Paul Holmes Breakfast Show – barrage of jokes against French and German military – racist and offensive
Principle 7 and Guideline 7a – no discrimination – high threshold not reached – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision
 A barrage of jokes relayed on the Paul Holmes Breakfast Show between 6.00–8.30am by its presenter, Paul Holmes, was broadcast on The Radio Network Ltd (TRN) on Friday 14 February 2003. The jokes targetted the French and German military.
 Sylvia Shepherd complained to TRN, the broadcaster, that the jokes were racist, anti-French and offensive.
 In response, TRN stated that the jokes, which had previously been published in the Sun newspaper in Britain did not encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, the French and were legitimate examples of humour or satire.
 Dissatisfied with TRN’s decision, Mrs Shepherd referred her 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.
 The members of the Authority have listened to an audio 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.
 The Paul Holmes Breakfast Show is broadcast on TRN between 6.00–8.30am each weekday morning. A barrage of jokes relayed on the programme by its presenter, Paul Holmes, were broadcast on Friday 14 February 2003. The French military were the subject of the jokes. The jokes included, inter alia, the following:
How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?
Nobody knows, they have never tried it.
Why did the French plant trees on the Champs Elysées?
So the Germans could march in the shade.
 Mrs Shepherd complained to TRN that the jokes and indeed the whole programme was racist and offensive not only to "right thinking people" but also to French and German residents and tourists. In Mrs Shepherd's opinion, "harking back to World War II would only promote ill-feeling in a new generation".
 TRN assessed the complaint under Principle 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Principle, and relevant Guideline, reads:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.
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.
 TRN stated that the jokes had been previously published in the Sun newspaper in Britain, "as a result of French and German actions relating to NATO and their attitudes to the prospects of a Gulf war".
 TRN also stated:
While Principle 7 requires broadcasters to not portray a race which encourages denigration or discrimination, it does not extend to prevent the broadcast of material which is legitimate humour or satire.
 TRN concluded that the jokes were legitimate humour and, accordingly, declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with TRN’s response, Mrs Shepherd referred the matter to the Authority.
 The Authority has noted previously, that a high threshold applies before a broadcast contravenes Guideline 7a. The portrayal has to be such that it encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. In the authority’s view, the broadcast complained about fell short of such encouragement.
 The Authority considers that the host was attempting to reflect in a humorous manner the French and German actions relating to NATO and the prospects of a Gulf war by relaying a series of stereotypical views about the French and German military. The Authority also notes that the material was recently published in an overseas newspaper.
 In the Authority’s view the jokes were populist and did not, singularly or otherwise, discriminate against the French or German military. Accordingly, it concludes that Principle 7 was not breached.
 The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Dr Judy McGregor
15 May 2003
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: