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Montgomery and The Radio Network Ltd - 2004-191

Members

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

Complainant

  • D M Montgomery of Auckland

Dated

21st December 2004

Number

2004-191

Programme

Coast Radio

Channel/Station

Coast

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Coast radio station – broadcast of song entitled “Puha and Pākehā” – allegedly encouraged denigration of Pākehā

Findings
Principle 7 and Guideline 7a (denigration) – clearly humorous – not denigratory of Pākehā – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] At around 5.15pm on 5 October 2004, Coast radio station in Auckland broadcast a song entitled “Puha and Pākehā”, recorded by Rod Derrett in the 1960s.

[2] The song was a light-hearted tale of Pākehā in early New Zealand being eaten by Māori, and included the following lyrics:

I don’t give a hangi for the Treaty of Waitangi,
You can’t get fat on that – give me some Puha and Pākehā.

You take a little umu and you get it very hot,
You catch a little Pākehā and put him in a pot,
Cook him all up in your old home brew,
And what have you got? Kiwi Stew.

Complaint

[3] D M Montgomery complained to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, that the song was “thoroughly racist and unfit to be played”. She said that the words of the song were deeply culturally insensitive and offensive to Pākehā.

[4] The complainant stated that an equivalent song “advocating eating Maori and salad for lunch” would not be played “without a complaint being laid with the Race Relations Conciliator”.

[5] Ms Montgomery felt that this material should not be played on New Zealand radio and added:

As a New Zealander, whose family has been here since the pioneering days, I feel that this material is totally inappropriate and would be considered culturally insensitive by many members of our community.

Principles

[6] TRN assessed the complaint under Principle 7 and Guideline 7a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Principle 7
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.

Guideline 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

[7] In its response to the complaint TRN stated that Coast is targeted at “baby boomers, playing songs from the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s”. The broadcaster noted that the song had been recorded in the early 1960s and it would have been “familiar to much of the audience as it was a regular on request sessions at that time”.

[8] TRN responded that although the lyrics may be “a bit un PC”, as a whole the song amounts to “a bit of humorous nonsense”. The broadcaster commented that the complainant needed to “lighten up a bit” in her attitude towards this “absolutely harmless” song.

[9] The broadcaster denied that there had been a breach of Principle 7 and therefore declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[10] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Montgomery referred her complaint to the Authority. In addition to matters raised in her complaint to the broadcaster, she stated that the song was “highly denigrating to my race and cultural beliefs”.

[11] The complainant maintained that the song had caused her “deep offence on the basis of race”, and expressed her belief that the broadcaster was not taking the matter seriously.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[12] TRN added nothing further to its original reply to the complainant.

Authority's Determination

[13] 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.

[14] Guideline 7a of Principle 7 requires broadcasters to avoid portraying people in a manner that encourages denigration of sections of the community as a consequence of, among other things, their race. Clause (iii) of Guideline 7a states that the requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is “by way of legitimate humour or satire”.

[15] The Authority accepts that Pākehā are a section of the community protected under Guideline 7a. However, it does not accept that the song “Puha and Pākehā” could possibly be interpreted as encouraging denigration of Pākehā as a consequence of their race.

[16] Furthermore, the Authority considers that the song was clearly intended to be humorous, and thus fell within the exception in Guideline 7(a)(iii). While it accepts that the humour is not to Mrs Montgomery’s liking, it agrees with the broadcaster’s assessment that the song was simply “a bit of humorous nonsense”. The Authority notes that this song was recorded 40 years ago and it reflects the humour of the time.

[17] The Authority considers that the broadcast on this occasion did not come close to encouraging the denigration of a section of the community on the basis of race. The Authority finds that the requirement in Principle 7 was not breached.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
21 December 2004

Appendix

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

  1. D M Montgomery’s formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd – 6 October 2004
  2. TRN’s decision on the formal complaint – 12 October 2004
  3. Ms Montgomery’s referral to the Authority – 1 November 2004
  4. TRN’s response to the referral – 4 November 2004