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Hawthorne and RadioWorks Ltd - 2013-087

Members

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

Complainant

  • James Hawthorne of Queenstown

Dated

1st April 2014

Number

2013-087

Channel/Station

George FM

Broadcaster

RadioWorks Ltd


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

The George Selectah Show included audio from a YouTube parody of an advertisement for ‘Chaffers New Zealand Style Deck Sealant’, making fun of the way New Zealanders pronounce the word ‘deck’ to sound like ‘dick’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that comments such as ‘every kid in the neighbourhood has been on my dick’ were in bad taste and joked about paedophilia. This was clearly intended to be humorous and did not promote or endorse paedophilia. Most regular listeners of George FM would not have been offended, taking into account the station’s target audience, and that the content was broadcast during school time when children were unlikely to be listening.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Controversial Issues, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming


Introduction

[1]  The George Selectah Show played audio from a YouTube parody of an advertisement for ‘Chaffers New Zealand Style Deck Sealant’, making fun of the way New Zealanders pronounce the word ‘deck’ to sound like ‘dick’. The audio was broadcast at about 11.30am on Friday 4 October 2013 on George FM.

[2]  James Hawthorne made a formal complaint to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the parody was highly offensive and in very bad taste.

[3]  RadioWorks declined to investigate the complaint, saying that Mr Hawthorne had engaged in ‘seriously abusive communications to and about George FM’. It advised him of his right to refer his complaint to this Authority.

[4]  Mr Hawthorne raised standards relating to good taste and decency, law and order, controversial issues, discrimination and denigration, responsible programming, and children’s interests. We have limited our determination to the most relevant and applicable standards. Our findings on the other standards are summarised at paragraph [14] below.

[5]  The issue therefore is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and responsible programming standards as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[6]  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 threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[7]  The good taste and decency standard is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[8]  The parody of an advertisement for deck sealant – lampooning the way New Zealanders pronounce the word ‘deck’ to sound like ‘dick’ – included the following comments, mimicking a New Zealand accent:

  • ‘I left my dick unprotected and it was warped out of shape in no time. I could barely recognise my own dick… Then I discovered Chaffer’s New Zealand Style Dick Sealant, the best way to take care of your dick… First, wash your dick with soap and water…’
  • ‘I even have pictures of my dick – check out that dick. I’m going to send this to my secretary; Barbara always likes to receive my dick pics.’
  • ‘After all, summer time is all about spending time on your dick. I’ll often have 20 to 30 people on my dick at once. That can really wear your dick out, causing dick splinters…’
  • ‘I used to never let children anywhere near my dick, my dick was too dangerous for kids to play on, but it seems like every kid in the neighbourhood has been on my dick this summer, and they’ve all had a good time.’
  • ‘My dick’s over seven years old but it looks brand new. That’s part of the reason all my neighbours are jealous of my dick. Isn’t that right, Jim? – his wife is always on my dick, begging me to know the secret of my perfect dick.’

[9]  Mr Hawthorne argued that the repeated use of the word ‘dick’ was inappropriate for broadcast at 11.30am. He was particularly concerned with the comment ‘every kid in the neighbourhood has been on my dick which he described as a joke about paedophilia. The complainant said the host was ‘making a joke about the rape of children’ on his show which was broadcast ‘in the middle of the day and obviously listened to by a wide audience, many of them children’.

[10]  In its response to the Authority, RadioWorks said the broadcast was ‘humorous and a play on the difference of accents and was not about paedophilia at all’.

[11]  In assessing whether most listeners would find the broadcast offensive, context is all important. Here, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the content complained about was audio from a YouTube parody, not comments made by the host
  • the comments about children were brief in the context of the two-minute parody
  • the parody was clearly intended as a humorous take on accents, and the reference to children was incidental to this purpose
  • the audio was broadcast at about 11.30am on a Friday during the school term
  • it was broadcast on George FM
  • George FM’s target audience
  • audience expectations.

[12]  Mr Hawthorne’s primary concern was the comments about children. While we can understand his discomfort at the innuendo in these comments, we disagree that they promoted or endorsed paedophilia. It was obvious from the YouTube audio and particularly the tone of the comments and their light-hearted delivery, that this was a play on words and utilised shock humour. The comments about children were among other comments using similar humour, for example the comments about sending ‘dick’ pictures to his secretary and having his neighbour’s wife on his ‘dick’ (see paragraph [5]).

[13]  Furthermore, George FM and the George Selectah Show are targeted at adults and the audio was broadcast at 11.30am on a school day when children were unlikely to be listening. We do not consider that the repeated use of the word ‘dick’ in the context of making fun of New Zealand accents, and specifically the comments about children, would have offended most regular listeners. We therefore decline to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

Did the broadcast breach the responsible programming standard?

[14]  The responsible programming standard (Standard 8) requires broadcasters to be mindful of child listeners and to ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible, taking into account the context in which it is broadcast. While Mr Hawthorne referred to the children’s interests standard, in the Radio Code this is covered by Standard 8.

[15]  Mr Hawthorne argued that it was irresponsible to broadcast the comments, especially at a time when ‘potentially thousands of children’ were listening.

[16]  In light of the relevant contextual factors outlined above, including the time of broadcast (during a school day), the programme’s and the radio station’s adult target audience, and expectations of regular listeners, we find that the comments were acceptable in context. We decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 8.

Did the broadcast breach the other standards raised in the complaint?

[17]  Mr Hawthorne also raised the law and order, controversial issues, and discrimination and denigration standards. In summary, these standards were not breached because:

  • the broadcast did not encourage or condone paedophilia in breach of the law and order standard; it was a parody that was intended to be humorous, and was clearly not meant to be taken seriously (Standard 2)
  • the programme was not a news, current affairs or factual programme to which the controversial issues standard applied (Standard 4)
  • the comments did not encourage discrimination or denigration against children as a section of the community (Standard 7).

[18]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that these standards were breached.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 April 2014

Appendix

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

1                 James Hawthorne’s formal complaint – 11 October 2013

2                 RadioWorks’ response to the complaint – 29 October 2013

3                 Mr Hawthorne’s referral to the Authority – 29 November 2013

4                 RadioWorks’ response to the Authority (including attachments) – 17 January 2014


1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)