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Hashimoto and RadioWorks Ltd - 2011-042

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Masaru Hashimoto of Auckland

Dated

7th June 2011

Number

2011-042

Programme

Radio Live Drive

Channel/Station

Radio Live

Broadcaster

RadioWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio Live Drive – host referred to “dirty Germans” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – comment was light-hearted – was not intended to reflect all Germans – host was expressing disapproval of tourists stealing native wildlife – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – comment related specifically to the German tourists who had stolen native geckos – did not encourage denigration of or discrimination against German people as a section of the community – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Broadcast

[1]   During Radio Live Drive, broadcast on Radio Live at approximately 4.20pm on 9 March 2011, the host said:

Have you ever thought about stealing a gecko? Why on earth would you steal a gecko? And what of our New Zealand geckos being stolen by these dirty Germans? We’re going to find out what this is all about.

Complaint

[2]   Masaru Hashimoto made a formal complaint to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the host’s reference to “dirty Germans” breached standards relating to good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration. The complainant considered that it was a discriminatory expression which lacked taste and decency and was disrespectful towards people from Germany.

Standards

[3]   RadioWorks assessed the complaint under Standards 1 and 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 7 Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   RadioWorks contended that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable in the context in which it was aired. It considered that the host’s comment, “what of our New Zealand geckos stolen by dirty Germans?” was about individuals recently charged with stealing native geckos, and not a reference to a race of people. It said that it had consulted the host and he had confirmed that his intent was to speak about the pair of men who were arrested. It provided the following comments from the host:

There was no intention to degrade Germans as a race. But I was having a crack at the individuals for stealing the geckos. I called them dirty. I never meant to insult Germans as a race. It was descriptive only.

[5]   The broadcaster argued that New Zealand’s native wildlife was considered sacred by New Zealanders and that most listeners would not have found the host’s reference to the individuals who were found in possession of the geckos offensive. It said that “This is evident from the backlash on some internet forums following the posting of a video by Norwegian tourists who hunted and killed protected kereru.”

[6]   Further, RadioWorks noted that the Authority had acknowledged that talkback radio is a robust and provocative forum where hosts and callers express strong opinions and put their views across forcibly.

[7]   RadioWorks therefore concluded that the host’s language would not have gone beyond listeners’ expectations, and it declined to uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

[8]   Turning to Standard 7, RadioWorks considered whether the host’s comments blackened the reputation of a class of people. It accepted that the comments were “slightly ambiguous” and that there was room to interpret them as the complainant had. However, it supported the host’s assertion that he was not criticising or demeaning Germans, but referring to individuals charged with a serious crime. Accordingly, RadioWorks concluded that the standard did not apply because it applied only to sections of the community and not to individuals, and it declined to uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Masaru Hashimoto referred the complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant maintained that the host’s comment was “distasteful and discriminatory”, and that if he did not intend his comments to be degrading he should have referred to “dirty people” or “dirty suspects”.

Authority's Determination

[10]   The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[11]   When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the comment was broadcast at approximately 4.20pm on Radio Live
  • the station’s target audience
  • expectations of regular listeners.

[12]   In our view, the host’s reference to “dirty Germans” was light-hearted and was not intended to refer to all German people. We consider that it would have been clear to listeners that the host was expressing his frustration with tourists stealing and selling our native New Zealand wildlife. In our view, most regular Radio Live listeners would not have been offended by the comment. Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration)

[13]   The term “denigration” has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people (see for example Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1). “Discrimination” has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment (e.g. Teoh and TVNZ2). It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (for example, McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network3).

[14]   Standard 7 applies only to sections of the community. On this occasion, we consider that the host’s comment clearly related solely to the tourists who had stolen native geckos, and did not extend to German people as a section of the community. Listeners would have understood his comments to be his personal opinion, expressing his disapproval of the individuals’ actions in stealing native New Zealand wildlife, rather than making any comment on German people in general. It was clearly not intended to denigrate German people on the basis of their nationality or some other perceived group characteristic. Nor could it be said to have encouraged the different treatment of German people to their detriment. 

[15]   Accordingly, we find that the host’s comment did not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, German people as a section of the community. We decline to uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
7 June 2011

Appendix

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

1    Masaru Hashimoto’s formal complaint – 9 March 2011

2   RadioWorks’ response to the complaint – 29 March 2011

3   Masaru Hashimoto’s referral to the Authority – 1 April 2011

4   RadioWorks’ response to the Authority – 27 April 2011  


1Decision No. 2006-030

2Decision No. 2008-091

3Decision No. 2002-152