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Moore and The Radio Network Ltd - 2003-127

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Richard Moore of Wanganui

Dated

20th November 2003

Number

2003-127

Programme

ZM Breakfast

Channel/Station

ZM

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint
ZM Breakfast discussion involving evaluation of breast size with regard to career prospects – alleged soft porn – inappropriate for target audience

Findings
Principle 1 & Guideline 1a – not offensive to target audience – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Between 9.30 and 10.30am on Wednesday 20 August 2003, the hosts of ZM Breakfast had a discussion on how breast size influenced women’s careers. After receiving a call from a young woman who related her employment experience, the hosts initiated a panel discussion asking three male employees of the station what they considered distracting about women’s breasts.

[2] Richard Moore complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that the discussion and panel interview, which he described as a "soft porn" broadcast, was inappropriate for the younger targeted listeners.

[3] In response, TRN stated that the topic was discussed after a story on the subject was published in a magazine. The broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint maintaining that the target audience of 18–34 year old females was most unlikely to be offended.

[4] Dissatisfied with TRN’s decision Mr Moore referred the 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.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have listened to a 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 Programme

[6] Between 9.30 and10.30am on Wednesday 20 August 2003, the hosts of ZM Breakfast had a discussion on how breast size could influence a woman’s career. After receiving a call from a young woman who described how she had been refused employment because her breasts were considered a distraction to customers, the hosts initiated a panel discussion with three male employees from the radio studio. The panellists were asked to consider what they thought would be distracting when evaluating women’s breasts.

The Complaint

[7] Richard Moore complained to TRN that the host’s comments were offensive, particularly when broadcast to the young people who, he contended, were the station’s target audience.

[8] Mr Moore’s concern related to the interviews regarding what type of breasts the panel members found the most titillating and stimulating.

The Standards

[9] TRN assessed the complaint under Principle 1 in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Principle and relevant Guideline provide:

Principle 1 Good Taste and Decency

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.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[10] TRN disagreed with the complainant’s assertion that the panellists were asked what kind of breasts they considered to be "titillating and/or stimulating". It explained that the subject - how a woman’s breasts could influence her career -came about after an article on the topic had been published in a magazine. A young woman caller described how she had been refused employment because her breasts were considered a potential distraction to male clients. A panel of three men employed by the radio station was then asked what they considered to be potentially distracting about a woman’s breasts.

[11] In the broadcaster’s view the target audience of 18–34 year old females was unlikely to be offended by the topic as the programme host carefully controlled the discussion. Accordingly, the broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[12] Mr Moore disputed the age of the target audience and condemned the appropriateness of such a discussion on ZM Breakfast.

The Authority’s Determination

[13] When the Authority determines a complaint that a broadcast contravenes Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breaches currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant, but does not determine whether the programme breached the principle.

[14] First, the Authority notes that the programme was not broadcast in the school holidays or indeed at a time when children were likely to be listening. It also notes that the station’s target audience is 18-34 year old females. While the Authority acknowledges the complainant’s concern, it agrees with the broadcaster that the target audience was unlikely to be offended by either the discussion generated by the hosts, or the responses from the panel of male employees.

[15] The Authority notes the complainant’s assertion about the wording of the question put to the panel. Having listened to a tape of the broadcast, the Authority confirms that the question did not refer to what the panel found titillating or stimulating about women’s breasts. Rather, the panel were specifically asked to consider what they regarded as being potentially distracting about women’s breasts. The Authority accepts that the subject matter was based on a story published in a magazine and that the question put to the panel was an extension of the issue raised by a female caller. In all of the circumstances the Authority does not uphold the complaint under Principle 1 of the Radio Code.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
20 November 2003

Appendix

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

1. Mr Moore’s Complaint to The Radio Network Ltd – 25 September 2003
2. TRN’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 9 September 2003
3. Mr Moore’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 23 September 2003
4. TRN’s Response to the Authority – 10 October 2003