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Faithfull and CanWest RadioWorks Ltd - 2005-015

Members

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

Complainant

  • Barbara Faithfull of Auckland

Dated

4th May 2005

Number

2005-015

Channel/Station

Radio Pacific

Broadcaster

CanWest RadioWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Consumer Affairs, Radio Pacific – interview with Steve Crowe – covered a range of aspects of the adult entertainment industry – complainant alleged content was crass and morally reprehensible – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, balance and social responsibility

Findings
Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – tone of discussion matter of fact – item broadcast at midday – show targeted at an adult audience – not upheld

Principle 4 (balance) – item did not deal with a controversial issue of public importance – balance requirement did not apply – not upheld

Principle 7 (social responsibility) – item did not encourage denigration – unlikely that children would have been listening – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] On Radio Pacific’s Consumer Affairs programme on Friday 12 November 2004 at midday, the host interviewed Steve Crowe, described as “the adult entertainment king of New Zealand”. The interview covered many aspects of the adult entertainment industry.

Complaint

[2] Barbara Faithfull complained to CanWest RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was “crude, crass, insensitive and morally reprehensible”. She also felt that the item lacked balance, and demeaned the dignity of men and women.

[3] In respect of good taste and decency, the complainant was offended by the “matter-of-fact and coolly uncritical manner” in which the host allowed matters to be discussed”. She was also concerned about the discussion of a film showing a woman giving birth, and Mr Crowe’s justification for his legal battle to have the film released so, she claimed, “his company could then exploit it financially.”

[4] The complainant felt that the decision to broadcast such an interview in a midday timeslot exacerbated the offensiveness of the item.

[5] Turning to Principle 4 (balance), the complainant felt that the interview afforded Mr Crowe a public platform to “publicise his tawdry wares” and to appeal for public sympathy in his struggle with the authorities. She considered that the host of the show did not maintain balance in the item by failing to challenge Mr Crowe’s viewpoint.

[6] The complainant felt that the programme contravened Principle 7 (social responsibility) in several respects. She considered that the discussion of childbirth for entertainment purposes was flippant, and was denigratory to women. She also considered that the discussion of the male adult entertainment actors was “crude and insensitive”, and denigrated the dignity of man by reducing the “male sex act” to the level of “cheap show business entertainment”.

[7] Furthermore, she noted that Guideline 7b of the Code reminds broadcasters to be mindful of the effect on children, and pointed out the time of the broadcast was such that children on their lunch break with access to radios may have heard the item, and further, that on the date of the broadcast, many older students would have been off school on study leave.

Principles

[8] CanWest assessed the complaint under Principles 1, 4 and 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Principle 1

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

Guideline 1a

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

Principle 4

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Principle 7

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.

Guidelines

7a  Broadcasters will not portray people in a manner which encourages denigration of or discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender, race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation; or as the consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement does not extend to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual; or

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

iii) by way of legitimate humour or satire.

7b  Broadcasters shall be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during their normally accepted listening times.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9] Responding to the complaint, CanWest considered that the interview was introduced in a manner that clearly signalled to listeners the likely content. It noted that the discussion itself was matter of fact and, while light-hearted, was not obscene or offensive. Furthermore, it observed that no coarse language was used and no explicitly obscene suggestions were made. Accordingly, it did not uphold the complaint under Principle 1.

[10] Turning to Principle 4, CanWest considered that it had no application because the subject matter of the interview was not a controversial issue of public importance. As a result, it declined to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[11] CanWest considered that the interview did not denigrate men or women as the item could not have encouraged listeners to think badly of either group. Moreover, it noted that the programme was not broadcast during children’s “normally accepted listening times”, that the period was not a gazetted school holiday, and that the programme was targeted at an adult audience. It noted the detailed introduction given to the interview by the host, and the shorter form of introduction repeated after each break. Accordingly, the complaint under Principle 7 was not upheld.

Referral to the Authority

[12] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Barbara Faithfull referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She reiterated the points made in her original complaint to the broadcaster.

[13] She noted that CanWest had failed to uphold her complaint in respect of Principle 1 partly on the basis that the discussion was “matter of fact”. She pointed out that this aspect of the interviewing style was one of her criticisms of the item. She disagreed with CanWest’s assessment that the item had not been obscene or offensive.

