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Solomon and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-036

Members

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

Complainant

  • Maui Solomon of Chatham Islands

Dated

15th July 2014

Number

2014-036

Programme

Seven Sharp

Channel/Station

TV ONE

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


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

A Seven Sharp item looked at tourism in the Chatham Islands, including its fishing and hunting opportunities. During an interview with a tourism expert, one of the programme’s hosts commented, ‘I’d rather shoot myself, to be honest, than go and do that in the Chatham Islands.’ The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the comment was offensive and denigrated the Chatham Islands. The tourism expert immediately countered the comment with positive statements about visiting the Chatham Islands, and the host later clarified what he had meant by the comment.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  A Seven Sharp item looked at tourism in the Chatham Islands. The item comprised a pre-recorded item where a reporter travelled to the islands to experience the fishing and hunting opportunities, and an in-studio discussion between a host and a guest from the Auckland University of Technology’s Tourism Research Institute (AUT). During this discussion, the host commented that, ‘I’d rather shoot myself, to be honest, than go and do that in the Chatham Islands.’ The item aired at 7pm on TV ONE on 26 February 2014.

[2]  Maui Solomon made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, alleging that the host’s comments were ‘completely inappropriate and offensive’.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, law and order, fairness, and discrimination and denigration standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In our view good taste and decency is the most relevant so we have focused our determination on that standard. We briefly address the remaining standards in paragraph [13] below.

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

[5]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) 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

[6]  The comment subject to complaint was made in the context of the following discussion between the host and the interviewee from AUT:

Host:    It is a type of person isn’t it, because [the reporter is] the type of person who
            [would travel to the Chatham Islands]. I’d rather shoot myself, to be honest, than
            go and do that in the Chatham Islands
. So it is a type of person, am I right? [our
            emphasis]

Guest:  I think you’re right there and I think the issue is there are many different types of
            people and you might find some experiences there that you would find quite
            engaging and exciting if you had the chance to go…

[7]  Later in the show the host said:

You may have heard the words, ‘I’d rather shoot myself than go to the Chatham Islands’. I wouldn’t want those words to be misconstrued. What I was trying to say is that I’m not a hunting, fishing, shooting kind of guy like [the reporter]. That’s not me. So anyway, I love the Chathams – Chathams, I love you. It’s just I don’t want to go shoot a bird or wrestle a pig or anything like that.

[8]  Mr Solomon argued that the host’s comments were ‘at best unthinking and at worse designed to denigrate the [Chathams] and its culture’. He also argued that saying, ‘I would rather shoot myself’ on prime time television ‘lacks sensitivity to any viewer who may be affected directly or indirectly from a suicide event’. In regard to the host’s subsequent comments, he said ‘the apology lacked credence and sincerity’.

[9]  TVNZ argued that in context, it would have been clear to viewers that the host’s comment was used as hyperbole and as ‘a way for the presenter to explain that the activities shown were not for him’. It considered the content was consistent with audience expectations of Seven Sharp, which is a news programme targeted at adult viewers, noting that the comments were delivered in a humorous tone typical of the content on the programme.

[10]  In our view, it would have been clear to the programme’s adult target audience, from the host’s tone and from the informal and conversational style of the show, that his comment was not meant to be taken seriously. It was a flippant, throwaway statement that the host later contextualised and clearly explained. ‘I’d rather shoot myself’ is a well-known colloquial expression, and reasonable viewers would have understood that the host was using it to express his personal opinion about visiting the Chatham Islands, rather than referring to suicide. Further, the interviewee from AUT immediately countered the host’s comment with positive statements about visiting the Chatham Islands.

[11]  For these reasons, we find that the broadcast did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency and we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

Did the broadcast otherwise breach broadcasting standards?

[12]  Mr Solomon also argued that the host’s comment ‘glamorised’ suicide, and that it was unfair to, and denigrated, the Chatham Islands and its culture. In addition to the good taste and decency standard, Mr Solomon raised the law and order, fairness, and discrimination and denigration standards in his complaint.

[13]  In summary, these standards were not breached because:

  • the host’s comment was a well-known colloquial expression, and was not intended to literally refer to suicide. He made this clear by clarifying what he meant later in the programme, and it was obvious that he was merely expressing his personal preferences, and not glamorising suicide (Standard 2)
  • the ‘culture of the Chatham Islands’ is not a person or organisation to which the fairness standard applies. In any event, the tenor of the item as a whole, including the reporter’s experiences and the guest’s views, was favourable towards the Chatham Islands and presented them as a desirable place for tourists to visit (Standard 6)
  • the Chatham Islands and its culture is not a ‘section of the community’ to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies. In any case, the overall tenor of the item was positive, and the comments made by the host did not contain the invective necessary to encourage discrimination or denigration (Standard 7).

[14]  We therefore decline to uphold these aspects of the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
15 July 2014

Appendix

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

1            Maui Solomon’s formal complaint – 27 February 2014

2            TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 26 March 2014

3            Mr Solomon’s referral to the Authority – 9 April 2014

4            TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 19 May 2014


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

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