considered that the host had failed to provide a fair and accurate portrayal of people who use campervans

Standards

[7]  TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 5 and 6 and guidelines 1a, 5d and 6g of the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Guideline1a

Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Guideline 5d

Factual reports on the one hand, and opinion, analysis and comment on the other, should be clearly distinguishable.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guideline 6g

Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

(i)     factual, or
(ii)    the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual         programmes, or
(iii)   in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[8]  TVNZ stated that there was considerable audience expectation that the Breakfast presenters would "have a bit of fun on a number of issues". The broadcaster stated that some of the presenters' perspectives "would not be considered PC", but that the familiarity that viewers had with the style of the presenters' sense of humour ensured that the comments would not have offended a significant number of viewers.

[9]  The broadcaster contended that the host who made the comments was well known for making off-the-cuff remarks in an attempt at humour and that this was such an occasion. It argued that the comments were the host’s personal opinion and that it was clear from the footage that the host’s comments were not meant to be taken seriously.

[10]  TVNZ said that the host was exaggerating to be humorous and to "make a point about a common bug-bear". The broadcaster considered that regular Breakfast viewers would have readily understood this. It declined to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1.

[11]  With respect to accuracy, the broadcaster contended that the host's comments were personal opinion, and not statements of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. It noted that the complainant had not specifically stated what he thought was inaccurate and it declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.

[12]  With respect to fairness, TVNZ reiterated that the host’s comments were personal opinion and as such were "exempt" under guideline 6g(ii). It also noted that campervan drivers were "not listed as one of the sections of the community that must be protected under the guideline". The broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[13]  Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response, Mr Martin referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated his argument that the host's "sustained verbal attack" was derogatory and offensive.

[14]  The complainant stated that the "New Zealand Motor Caravan Club" had over 30,000 members and as such was a section of the community. He maintained that guideline 6g of the fairness standard applied to the host's comments, because "30,000 motor home owners clearly make up an occupational group" and they had been denigrated and discriminated against by the host.

Authority's Determination

[15]  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 1 (good taste and decency)

[16]  When the Authority considers an alleged breach of good taste and decency, it takes into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • Breakfast was a mix of news, serious interviews, magazine segments and reviews
  • the programme was broadcast between 6.30am and 9am
  • expectations of regular viewers
  • Breakfast was an unclassified news and current affairs programme
  • the programme had an adult target audience.

[17]  In the Authority's view, the host's comments were hyperbolic and clearly intended to be humorous. Further, it finds that the remarks about campervans and the people who use them were intentionally ridiculous, designed to entertain and did not threaten standards of good taste and decency.

[18]  Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[19]  Standard 5 requires broadcasters to ensure that news and factual programmes are truthful and accurate on points of fact. The Authority notes guideline 5d to the accuracy standard states that factual reports on the one hand, and opinion, analysis and comment on the other, should be clearly distinguishable

[20]  Mr Martin argued that the host had failed to provide an accurate portrayal of people who use campervans. In the Authority's view, the host's comments were not points of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. It agrees with TVNZ that the host was expressing his personal opinion about campervans and the people who use them and that viewers would have realised that the comments did not form part of the news component of the programme.

[21]  Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the host’s comments breached Standard 5.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[22]  Standard 6 requires broadcasters to deal justly and fairly with any individual or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.

[23]  Mr Martin argued that the host had treated people who use campervans unfairly. The Authority disagrees. The host was entitled to express his opinion about campervan drivers, and his off-the-cuff comments did not require a response. It was clear that the comments were an extreme generalisation rather than applying to all campervan drivers, and were designed to provoke a response from viewers.

[24]  Mr Martin also contended that guideline 6g to the fairness standard applied, because "30,000 motor-home owners clearly make up an occupational group" and they had been denigrated and discriminated against by the host. However, the Authority considers that campervan owners and users are not an "occupational group" as claimed by the complainant, because the vast majority of campervan users are driving the vehicles for leisure rather than for paid employment.

[25]  In conclusion, the Authority agrees with TVNZ that campervan users are not a section of the community to which the denigration guideline applies, and it declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 6.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 August 2009

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1.         Wilfred Martin's formal complaint – 16 April 2009
2.        TVNZ's response to the formal complaint – 20 May 2009
3.        Mr Martin's referral to the Authority – 5 June 2009
4.        TVNZ's response to the Authority – 30 June 2009