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Conroy and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2004-208

Members

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

Complainant

  • Roger Conroy of Christchurch

Dated

21st December 2004

Number

2004-208

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

CanWest TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News segment called “The Week in Politics” – reference to Dr Don Brash (Leader of the National Party) travelling in a police convoy from Parliament to the Wellington Stadium – comment by presenter that he “could have walked, the lazy bugger eh!” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – word “bugger” not in breach of good taste and decency – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – comment not statement of fact – accuracy standard does not apply – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] A segment called “The Week in Politics” was included in 3 News, broadcast on 23 July 2004, at around 6.30pm. This involved a discussion between the presenter, John Campbell, and TV3’s political editor about the Prime Minister travelling in a high speed police convoy to a rugby match.

[2] It was noted that Dr Don Brash, the Leader of the Opposition, had at another time travelled in a police convoy from Parliament to the Wellington stadium. The political editor commented that over such a short distance “they barely had time to get up speed”, to which the presenter replied that Dr Brash “could have walked, the lazy bugger eh!”.

Complaint

[3] Roger Conroy complained to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item had breached standards of good taste and decency. He stated that the use of the word “bugger” contravened the standard, and that it was “not the type of word I would expect to be used on a news programme broadcast between 6pm and 7pm”.

[4] Mr Conroy also complained that the comment that Dr Brash was lazy was “totally incorrect”. He contended that this statement was contrary to Standard 5 (accuracy) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

Standards

[5] CanWest TVWorks Ltd assessed the complaint under Standards 1 and 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which 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.

Standard 5 Accuracy
News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] In its response to the complainant, CanWest TVWorks Ltd stated that the broadcast material “must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it is shown” in order to constitute a breach of Standard 1 (good taste and decency).

[7] The broadcaster stated that 3 News was a “scheduled unclassified news programme directed at an adult target audience”. It did not consider that the language used and the comments about Dr Brash had “exceeded the bounds of good taste and decency”.

[8] The broadcaster contended that Standard 5 (accuracy) was not relevant to the complaint because it was not presented as a statement of fact. It said that the presenter’s “joke about Dr Brash being lazy was just that – a joke or a comment”.

Referral to the Authority

[9] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Conroy referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He disagreed with the broadcaster, and maintained that the item did not comply with standards of accuracy and good taste and decency.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10] CanWest TVWorks Ltd added nothing further to its original reply to the complainant.

Authority's Determination

[11] 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.

Accuracy

[12] In the Authority’s view, the statement “lazy bugger eh” was not a statement of fact to which the accuracy standard applies. It was instead a light-hearted comment given in the context of an unstructured and informal discussion about political matters. It did not amount to a factual statement that Dr Brash was lazy.

[13] For this reason, the Authority considers that Standard 5 (accuracy) does not apply and, accordingly, it does not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

Good taste and decency

[14] Nor does the Authority uphold this aspect of the complaint. The Authority agrees with CanWest’s response to the complaint, in which it noted that the 3 News news hour is unclassified and aimed primarily at an adult audience. In this context, the Authority does not consider that the use of the word “bugger”, or the light-hearted reference to Dr Brash as a “lazy bugger” breached standards of good taste and decency.

[15] The Authority notes that in a survey of 1000 people, published by the Authority in 2000 , the word “bugger” was perceived as being overall the least objectionable among a list of 22 words. The Authority’s approach over recent years has been to describe the word as being at worst “mildly offensive to sensitive people”. It has not upheld any complaints about the use of the word. The Authority considers the same approach is appropriate to the facts of the present case.

 

For the above reasons the Authority does not 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. Roger Conroy’s formal complaint – 26 July 2004
  2. CanWest TVWorks Ltd’s decision on formal complaint – 3 September 2004
  3. Mr Conroy’s referral to the Authority – 8 September 2004
  4. CanWest TVWorks Ltd’s response to the Authority – 12 November 2004