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Guest and CanWest RadioWorks Ltd - 2004-217

Members

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

Complainant

  • Michael Guest of Dunedin

Dated

31st March 2005

Number

2004-217

Channel/Station

The Edge

Broadcaster

CanWest RadioWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Morning Madhouse – The Edge – hosts commented on the name “Chris Peacock” – references to an item on KFC menu called “crispy cock” – mock advertisement containing references to oral sex – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Findings
Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – sustained and repetitive sexual references – likely that young people would have been listening – upheld

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] At around 7.55am on 26 October 2004 the hosts of The Morning Madhouse on the radio station The Edge joked about a complaint they had received from a person by the name of Chris Peacock. The discussion revolved around the humour inherent in the name, at which point one of the hosts stated that he had an “out” in the event that a complaint was laid with the Broadcasting Standards Authority. In referring to “crispy cock”, he said, he was just referring to an item on the KFC menu.

[2] A mock advertisement for the “crispy cock” item was played twice during the course of the discussion:

New this week at a KFC near you – a brand new taste sensation that will satisfy even the biggest appetite – 2 fresh buns, lettuce, tomato, cheese, pineapple and a breast from the biggest male rooster we can find – some guys and all ladies will love the crispy cock-burger. Listen to what these satisfied customers say about the crispy cock:

“I love the special sauce, mine was extra salty, delicious!”

“It was so good I had seven crispy cocks last weekend”

“It was so big it made me gag”.

Crispy cockburger, get one inside you today – for a limited time only at KFC – Kiwi for Chicken.

[3] During the broadcast, there was a discussion about how the host had managed to get a young woman to provide the quotes for the ad. One of the hosts commented “he had to get some young lady called Rebecca who is just a sweetheart here, very innocent, very sweet…she sometimes has to do things she doesn’t want – like this”.

Complaint

[4] Michael Guest complained to CanWest RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item breached standards of good taste and decency. Mr Guest alleged that over a period of approximately 30 minutes, he had been disturbed at a constant barrage of unacceptable language and topics. During this time, the complainant asserted that he had heard the following language: pissed, bloody, shit-hot, kick arse, nice tits, tits wobble, pack of wankers.

[5] The complainant also referred to the KFC advertisement, alleging that it had contained express references to oral sex. While he liked experimental broadcasting and was not a “prude”, Mr Guest maintained that the broadcast had been full of unacceptable ideas and language.

[6] While some of the words could have been deemed to be acceptable if viewed in isolation, the complainant added, he found the repetitive nature of offensive language to be in breach of the standards.

Principles

[7] CanWest RadioWorks Ltd assessed the complaint under Principle 1 and Guideline 1a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Principle 1

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

Guideline 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

[8] CanWest stated that it had listened to a recording of the discussion that caused Mr Guest concern, and it contended that the relevant contextual features of the programme were the programme genre, time of day and target audience.

9] The broadcaster observed that the programme was a “breakfast show”, and that this genre was fast-paced, funny, mildly risqué and upbeat. The hosts, it said, were bright and loud, and the mildly offensive and naughty nature of the humour was a common and expected feature of these programmes.

[10] CanWest, in considering the entire half-hour broadcast complained about, did not agree that it was likely to have exceeded the bounds of good taste and decency. Further, it contended that breakfast radio was a “robust environment” where

…listeners expect and presenters encourage the outrageous and mildly vulgar exchange of ideas and views. Practical jokes are a regular event, often at the expense of the unsuspecting. This sort of material is unlikely to surprise or distress the regular audience unless it is obscene, directed at particular individuals or incites listeners to acts of violence or unlawful behaviour.

[11] The broadcaster argued that, while light-hearted and somewhat silly, the discussion did not stray from the mildly vulgar into any comment that could be classed as “obscene or offensive”. It pointed out that no coarse language was used by the hosts, and did not consider that any explicit obscene suggestions were made.

[12] Under these circumstances, CanWest declined to uphold the complaint under Principle 1 (good taste and decency).

Referral to the Authority

[13] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Guest referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He did not elaborate on his original complaint to CanWest.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14] The broadcaster added nothing further to its original reply to the complainant.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[15] In his final submission to the Authority, Mr Guest noted that the content he complained about had been broadcast to a large number of listeners, many of whom were young people. He did not accept the broadcaster’s assertion that “people know what to expect from our station”.

[16] Referring to the repeated use of “bad language”, the complainant noted that the coarse language was not contained in the copy of the broadcast that CanWest had provided to the Authority. However, he noted that the broadcaster had not denied that the language had been used.

[17] Mr Guest said that the whole context of the broadcast should be considered, and submitted that the use of swear words was “quite gratuitous and continual”. While swear words could sometimes be used to humorous effect, he said, this was not one of those occasions.

[18] Referring to the mock advertisement, Mr Guest maintained that the references to “crispy cock” were clear references to oral sex. It had been an attempt at a “very crude form of humour” using repeated graphic images. He was concerned that non-consensual oral sex on the part of the female had been “more than hinted at” in the programme.

[19] The complainant strongly disagreed with CanWest’s response that the discussion had not strayed from the mildly vulgar. He also expressed disquiet that the hosts had referred to the Authority, and basically dared it to take action. Indeed, he said, it could be argued that the hosts’ comments recognised that there was a real probability that broadcasting standards would be breached. Mr Guest contended that the hosts were “mocking” the Authority.

Authority's Determination

[20] 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.

[21] When the Authority considers a complaint which alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the time of the broadcast, at approximately 8am
  • the target audience for The Edge which, according to the website of CanWest Radioworks Ltd, is 10–29 year olds
  • that the hosts deliberately set out to be challenging with a scripted item
  • the contrived nature of the “advertisement”
  • the repeated references to oral sex

[22] Taking these factors into account, the Authority considers that this broadcast contravened standards of good taste and decency. In particular, the Authority notes that the target demographic of The Edge is predominantly young people aged 10–29 years, and the content was broadcast at a time when it is likely that many children and young teenagers would have been listening. While a passing reference to such material may have been acceptable, the Authority considers that the sustained and repetitive use of overtly sexual references was inappropriate.

[23] Furthermore, the Authority is disappointed that a tape of the complete 30 minute broadcast was not available, even though CanWest purported to have listened to the entire broadcast in its response to the formal complaint.

[24] Nevertheless, having already determined that the discussion that it heard crossed the boundaries of good taste and decency, the Authority is of the view that the additional language and content referred to by the complainant could only have compounded the effect of the broadcast.

Bill of Rights

[25] For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint in reaching this determination. For the reasons given above, the Authority considers that its exercise of powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by CanWest RadioWorks Limited on 26 October 2004 breached Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[26] Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under ss.13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act. It does not intend to impose an order on this occasion. The Authority considers that the public release of the decision upholding the complaint is sufficient in all the circumstances.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
31 March 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Michael Guest’s formal complaint – not dated
  2. CanWest RadioWorks Ltd’s decision on the formal complaint – 19 November 2004
  3. Mr Guest’s referral to the Authority – 16 December 2004
  4. CanWest RadioWorks Ltd’s response to the Authority – 1 February 2005
  5. Mr Guest’s final comment – not dated