Radio Sport – talkback discussion about New Zealand cricket team’s performance at the World Cup – caller suggested host was overly critical of the team – host’s response – abusive – unfair – sexist
Principle 1 – subsumed
Principle 5 – sports talkback is robust – no uphold
Principle 7, Guideline 7a – threshold not reached – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 The New Zealand cricket team’s performance at the World Cup was discussed on Doug Out, a talkback session broadcast on Radio Sport on Saturday morning 15 March 2003 hosted by Doug Golightly. One woman caller suggested to the host that he was overly critical of the team. The host advised the caller to return to domestic duties.
 Des Casey complained to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, that the host’s response to the caller was "aggressive and abusive". In his view, the host’s "sexist and derogatory" comments were totally unacceptable.
 In declining to uphold the complaint, TRN stated that the exchange between the host and the caller was typical of the "cut and thrust of robust talk-back". It argued that listeners were familiar with the host’s style and the nature of the programme.
 Dissatisfied with TRN’s response, Mr Casey referred his 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 have listened to an audio tape of part of the session complained about, and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 Radio Sport is a network broadcast by TRN. It includes commentaries of sports events, interviews and talkback about sports issues.
 During the Doug Out session on Saturday morning 15 March 2003, a caller suggested that the host, Doug Golightly, was overly critical of the New Zealand cricket team’s performance, in particular its loss to India at the World Cup. The host disagreed with the caller’s views and suggested that she should go off and perform a number of domestic tasks, and terminated the call.
 Des Casey complained to TRN that the host’s response to the caller was "aggressive and abusive" and breached standards of good taste and decency. In addition, he considered that the host’s "sexist and derogatory" remarks to the caller were totally unacceptable.
 While Mr Casey accepted the host’s role and his right to defend his views, he wrote:
It is one thing to have strong opinions. It is another to abusively dismiss and cut off a caller following a verbal personal attack, because of a different view. Ordering a caller to "go back to her kitchen", and "to her persil", and "to go and prepare a roast dinner", is unacceptable and inexcusable.
 Mr Casey said he objected to the host’s "bullying and authoritarian response" to the caller. He expressed his concern that the programme could be seen to advocate "destructive and abusive behaviour as being acceptable and normal." He noted that children and young adults also listened to the programme. Mr Casey concluded that the host’s "attack" on the caller was a serious breach of broadcasting standards.
 TRN assessed the complaint under Principles 5 and 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Principles and relevant Guidelines provide:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.
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 argued that the host’s style was a relevant factor in its assessment of the complaint. It explained that the host’s approach was "blokey" and "consistently has a ‘put down’ attitude to views contrary to his own." TRN maintained that the listening audience was familiar with the host’s approach and the programme, which it described as "full of attitude directed at a largely male dominated audience."
 TRN submitted that the exchange between the host and the caller complained about reflected the "cut and thrust of robust talk-back." In its view, the exchange was nothing more than a "robust debate" and, accordingly, it declined to uphold the complaint.
 Mr Casey did not accept the context in which the broadcaster attempted to justify the host’s conduct. He argued that it had failed to address the host’s unacceptable "abusive and bullying" response to the caller, notwithstanding the nature of the programme, or the host’s style. He maintained that the "language and aggressive manner" of the host had exceeded the "cut and thrust of robust talk-back".
 The broadcaster has assessed the complaint under Principle 5 and Guideline 7a of Principle 7. The Authority notes that the complainant also referred to Principle 1 of the Radio Code. It reads:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
 The Authority considers that Principle 5 encompasses the relevant issues raised by the complainant under Principle 1. Accordingly, the Authority subsumes its consideration of this aspect regarding the host’s behaviour under the fairness standard.
 The Authority considers it necessary to take into account the environment in which the exchange took place. The Authority has previously stated that talkback is a robust environment, which it accepts tends to be accentuated in sports talkback programmes. It also recognises that listeners and participants in radio talkback shows would accept, and expect, the programme to be a robust arena for discussion and the expression of strong viewpoints.
 In relation to Principle 5, the Authority finds that the caller was not dealt with unjustly or unfairly on the programme. The Authority does not consider that the exchange amounted to personal abuse of the caller. While the Authority considers that the host’s behaviour was inappropriate, it accepts that it was intended to be provocative. In the circumstances, the caller successfully advanced her views and, given the context of the exchange, the Authority concludes that the nature and tone of the comments made by the host did not amount to unfairness in contravention of Principle 5. Consequently, the Authority declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.
 Turning to Principle 7, the Authority has consistently taken the view that there is a high threshold to be attained before it finds a breach of Guideline 7a. The Authority does not accept the broadcaster’s response regarding the "blokey" approach and "male dominated audience" as valid justification to broadcast comments which contain elements of male chauvinism. However, while the Authority considers that the host’s comments constituted a stereotypical insult, which was inappropriate, it does not find that it encouraged denigration of, or discrimination against, women. As the threshold required was not reached on this occasion, the Authority also declines to uphold a breach of Principle 7.
 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 reasons given above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
19 June 2003
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: