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Foreman and The Radio Network Ltd - 2009-158

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Leigh Pearson

Complainant

  • David Foreman of Hamilton

Dated

23rd March 2010

Number

2009-158

Channel/Station

Radio Sport

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio Sport Farming Show – host referred to man as a “pommy git” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, fairness and discrimination and denigration

Findings
Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – word “pommy” unlikely to offend, insult or intimidate – expression “pommy git” not derogatory – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   During a brief interview on the Radio Sport Farming Show, broadcast at 6.50am on Saturday 31 October 2009, the host asked the interviewee:

Don, should the New Zealand farmers be fearing a bloke, a pommy git by the name of Lord Steyn?

[2]   The interviewee explained that Lord Johan Steyn had been advocating vegetarianism and the discontinuance of farming livestock as methods to battle greenhouse gas emissions.

Complaint

[3]   David Foreman made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the host’s use of the term “pommy git” breached standards relating to good taste and decency, fairness and discrimination and denigration.

[4]   The complainant argued that the words “pommy” and “git” were derogatory words and “the combination was clearly racist”.

[5]   With respect to the interviewee’s comments about Lord Steyn’s views, Mr Foreman contended that “the lack of counter arguments constituted a lack of fairness”.   

Standards

[6]   TRN assessed the complaint under Standard 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

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.

Guideline 7a

This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:

(i) factual, or

(ii) a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion, or

(iii) legitimate humour, drama or satire.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7]   TRN argued that the host used the term “pommy git” to make it clear that he disagreed with Lord Steyn’s views, as opposed to making a derogatory comment about him. It contended that the term “pommy” was still commonly used in New Zealand to describe the English, “much as we use ‘Yarpie’ for South Africans or ‘Aussie’ for Australians”.

[8]   The broadcaster considered that the word “git” could be interpreted as meaning “a bit of a fool”. It noted the provisions of guideline 7a(ii), and argued that “in the context of this programme which freely expresses opinion” the use of the term “pommy git” was acceptable. TRN declined to uphold the complaint.  

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with TRN’s response, Mr Foreman referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated his belief that the host’s remark was offensive and derogatory.

Authority's Determination

[10]   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.

Preliminary Matter

[11]   The Authority notes that, in his original formal complaint, Mr Foreman nominated Standards 1, 6 and 7. It considers that the broadcaster acted appropriately in dealing with the complaint under Standard 7 alone, as this was the standard most relevant to the complainant’s concerns.

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration)

[12]   The Authority notes that it has previously considered complaints about the use of the word “pom” in Whitmore and TVNZ1 and Judge and TVNZ.2 It concluded in those decisions that there was nothing discriminatory about the use of the expression. It also took account the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s ruling that the words "pom" and "pommy" were unlikely to offend, insult or intimidate.

[13]   The Authority notes that the complainant’s concern related to the combination of “pommy” and “git”, which he believed to be derogatory. However, it does not consider that the use of the term “pommy git” in the item represented British people as inherently inferior or that it was likely to lead to discrimination against them. It also agrees with the broadcaster that the host used the word “git” to convey the fact that he disagreed with the views of Lord Steyn, as opposed to making a derogatory comment about him.

[14]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 7.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
23 March 2010

Appendix

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

1.           David Foreman’s formal complaint – 2 November 2009
2.          TRN’s response to the formal complaint – 20 November 2009
3.          Mr Foreman’s referral to the Authority – 3 December 2009
4.          TRN’s response to the Authority – 21 December 2009


1Decision No. 1999-029

2Decision No. 1998-113