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Luiten and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2005-063

Members

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

Complainant

  • Peter Luiten of Auckland

Dated

18th August 2005

Number

2005-063

Programme

Campbell Live

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

CanWest TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – Minister of Police had declined to be interviewed – host said that when Cabinet Ministers refused to front up and discuss serious issues, they would receive the “no-show pie” – animation showing a photograph of the Minister of Police with a cream pie being pushed into his face – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, unfair and in breach of the violence standard

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

Standard 6 (fairness) – not unfair to the Minister – not upheld

Standard 10 (violence) – no issue of violence – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] On Campbell Live broadcast on TV3 at 7pm on 30 March 2005, the host commented that the Minister of Police, George Hawkins, had declined to be interviewed about the number of unassigned rape cases in South Auckland. The host said that when Cabinet Ministers refused to front up and discuss serious issues, they would receive the “no-show pie”. This was followed by an animation showing a photograph of Mr Hawkins with a cream pie being pushed into his face.

Complaint

[2] Peter Luiten complained to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was in breach of good taste and decency, fairness and the violence standard. He argued that “pieing” someone was well outside the current norms of decency and taste.

[3] Mr Luiten also argued that the act was humiliating and denigrating under the fairness standard. Noting that broadcasters must ensure that any violence shown was not gratuitous, the complainant said that the “pieing” was not justified. Mr Luiten found the incident to be offensive and shameful, and commented that he would not like to see anyone else subjected to the same treatment.

Standards

[4] Standards 1, 6 and 10 and Guidelines 1a, 6f and 6g of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They 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.

Guidelines           

6f Broadcasters should recognise the rights of individuals, and particularly children and young people, not to be exploited, humiliated or unnecessarily identified.

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,

Standard 10 Violence

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5] Considering Standard 1 (good taste and decency), CanWest noted that Campbell Live was a lifestyle/current affairs programme with an adult target audience. The programme, it said, had already established “an irreverent and at times light-hearted tone”, depending on the nature and content of the issue being considered.

[6] Rather than blandly reporting Mr Hawkins’ refusal to appear on the show, CanWest wrote, the programme had chosen to report his refusal in a light-hearted way by creating an animation of Mr Hawkins being “pied”. The broadcaster found that the content was unlikely to disturb or offend a significant number of adults watching the programme.

[7] CanWest maintained that the programme was consistent with the observance of good taste and decency, and found that there had been no breach of Standard 1.

[8] Turning to consider Standard 6 (fairness) and guideline 6f, CanWest stated that the animation was a humorous depiction of the broadcaster’s frustration that the Minister would not discuss an issue within his area of responsibility. Further, it was clearly an animation rather than an act perpetrated on the Minister in reality.

[9] Noting that the tone of the item was humorous and light-hearted, CanWest found that it was not unfair to “pie” the Minister in those circumstances. It declined to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

[10] Referring to Standard 10 (violence), the broadcaster noted that no actual physical violence was shown in the item, and the light-hearted tone of the piece would have signalled to viewers that it was not real. The broadcaster found no breach of Standard 10.

Referral to the Authority

[11] As he was dissatisfied with CanWest’s response, Mr Luiten referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He commented:

The broadcaster dismisses the humiliating and offensive treatment of George Hawkins as “humorous” and “light-hearted”. That is to say, the producers are inviting the audience to join in with them in denigrating Mr Hawkins as a joke. The point of my complaint is that the joke is at George Hawkins’ expense and I do not believe it appropriate to issue such invitations.

[12] The complainant noted CanWest’s response that, to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the content must have been unacceptable to a “significant number of viewers”. He argued that the idea of a “significant number” was not raised in the Standards or guidelines, and wrote that the broadcaster had not specified what a significant number was. Mr Luiten asked “is one not a significant number?”.

[13] Mr Luiten also referred to the broadcaster’s assertion that violence portrayed on still photographs was not “actual physical violence”, stating that he found that position to be absurd.

Authority's Determination

[14] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[15] The Authority considers that the item amounted to a light-hearted prank which gently lampooned the Minister for refusing to discuss an issue of current importance. In the Authority’s view, the skit contained no offensive language or behaviour, and raised no issue of good taste and decency. The Authority finds that Standard 1 was not breached.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[16] The Authority notes Mr Luiten’s argument that the item was unfair to Mr Hawkins because it was “humiliating and denigrating”. This raises the issue of whether guidelines 6f and 6g apply to his complaint.

[17] The Authority notes that guideline 6f recognises the right of individuals not to be humiliated. The Authority agrees with CanWest that the item was a humorous and light-hearted depiction of the broadcaster’s frustration that the Minister had declined to comment to TV3 on an issue within his area of responsibility. Further, the Authority is of the view that a Minister’s role often invokes robust criticism, and considers that Mr Hawkins would have had no difficulty in deflecting the criticism implicit in being “pied”.

[18] The Authority observes that guideline 6g is concerned with encouraging denigration or discrimination against a number of societal groups. Further, the term “denigration” has consistently been defined by the Authority as meaning a blackening of the reputation of a class of people (see for example Decision No 1997-008).The comments complained about on this occasion were directed at one named person as opposed to a class of people, and accordingly the Authority concludes that guideline 6g does not apply on this occasion.

[19] The Authority finds that Mr Hawkins was not treated unfairly in the item, and therefore it considers that Standard 6 was not breached.

Standard 10 (violence)

[20] Standard 10 requires broadcasters to exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence. The Authority notes that the item complained about contained an animation of a pie being pushed into a photograph of Mr Hawkins’ face. No actual physical violence was perpetrated, and the segment was intended to be humorous as opposed to being malicious.

[21] In the Authority’s view, CanWest exercised sufficient care and discretion in broadcasting the item, and it concludes that there was no breach of the violence standard.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
18 August 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Peter Luiten’s formal complaint – 19 April 2005
  2. CanWest’s decision on the formal complaint – 24 May 2005
  3. Mr Luiten’s referral to the Authority – 17 June 2005
  4. CanWest’s response to the Authority – 29 June 2005