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Thompson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-001

Members

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

Complainant

  • Ruth Thompson of Leeston

Dated

4th March 2014

Number

2014-001

Programme

Seven Sharp

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

An item on Seven Sharp reported on Kiwis living as ‘second class citizens’ in Australia. At the end of the item, one of the presenters commented, ‘So we hope for some changes in Australia, and until then I guess all you can do is find some Australians over here and be mean to them.’ He poked his Australian co-presenter in the arm, and the presenters all laughed. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the comment encouraged denigration and discrimination against Australian people. The comment did not carry any invective or ill-will. It was typical of the usual humour and banter that occurs on Seven Sharp, and viewers would have interpreted it as a light-hearted joke, not a serious call to action.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  Seven Sharp, a New Zealand current affairs and entertainment programme, reported on Kiwis living as ‘second class citizens’ in Australia. The item was introduced by one of the presenters as follows:

It’s Remembrance Day today as I am sure you know, and we are talking about a kind of an Anzac issue… as Kiwis, we get pretty upset when people’s rights are being trampled on, when they’ve been taken away: voting, health care, unemployment support, all of it really, and by – here’s the Anzac part – Australians. We wouldn’t take this kind of thing in the sporting field and yet Kiwis are being disadvantaged.

[2]  A pre-recorded item contained interviews with Kiwis ‘doing it tough’ in Australia, and reported on a ‘home-made welfare system’ set up by Kiwis living there to help other Kiwis. The reporter stated, ‘Aussies who come to New Zealand can get welfare help [from the government] if they run into trouble, but Kiwis who move to Aussie can’t’. Back in the studio, at the end of the item, one of the presenters, Jesse Mulligan, commented, ‘So we hope for some changes in Australia, and until then I guess all you can do is find some Australians over here and be mean to them.’ As he said this, Mr Mulligan poked his Australian co-presenter in the arm and they laughed about it. The programme was broadcast on 11 November 2013 on TV ONE.

[3]  Ruth Thompson made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the presenter’s suggestion that Kiwis be ‘mean’ to Australians incited racism and was ‘extremely offensive’.

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Did the broadcast encourage discrimination of, or denigration against, Australians as a section of the community?

[6]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. The term ‘denigration’ has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people.1 ‘Discrimination’ has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment.2 It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the New Zealand 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.3

[7]  The presenter’s comment that New Zealanders should ‘find some Australians over here and be mean to them’ did not carry any invective or ill-will and was clearly intended as a joke which had relevance to the story. This was obvious from Mr Mulligan’s tone and behaviour and the response from his co-presenters, including Australian-born Alison Mau. The comment was typical of the usual humour and banter that occurs on Seven Sharp, and we are satisfied that viewers would have interpreted it as a light-hearted joke, not a serious call to action.

[8]  Accordingly, we find that the comment did not encourage discrimination or denigration against Australians as a section of the community, and 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
4 March 2014

Appendix

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

1                  Ruth Thompson’s formal complaint – 27 November 2013

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 13 December 2013

3                 Ms Thompson’s referral to the Authority – 2 January 2014

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 January 2014


1See, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks, Decision No. 2006-030

2For example, Teoh and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-091

3E.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network Ltd, Decision No. 2002-152