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McClung and The Radio Network Ltd - 2012-067

Members

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

Complainant

  • Ron McClung of Otaki

Dated

21st August 2012

Number

2012-067

Channel/Station

Newstalk ZB

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Kerre Woodham Talkback – host stated, in response to caller’s comment that having a disability was the result of “inbreeding”, “You fricken moron, I’d have cut you off if you hadn’t cut yourself off, you idiot…” – language used allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Standard 8 (responsible programming) – host said “fricken moron” not “fuckin’ moron” as alleged – comment broadcast after 9pm during talkback programme targeted at adults – comment would not have surprised or offended most listeners and its broadcast in this context was not socially irresponsible – not upheld

 This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  Kerre Woodham Talkback was broadcast on Tuesday 12 June 2012 from 7pm to midnight on Newstalk ZB. At approximately 9.11pm, a caller suggested that the “source of [having a disability] is inbreeding”, before hanging up. The host responded, “You fricken moron, I’d have cut you off if you hadn’t cut yourself off, you idiot… From which rock did that slimy little creep crawl out from under?”

[2]  Ron McClung made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the host used “obscene” language, specifically “fuckin’ moron”, at a time when children could be listening, which he considered to be “offensive” and “alarming”.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast, and specifically the language used by the host, breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency) and 8 (responsible programming) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast, and specifically the language used by the host, breach broadcasting standards?

[5]  Standard 1 states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. The standard is primarily concerned with the broadcast of sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 Standard 8 requires broadcasters to ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.

[6]  Mr McClung’s complaint related to the host’s alleged comment, “fuckin’ moron”, which in his view was offensive, especially when broadcast at a time when children could be listening.

[7]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • Kerre Woodham Talkback was broadcast between 7pm and 12am
  • the comment was broadcast at about 9.11pm
  • the host used the words “fricken moron” and “idiot”
  • the language was a used in response to a caller’s comment that having a disability was the result of “inbreeding”
  • talkback radio is recognised as a robust and opinionated forum
  • the radio station’s, and talkback radio’s, adult target audience
  • expectations of regular listeners.

[8]  Having listened to the broadcast, we are satisfied that the host used the word “fricken”, not “fuckin’”. The host used a colloquial expression as part of a spontaneous response to comments made by a caller which the host considered to be ignorant and in bad taste. The host’s comment was broadcast after 9pm, which is not recognised as children’s normally accepted listening times, and during a talkback programme targeted at an adult audience. Talkback radio is recognised as a robust forum, and we do not consider that the use of a colloquial phrase in this context would have surprised or offended most listeners, or that it was socially irresponsible.

[9]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint under Standards 1 and 8.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
21 August 2012