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Hadfield and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2004-023

Members

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

Complainant

  • Elaine Hadfield of Blenheim

Dated

1st April 2004

Number

2004-023

Programme

Mediawatch

Channel/Station

National Radio

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Mediawatch – National Radio – allegedly offensive language

Findings
Principle 1 – language not offensive – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision


Summary

[1] An interview with former broadcaster Ron Sneddon about recent changes in the radio market was broadcast during Mediawatch on National Radio at about 9.10am on Sunday 28 September 2003.

[2] Miss Hadfield complained about “offensive content and swear words” during the interview, in which references were made to:

  • “tits, bums and fart jokes”
  • a radio station called “The Bitch”.

[3] In response, RNZ declined to uphold the complaint on the basis that the language was not offensive in the context of the broadcast.

[4] Dissatisfied with RNZ’s decision, Miss Hadfield referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Programme

[6] An interview with former broadcaster Ron Sneddon about recent changes in the radio market was broadcast during Mediawatch on National Radio at about 9.10am on Sunday 28 September 2003. During the broadcast, Mr Sneddon used the words “tits, bums and farts” to describe a radio genre. He also referred to a radio station which was to be called “The Bitch”.

Complaint

[7] Elaine Hadfield complained that the language used was offensive.

Standard

[8] RNZ 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.

Guidelines

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.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] RNZ declined to uphold the complaint. It noted:

  • Ron Sneddon was providing “informed and expert comment” on different radio formats and what was happening in the commercial radio market. The words “tits, bums and farts” were used to “describe different radio genres” and the reference to “The Bitch” referred to the proposed name of a new station.
  • The references were factual, delivered without invective and not delivered in a gratuitous or repetitive manner.

Referral to the Authority

[10] As the complainant was dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, she referred her complaint to the Authority for investigation and review.

[11] In her referral, Miss Hadfield said she considered that the broadcast breached Principle 7 (social responsibility) as well as Principle 1, as the words were both “highly offensive” and “denigrating to women”.

Authority’s Determination

[12] The Authority was asked by Miss Hadfield to consider her complaint under both Principle 1 (good taste and decency) and Principle 7 (social responsibility). Principle 7 was introduced as grounds for complaint when the complainant referred her complaint to the Authority and it did not form part of the original complaint. Accordingly, the Authority is unable to consider the complaint under Principle 7 as it may only consider matters raised in the original complaint. In addition, the Authority notes that, even if Principle 7 could be considered, the complaint would be best dealt with under Principle 1, as this standard is broad enough to encompass all the complainant’s stated concerns.

[13] The Authority must consider the context of a broadcast to determine whether it breaches Principle 1. In this case, the Authority agrees entirely with the broadcaster that the words complained about were not offensive. The context and tone of the discussion was factual, dispassionate and it was describing trends. The Authority finds that Principle 1 was not breached.


For the reasons above the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
Chair
1 April 2004

Appendix

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

1.    Valerie James’s Formal Complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd (and attachments) –
       28 October 2003

2.   RNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 24 November 2003

3.   Mrs James’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (and attachments) –
      22 December 2003

4.   Mrs James’s Further Correspondence to the Authority (and attachments) –
      23 December 2003

5.   RNZ’s Response to the Authority – 22 January 2004

6.   Mrs James’s Final Comment (and attachment) – 28 January 2004

7.   Mrs James’s Further Correspondence to the Authority (and attachments) –
      29 January 2004

8.   Mrs James’s Further Correspondence to the Authority (and attachment) –
      7 February 2004