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Dickinson and The Radio Network Ltd - 2008-126

Dated

17th February 2009

Number

2008-126

Programme

Newstalk ZB

Channel/Station

Newstalk ZB

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Newstalk ZB – talkback host discussed politicians and the use of binding referenda – host compared people who did not agree with the use of binding referenda to a woman meeting a man for the first time and saying "I'm yours, do anything you want with me" – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order, controversial issues, discrimination and denigration and responsible programming

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – host's remark did not invoke connotations of rape – not upheld

Standards 2 (law and order), 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints), 7 (discrimination and denigration) and 8 (responsible programming) – standards not applicable – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] During a talkback item, broadcast on Newstalk ZB on the morning of Tuesday 16 September 2008, the host started a discussion about politicians being held accountable for their actions and the use of binding referenda. While discussing people’s attitudes to binding referenda, the host said the following:

And I've heard some nonsense talked recently in other places about how referenda are garbage and nonsense. Um, the people who talk like that really have no grip on what real democracy is all about. People who think that referenda are a nonsense, are really wanting to surrender to politicians to do what they want with you. It's like a woman saying to a bloke she's just met on the, on that night saying, "I'm yours, do anything you want with me". It's what the New Zealand electorate is sometimes like. I hadn’t actually thought of it in those terms before, but it’s quite true.

Complaint

[2] David Dickinson made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging the host's comments breached standards of good taste and decency, law and order, controversial issues, discrimination and denigration, and responsible programming.

[3] The complainant contended that the host's comment, comparing people who do not support the use of binding referenda to a woman meeting a man for the first time and saying, "I'm yours, do anything you want with me", was tantamount to saying that a woman could consent to rape and was in "extreme bad taste".

[4] Mr Dickinson stated that the host's comparison also breached Standard 2 (law and order) because it was "not possible in law to consent to rape". He argued that using rape as a "loose simile" took away from its seriousness and made rape "seem less heinous than it is".

[5] The complainant believed that the host's comment "failed to live up to" the principle relating to discussions on controversial issues. He contended the discussion topic of binding referenda on social policy was controversial and the host, by comparing those who oppose the use of referenda to a woman who consents to rape, had not provided a balanced perspective.

[6] Mr Dickinson argued that the comments made by the host were "denigrating to women and to all rape victims", as it promoted the idea that there were women who brought rape on themselves through their actions.

[7] Further, the complainant maintained the host's comments were irresponsible and "odious in the extreme".

Standards

[8] TRN assessed the complaint under Standard 1 and guideline 1a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

Standard 1

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Guideline 1a

Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. time of day, target audience.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9] TRN argued that the host's comment concerning people who opposed referenda and a woman saying to a man "I'm yours, do anything you want with me", was in no way tantamount to a woman consenting to rape. It said "No such connotation was either intended or could be drawn from [the comment]".

[10] The broadcaster went on to say that "while the statement may not have been the most salubrious of similes", it did not breach Standard 1.

[11] TRN argued that the broadcast did not raise any issue relating to the law and order standard, and it declined to consider Standard 2 (law and order).

Referral to the Authority

[12] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster's response, Mr Dickinson referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Authority's Determination

[13] 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.

[14] The Authority does not agree with the complainant's interpretation of the host's comment as being tantamount to saying a woman could consent to rape. It considers that no inference concerning rape was intended, or could be drawn, from the host's remark.

[15] Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency).

[16] With respect to the other standards nominated by Mr Dickinson, the Authority considers that TRN was correct in assessing the complaint only under Standard 1, as the other standards nominated by the complainant were not applicable in the circumstances.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
17 February 2009

Appendix

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

1.  David Dickinson's formal complaint – 7 October 2008
2. TRN's response to the formal complaint – 17 October 2008
3. Mr Dickinson's referral to the Authority – 13 November 2008
4. TRN's response to the Authority – 25 November 2008