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Nassau and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-016

Members

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

Complainant

  • Casper Nassau of Auckland

Dated

7th June 2011

Number

2011-016

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – news reader stated that Samoan prison guards had been charged with bringing contraband into Auckland prisons – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration standard

Findings
Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – news reader’s remark was factual – no invective – did not encourage discrimination against or denigration of Samoans – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   During an item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on Monday 6 December 2010, the news reader stated:

Two Samoan prison guards have been arrested and stood down from their positions after being charged with bringing contraband into two Auckland jails. The men are accused of bringing in drugs, cell phones, cigarettes and food for prisoners at Mt Eden and Auckland Central Remand prisons. One of the men was also charged with unlawfully possessing a pistol.

Complaint

[2]   Casper Nassau made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached standards relating to discrimination and denigration. The complainant said that he was “deeply offended and disgusted” by the news reader’s reference to the prison guards’ ethnicity, which he argued was irrelevant to the item and cast Samoans in a “very bad light”.

Standards

[3]   TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Guideline 7a is also relevant. These provide:

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.

Guideline 7a

This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:

  • factual
  • a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or
  • legitimate humour, drama or satire.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[4]   TVWorks noted that the Authority had consistently defined denigration as blackening the reputation of a class of people.1 It argued that, on this occasion, the news reader’s reference to the ethnicity of the prison guards was a statement of fact that was not intended to be denigratory or discriminatory. The broadcaster considered that to uphold a breach of Standard 7 would be an unreasonable and unjustifiable limitation on its right to freedom of expression. Accordingly, it declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[5]   Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ response, Mr Nassau referred his complaint to the Authority under Section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant maintained that the news reader’s statement discriminated against Samoans by portraying them as “corrupt”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[6]   TVWorks said that the reporter had considered the prison guards’ ethnicity to be relevant due to a link with the King Cobras. It reiterated its view that the statement was not intended to be insulting, denigratory or offensive, and maintained that Standard 7 was not breached.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[7]   Mr Nassau considered the broadcaster’s response with regard to the prison guards’ alleged link with the King Cobras to be “insulting, denigratory and offensive” to Samoans. He asserted that not all members of the King Cobras were Samoan, and reiterated his view that it was “unnecessary” and “poor judgement” on the part of the reporter to refer to the prison guards’ ethnicity, even if they had links to the gang.

Authority’s Determination

[8]   The members of the Authority have viewed 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.

[9]   The Authority has consistently defined denigration as blackening the reputation of a class of people (see, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks2). Discrimination has been defined as encouraging the different treatment of members of a particular group, to their detriment (for example, see Teoh and TVNZ3).

[10]   It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (see, for example, McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network4).

[11]   While we understand Mr Nassau’s concern about the news reader’s reference to “Samoan” prison guards and consider that it was unnecessary, we find that the statement was factual and did not carry any invective. We do not consider that the reference denigrated Samoan people on the basis of their ethnicity or some other perceived group characteristic, or encouraged the different treatment of Samoan people to their detriment. 

[12]   Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the news reader’s comment encouraged discrimination against or the denigration of Samoans in breach of Standard 7.

 

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    Casper Nassau’s formal complaint – 7 December 2010

2   TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 9 February 2011

3   Mr Nassau’s referral to the Authority – 14 February 2011

4   TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 8 April 2011

5   Mr Nassau’s final comment – 23 April 2011


1New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference and CanWest TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2005-112

2Decision No. 2006-030

3Decision No. 2008-091

4Decision No. 2002-152