Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
This Way Up – host interviewed correspondent about an Irish pub which had been burned to the ground twice allegedly by local mafia in Sicily – host laughed occasionally while asking questions – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency
Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – awkward laughter did not threaten standards of good taste and decency in the context of an entertainment programme – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 On Radio New Zealand National’s This Way Up programme on the afternoon of Saturday 3 March 2007 the host, Simon Morton, interviewed a correspondent in Rome. The correspondent told the story of an Irish pub in Sicily – owned by Italian and Irish men – that had refused to pay the local mafia “protection money”. The pub had been burned to the ground twice and rebuilt. During the interview, the host asked various questions and occasionally laughed as he spoke.
 Mr H S Patmore complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the host’s manner breached standards of good taste and decency. He stated that the host had been “laughing and sniggering as though the matter was another ‘Irish’ joke”.
 RNZ assessed the complaint under Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
 In its response to the complainant, RNZ considered the overall context in which the incident complained of had occurred. It noted that the programme was a two hour segment which explored “the stories and issues around things we use and consume”. It was designed to be entertaining and informative, RNZ said, and was not a serious news or current affairs programme.
 The broadcaster acknowledged that Mr Patmore was dissatisfied with the “frivolous” manner in which the host had approached the story of the Irish bar. However, while the occasional use of laughter was involved, RNZ did not agree that the matter was treated frivolously. It wrote:
In fact the opposite was the case with the presenter, at times, trying to make light of what was a very serious matter. His approach to this and other topics was consistent with his lively personality and the overall manner in which the two hour programme is conducted each Saturday.
 Referring to broadcasters’ right to freedom of expression, RNZ concluded that the host’s manner did not breach Principle 1 (good taste and decency). It added that his manner was not sensational or gratuitous, and contended that it was appropriate for the style of programme in which it was placed.
 Dissatisfied with RNZ’s response, Mr Patmore referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the context of the programme did not “excuse the manners of the presenter” because parts of the programme were repeated during the week. Mr Patmore argued that the “entertainment” aim of the programme should not include laughing at someone’s misfortune.
 In the complainant’s view, freedom of expression did not give the right to insult and offend. He submitted that the programme had breached the nominated standard.
 RNZ repeated its assertions that the host’s manner was appropriate, and had not breached broadcasting standards.
 The complainant reiterated his view that the host’s “disrespectful display of bad manners” breached broadcasting standards.
 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.
 When the Authority determines a complaint alleging a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context in which the programme was broadcast. On this occasion, the Authority notes that the item was part of an entertainment programme targeted at adults, as opposed to being a serious news or current affairs report.
 The Authority agrees with RNZ that the host’s manner was an attempt to lighten the tone of the correspondent’s story. It acknowledges that the host’s awkward laughter may have irritated a number of listeners. However, in the context of an entertainment programme the Authority considers that his manner did not threaten standards of good taste and decency.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
27 June 2007
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Mr H S Patmore’s formal complaint – 9 March 2007
2 RNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 13 April 2007
3 Mr Patmore’s referral to the Authority – 27 April 2007
4 RNZ’s response to the Authority – 25 May 2007
5 Mr Patmore’s final comment – 31 May 2007