Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Audience poll on Classic Hits – discussed whether or not the listeners would be interested in watching an execution – alleged breach of good taste and decency
Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – no obscene language or content – context – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 During a broadcast in Blenheim on Classic Hits on 9 September 2004 at 4.30pm the announcer ran a poll asking whether or not the audience would be interested in watching an execution.
 He introduced the segment by explaining that he had dreamt about watching an execution, and commented that there were many examples of people watching executions in the past.
 The announcer then asked if listeners would go and watch a legal execution. A number of callers rang and gave varied responses to the question.
 One caller stated that she would not watch an execution, and the announcer asked if she came across one walking down the street, “Could you not watch? There it is, he’s on the gallows – they’re about to pull the string”. The caller eventually changed her initial reaction and said that she probably would watch under those circumstances.
 Paula Bayley complained to The Radio Network Ltd that the broadcast had breached broadcasting standards. Ms Bayley stated that she was appalled that the announcer “cajoled” a caller into saying that she would watch an execution, despite her initial response that she would not.
 Also of concern to the complainant was that:
…there was no indication that this was not local content, as I felt that Marlborough people would not tolerate this type of content.
 Ms Bayley categorised the broadcast as “bizarre”, elaborating that it was “eccentric – involving sensational contrasts or incongruities – odd – grotesque”.
 TRN considered the complaint under Principle 1 and Guideline 1a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
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.
 TRN declined to uphold the complaint. It said:
It was a legitimate question posed to an adult, broadminded audience who responded in reasonable numbers in a variety of ways as to whether or not they would watch an execution.
 The broadcaster did not agree that there was a breach of good taste or decency, adding:
It should be noted that the question was back-grounded by the fact that history had many examples of ‘execution-watching’.
 Ms Bayley was dissatisfied with this response and referred the matter to the Authority. She did not elaborate on her original complaint to the broadcaster.
 TRN added nothing further to their original reply to the complainant.
 The members of the Authority have listened to 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.
 When it determines a complaint that a broadcast contravenes Principle 1 of the Radio Code, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breaches currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast.
 The Authority considers the following contextual matters are relevant on this occasion:
 In light of the above reasons, the Authority finds nothing in the broadcast which would threaten the standard of good taste and decency.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 November 2004
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: