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Licari and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2006-091

Members

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

Complainant

  • Marie-Jeanne Licari of Auckland

Dated

20th November 2006

Number

2006-091

Programme

Breakfast

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Breakfast – one host made anti-Australian and anti-French remarks – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and denigratory to the French.

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – denigration of French was essence of complaint – subsumed under Standard 6

Standard 6 and guideline 6g (denigration) – high threshold for denigration not met – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] Breakfast is a news and magazine programme broadcast each weekday on TV One between 7.00–9.00am.  On 17 July 2006, the hosts were involved in a light-hearted discussion about the marketing of New Zealand and lower-priced Chilean wine in some stores in Australia, when one of the hosts asked viewers:  “Don’t you just hate Australians?”  He said that he did so, and added:  “It used to be the French”.

Complaint

[2] Marie-Jeanne Licari complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about the host’s comments on 17 July about the French which, she said, repeated earlier comments and were hurtful to French people living in New Zealand.  She described the host as “pig-headed” and “narrow-minded”.  She added that she had been a New Zealander for 20 years.

Standards

[3] TVNZ assessed the complaint against Standards 1 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice which 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.

Guideline 1a

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. The examples are not exhaustive.

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

[4] TVNZ explained that while Breakfast contained segments of orthodox news, it was a “chatty magazine and information” programme which included a degree of humour.  It said that one of the hosts played the role of a jester who made provocative comments which were “invariably delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek”.  The comment on 17 July, TVNZ maintained, was made cheekily and with “no genuine venom”.

[5] Turning to denigration, TVNZ contended that the light-hearted remark fell well short of the high level of invective necessary to breach the denigration standard.  Further, TVNZ argued that comment fell within the exception under guideline 6g for the broadcast of humour.

[6] In view of the programme’s context and the comment’s delivery, which it said was devoid of malice, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint under Standard 1 or Standard 6.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Dissatisfied with TVNZ ’s response, Ms Licari referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.  She considered that the comment amounted to racism.

[8] Ms Licari included a response to a complaint about the same comment that she had made to the Human Rights Commission.  The Commission had concluded that the complaint could not be taken further as the comment did not reach the threshold to make it unlawful under the Human Rights Act 1993.

[9] In her referral to the Authority, the complainant said that the comment was unacceptable that the “matter was minimised and made to look as a joke”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10] TVNZ reiterated that the comment was not venomous and had been made by the host “clearly playing the imp”.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[11] Insisting that her complaint had to be taken seriously, the complainant said that, over time, the French had been the subject of a number of comments on Breakfast which amounted to “racism”.  The comments had to stop, she wrote, and an apology made.

Authority's Determination

[12] 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 6 and guideline 6g (denigration)

[13] The term “denigration” has consistently been defined by the Authority as meaning the blackening of the reputation of a class of people (see for example Decisions No. 1994-062 and 2004-129).  It is also well established that in light of the requirements of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration in contravention of the standard (see for example Decision No. 2002-152).

[14] In this case, the Authority finds that the threshold for encouraging denigration was not met. The Authority considers that the remark, while it could be seen as  provocative, was clearly intended to be humorous.  That was made apparent by the presenters’ preceding exchange about the marketing of New Zealand wine in Australia and that such marketing practices could lead New Zealanders to “hate Australians”.  Accordingly, the Authority finds that the light-hearted and clearly flippant remark would not have encouraged denigration of French people.  It does not uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[15] In addition to complaining that the remark breached Standard 6, Ms Licari also argued that it breached standards of good taste and decency.  Although the complainant has not elaborated on this point, it is clear from the correspondence that she was concerned that the remark was an offensive way of referring to French people.  The Authority considers that this concern has already been dealt with in its consideration of whether the remark denigrated the French.  Accordingly, it subsumes this part of the complaint into its consideration of Standard 6.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
20 November 2006

Appendix

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

1     Marie-Jeanne Licari’s complaint – 17 July 2006

2    Marie-Jeanne Licari’s further complaint – 20 July 2006

3    TVNZ’s response to the complainant – 22 August 2006

4    Ms Licari’s referral (plus attachments) to the Authority – 26 August 2006

5    TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 28 September 2006

6    Ms Licari’s final comment – 5 October 2006