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Parkes and CanWest RadioWorks Ltd - 2006-015

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Scott Parkes of Lower Hutt

Dated

31st May 2006

Number

2006-015

Channel/Station

The Edge

Broadcaster

CanWest RadioWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Morning Madhouse – The Edge – caller offered to donate money to fundraiser if hosts performed 20 “burpee” exercises – one host offered instead to “go and give 20 girls herpes” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Findings
Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] On The Edge radio station on the morning of Friday 16 December 2005, the hosts of The Morning Madhouse show were asking listeners to donate money for their Jingle Bail campaign. Jingle Bail is an annual fundraiser by The Edge which raises money to send a number of deserving children and their caregivers on holiday.

[2] At approximately 6.55am, a caller said that he would donate $100 to Jingle Bail if the hosts would perform 20 “burpees” (a type of fitness exercise). After some confusion about what a “burpee” was, one of the hosts told the caller that he had just had surgery and could not do the exercises. The host then asked the caller if, instead, he could “go and give 20 girls herpes”.

[3] Immediately after this exchange, it was revealed that the same host had also raised money for Jingle Bail the previous day when he had “pashed” a regular caller to the show. The host remarked “and that explains the herpes”.

Complaint

[4] Scott Parkes complained to CanWest RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the host’s remark was offensive. He noted that, prior to the comment, the female host had told the story of a Jingle Bail nominee who had been sexually abused by her father. In the context of that story, Mr Parkes said, the host’s remarks were totally offensive and inappropriate.

Principles

[5] CanWest assessed the complaint under Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Principle 1

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] CanWest wrote that the discussion and comments which had caused the complainant concern were low key and brief. It had been made clear that the herpes referred to by the host was not genital herpes, but the form of herpes that could be passed on by kissing.

[7] The broadcaster observed that no coarse language was used and no explicit or obscene suggestions were made in the broadcast. It did not uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[8] Dissatisfied with CanWest’s response, Mr Parkes referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He disagreed with CanWest’s assertion that the host’s comments were “low key and brief”, contending that the host had repeated them several times.

[9] The complainant agreed that no coarse language had been used. However, he added:

I fail to see how a man deliberately giving 20 women herpes could not be an “explicit, obscene suggestion”, particularly as I have noted, in the context of the story above and the theme of that morning’s programme.

[10] Mr Parkes reiterated his view that the comments were “in the poorest of taste”. He found that the host had displayed a “stunning lack of judgement” when the message of the show was supposedly about the support and protection of those who had been abused.

Authority's Determination

[11] 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.

[12] When the Authority considers a complaint which alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the time of the broadcast, close to 7am on a Friday morning
  • the language used, which was not explicit or obscene
  • the humorous, rather than offensive, intent of the comment
  • the fact that a subsequent remark made it clear that the host was referring to herpes that is passed on by kissing, not genital herpes.

[13] The Authority notes that The Edge has a target audience of 10-29 year-olds, and it accepts that some younger children may have been listening at the time of the broadcast. However, taking into account the mild nature of the comments and the other contextual factors outlined above, the Authority does not consider that the standard of good taste and decency was breached on this occasion.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
31 May 2006

Appendix

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

  1. Scott Parkes’ formal complaint – 9 January 2006
  2. CanWest’s decision on the formal complaint – 22 February 2006
  3. Mr Parkes’ referral to the Authority – 12 March 2006
  4. CanWest’s response to the Authority – 29 March 2006