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Kahukura and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-174

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor

Complainant

  • R L Kahukura of Invercargill

Dated

17th October 2002

Number

2002-174

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Havoc and Newsboy’s Sellout Tour – The Victory Lap complainant shown blindfolded opening oysters at Bluff Seafood Festival – comments from Newsboy suggested he was drunk or had been taking drugs – inaccurate – unfair – defamatory

Findings
Standard 6 – satirical series – festival and activities lampooned – complainant identifiable – reputation as oyster shucker not impugned – not dealt with unfairly – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Richard Lee Kahukura was featured opening oysters while blindfolded at the Bluff Seafood Festival in an episode of the satirical series Havoc and Newsboy’s Sellout Tour – The Victory Lap broadcast on TV2 at 10.00pm on 9 July 2002.

[2] Mr Kahukura complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the comments during the broadcast made by Newsboy, suggesting that he was drunk and drugged, were inaccurate, unfair, and defamatory.

[3] In response, TVNZ said the broadcast was making a satirical "dig" at Southland’s love affair with the oyster. In context, it denied that the comments had been unfair to the complainant and it declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Kahukura (through his solicitors) 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 viewed a video 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] Havoc and Newsboy’s Sellout Tour – The Victory Lap is a satirical series where the entertainers travel around the country lampooning individuals, places and attitudes. The Southland Seafood and Bluff Oyster Festival was featured in the opening skit of the episode shown on TV2 at 10.00pm on 9 July 2002.

The Complaint

[7] Richard Lee Kahukura was featured in a segment at the festival, achieving a world record in opening oysters while blindfolded. As the item was being filmed, Newsboy suggested during the commentary that the complainant was drunk and drugged and that he had been taking magic mushrooms.

[8] Mr Kahukura, through his solicitors, complained that the item was defamatory. He advised that he was a professional oyster opener and, he said, evidence was available that on the night he was not drunk and had not taken drugs.

The Standards

[9] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It reads:

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[10] Having explained the satirical nature of the programme, TVNZ contended that the item was "a satirical ‘dig’ at Southland and the Southlander’s love affair with the oyster".

[11] TVNZ pointed to some other satirical aspects of the broadcast and expressed the opinion that the visual reference to the complainant was brief and incidental to the overall skit. Further, he was not named and, TVNZ noted, the first reference to alcohol was made by the stage announcer in a comment about the complainant over the Festival’s loud-speaker system.

[12] Given the satirical context and the light-hearted manner of the activity portrayed, TVNZ did not consider that the complainant had been treated unfairly. Referring specifically to Guideline 6g, TVNZ pointed to the exemption for satirical work. It concluded:

The [complaints] committee recognised that not everyone enjoys the same sort of humour – and the individual viewers will prefer one form of satire to another. Havoc and Newsboy is directed specifically at the late teenage and young adult generation – a group with a sometimes anarchic and rebellious spirit.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[13] On the basis that it was not legitimate to suggest that he was drunk and drugged while achieving a world record for oyster shucking blindfolded, the complainant referred the matter to the Authority. The complainant stated that his reputation had been damaged.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14] TVNZ noted that the letter of referral used the word "defamation" and submitted that a ruling on defamation lay outside the complaints process in the Broadcasting Act.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[15] Emphasising that he was named during the broadcast and was filmed opening oysters blindfolded, the complainant stated he was clearly identifiable. He said that he had 22 years experience as a professional oyster opener but the comments by Newsboy regarding OSH (Occupational Health and Safety) portrayed him as an idiot rather than a professional. It also denigrated his skills.

[16] The complainant considered that the announcer’s reference to Monteiths probably referred to its role as a sponsor of the Bluff Seafood Festival, but there was no doubt that Newsboy’s comment about magic mushrooms applied specifically to him. On his behalf, his solicitors wrote:

As a result of the portrayal of him by this TV programme, he feels his professional abilities have been undermined. Further, he has received feedback from people clearly indicating their views toward him have changed, and referring to him as a drug user. There have also been comments suggesting that the world record achievement was not genuine.

The Authority’s Determination

[17] The Bluff Seafood Festival was lampooned in a segment in an episode of the satirical series Havoc and Newsboy’s Sellout Tour. Satirical and ironic comments were made about a number of places people and events including Bluff, oysters, and the safety of shucking oysters while blindfolded.

[18] The supposed aphrodisiacal qualities of oysters, for example, were treated in an irreverent manner on a number of occasions, and on one occasion involved making fun of the Mayor of Invercargill. The website address of Occupational Health & Safety was displayed on the screen during the segment about shucking oysters blindfolded. The Authority considered that this could be seen as mocking OSH or the organisers of the competition, or both.

[19] The Authority refers to these matters to emphasise the context in which the complainant was portrayed. The item’s tone through the entire segment was satirical, ironic, irreverent and, at times, bizarre.

[20] The complainant was shown participating in the Festival shucking oysters while blindfolded. The correspondence records that the complainant in fact achieved a world record at the Festival for shucking oysters blindfolded. Although the visuals showing the complainant were relatively brief and showed him shucking oysters while blindfolded, the Authority considers that he was clearly identifiable. The announcer at the festival, in commenting on the complainant’s exploits, suggested that the complainant might have drunk some Monteiths (a beer). In response Newsboy stated to the camera "he is on Monteiths – drunk, drunk and on ‘mushrooms’ last night". The comments were made in a frivolous and irreverent manner.

[21] The complainant considered this comment unfair while TVNZ described it as a "spontaneous and satirical reaction".

[22] Taking into account the nature of the programme and its approach to issues, the Authority accepts that the comment was intended to lampoon the activity and to comment ironically on the complainant. There was no evidence advanced to suggest that the complainant was either drunk or drugged as he participated in, and set a word record for, an activity which is associated only with Bluff in New Zealand.

[23] The Authority does not consider that the item in any way impugned the complainant’s skill and experience as an oyster shucker, or impugned the reputation of oyster shukers as an occupational group. He was a participant in a festival which was lampooned. In view of the light-hearted manner in which he was referred to, the Authority does not accept that the complainant was dealt with unfairly or unjustly and declines to uphold the complaint. The Authority has not addressed the issue of defamation which is not a matter of broadcasting standards.

[24] 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

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 October 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Richard Lee Kahukura’s Complaint (through his solicitors) to Television New Zealand Ltd –
    16 July 2002
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 30 July 2002
  3. Mr Kahukura’s Referral (through his solicitors) to the Broadcasting Standards Authority –
    15 August2002
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 20 August 2002
  5. Mr Kahukura ’s Final Comment (through his solicitors) – 6 September 2002