[14] In respect of Principle 4 (balance), the complainant maintained that the subject matter of the interview did deal with a “controversial issue of public importance”, and noted in support of this view that the host of the programme had described the interview as dealing with “fascinating life issues”.

[15] In respect of Principle 7 (social responsibility), the complainant noted again that, in her opinion, the fact that the discussion was “matter of fact” was not a redeeming feature. She noted that some members of the public would have tuned in after the introductory warning, and claimed that reliance on such an “introductory alert” was thus “ingenuous” on the part of the broadcaster.

[16] Moreover, the complainant disagreed with the broadcaster’s view that the item had been timed appropriately, and felt in particular that a discussion about “keeping up penises … for the making of pornographic films” was not socially responsible regardless of the time of day or night, or target audience.

[17] Mrs Faithfull concluded that CanWest’s handling of her complaint was “tardy” and “indifferent” and that its reasoning was “flimsy”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[18] CanWest added nothing further to its original response regarding the substance of the complaint, although it did respond to Mrs Faithfull’s criticism of the way in which the complaint was handled. It noted that CanWest “takes the issue of broadcasting standards most seriously”, and that while its response to this complaint was slightly outside the statutory timeframe, this was a result of the Christmas/New Year arrangements.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[19] Mrs Faithfull considered that CanWest’s response to the Authority displayed reluctance to address her main concerns.

[20] She considered that CanWest sought to demonstrate its “supposedly responsible and appropriate handling of the matter” by detailing what she considered to be “red herrings” – the responsibilities that in her opinion all broadcasters were expected to comply with.

[21] The complainant also contended that the decision was not slightly outside the statutory time period as claimed by CanWest, but was in fact two weeks late, and considered that in the absence of any “fair and reasonable rebuttal” her complaint should have been upheld.

Authority's Determination

[22] The members of the Authority have listened to what it believes to be the larger part of the broadcast complained about; the audio tape of the broadcast provided by CanWest did not contain all the material complained about. The Authority notes its concern in this regard, especially as CanWest’s response to Mrs Faithfull was also outside of the statutory timeframe required by the Broadcasting Act.

[23] Members of the Authority have also read the correspondence listed in the Appendix, and determine the complaint without a formal hearing.

Good Taste and Decency

[24] 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. The Authority's clear view is that a discussion of sexual matters is not inherently a breach of the good taste and decency standard, especially in light of the right to freedom to expression provided for in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. On this occasion, the programme was targeted at an adult audience, broadcast outside children's normally accepted listening times, and was approached in a matter-of-fact way rather than in a manner intended to titillate its audience.

[25] The item was preceded by an introduction which appropriately and accurately described the content of the forthcoming discussion. Further, the majority of interview was not salacious, as it covered Mr Crowe’s legal battle to have films released in New Zealand and the right to freedom of expression. While the Authority notes that some parts of the interview were not on the audio tape supplied – such as the discussion about the male actors sustaining erections – and that these parts appear to have been more sexually explicit, on balance it concludes that these parts were not sufficient to take the overall broadcast beyond the boundaries of the good taste and decency standard.

[26] Taking these contextual factors into account, the Authority concludes that Principle 1 was not breached on this occasion.

Balance

[27] The Authority considers that the interview was a matter of fact discussion, and did not cover a controversial issue of public importance. Accordingly, the balance requirement in Principle 4 did not apply.

Social Responsibility

[28] The Authority considers that the item did not contain anything likely to encourage denigration against any section of the community; the item was not critical of or abusive towards any person or group. Accordingly, no issue of denigration arises.

[29] With regard to the complainant’s concern about children, the Authority notes that the broadcast was not during children’s normally accepted listening times. Furthermore, it considers that any children who were listening to the radio at lunchtime or on study leave would be unlikely to tune into Radio Pacific, given the station’s adult target audience.

 

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
4 May 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Barbara Faithfull’s formal complaint to CanWest RadioWorks Ltd – 29 November 2004
  2. CanWest’s response to the formal complaint – 2 February 2005
  3. Ms Faithfull’s referral to the Authority – 26 February 2005
  4. CanWest’s response to the Authority – 14 March 2005
  5. Ms Faithfull’s final comment to the Authority – 4 April 2005