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Mainland Television Ltd and The Radio Network Ltd - 2004-033

Members

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

Complainant

  • Mainland Television Ltd of Nelson

Dated

1st April 2004

Number

2004-033

Channel/Station

Classic Hits 89.4FM Nelson

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint
Classic Hits 89.4FM Nelson - content of Nelson’s Mainland Television described as “crap” – offensive and unacceptable

Findings
Principle 7 – not applicable

Principle 1 – not offensive in context – not upheld

Principle 5 – humorous editorial comment was not unfair – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision


Summary

[1] A news report that a city (Oslo) was offering trips through the sewer system as a tourist attraction was read on Classic Hits 89.4FM in Nelson at about 7.25am on Thursday 11 December 2003. The announcer added that, in Nelson, Mainland TV offered “four channels of crap all the time”.

[2] On behalf of Mainland Television Ltd, the Managing Director (Gary Watson) complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that the comment was offensive and unacceptable.

[3] In response, TRN declined to uphold the complaint on the basis that it was clearly an attempt at humour.

[4] Dissatisfied with TRN’s decision, Mainland Television Ltd referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to 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] During the breakfast session on Nelson’s Classic Hits 89.4FM, an announcer read a news item from what he described as the “I swear I am not making this up department” which reported that the city of Oslo planned to turn its sewer system into a tourist attraction. After giving details of the plan, the announcer added:

Here in Nelson we’re blessed for tourism – if we want to look at crap we can just flick on Mainland TV – four channels of crap all the time.

Complaint

[7] Gary Watson, the Managing Director of Mainland Television, complained that the comment was offensive and unacceptable.

Standard

[8] TRN assessed the complaint under Guideline 7a of Principle 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

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.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] Referring to the exemptions in Guideline 7a, TRN declined to uphold the complaint as it contended the comment was a clear attempt at humour. Moreover, it considered that the remark was the legitimate expression of an opinion.

Referral to the Authority

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

Authority’s Determination

[11] The Authority considers that the standard under which the broadcaster assessed the complaint, Guideline 7a of Principle 7, is not applicable. That principle is concerned with denigration of or discrimination against “any section of the community”. In this instance, the complaint was made by a specific company, named in the broadcast, which argued that the comments made about it were both “offensive and unacceptable”. The Authority is of the opinion that “unacceptable” in this context amounts to an allegation that the comments were “unfair”. Accordingly, it has assessed the complaint under Principles 1 and 5 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. They read:

Principle 1

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

Principle 5

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.

[12] The Authority must consider the context of a broadcast to determine whether it breaches Principle 1. The Authority concludes that the word “crap” is only mildly offensive and its use during the breakfast session, in relation to what was described as “a barely credible” news item about the novel use of a sewer system does not breach Principle 1.

[13] Turning to Principle 5, the Authority considers that it, too, was not contravened. The remark was made as an editorial comment that was intended to be humorous and, in these circumstances the Authority concludes, it was not unfair so as to amount to a breach of Principle 5.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority declines to 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.  Mainland Television Ltd’s Complaint (by Gary Watson, Managing Director) to The
    Radio Network Ltd – 11 December 2003

2. TRN’s Response to the Complainant – 22 December 2003

3. Mainland Television Ltd’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority –
    29 December 2003

4. TRN’s Response to the Authority – 14 January 2004