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Hashimoto and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2014-040

Members

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

Complainant

  • Masaru Hashimoto of Auckland

Dated

15th July 2014

Number

2014-040

Channel/Station

Radio Live

Broadcaster

MediaWorks Radio Ltd


Leigh Pearson declared a conflict of interest and did not take part in the determination of this complaint.


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

During Talkback with Sean Plunket, one caller expressed views opposing drilling including the fact drilling resources were sent to China who manufactured it into ‘crap’. Later in the programme, the host sarcastically referred back to the caller’s comments, referring to the ‘Damn Chinese’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that his comments were offensive and disrespected Chinese people. The host was being sarcastic, and was actually defending China, not being derogatory. In any case the comments did not carry any invective and did not encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, Chinese people.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  During Talkback with Sean Plunket, one topic of discussion was proposed offshore drilling in Taranaki. One caller expressed views opposing drilling including the fact drilling resources were sent to China who manufactured it into ‘crap’. Later in the programme, the host sarcastically referred back to the caller’s comments, referring to the ‘Damn Chinese’. The broadcast aired on Radio Live at 10am on 10 March 2014.

[2]  Masaru Hashimoto made a formal complaint to MediaWorks Radio Ltd (MediaWorks), alleging that the host’s comment showed ‘total disrespect to China and to Chinese people’.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards 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 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 reference to the host’s discussion with a previous caller, which was as follows:

Caller:   …Let’s just think about how we’re doing things, because you think about it, it’s
            just going to China right? China just make crap, make crap, make crap, we buy
            crap, buy crap…

Host:    Oh, so now it’s a xenophobia argument? I’m sorry, I thought we were arguing the
            science, now it’s kind of a xenophobic argument...

[7]  Later in the programme, while dealing with another caller, the host implicitly referred back to these comments, saying, in a sarcastic tone:

Oh no, but I’m evil. We’re sending it to China – don’t you realise how bad that is? Those terrible Chinese people. Not that they’re the most populace and largest country and economically strong country in the world. Damn Chinese. [our emphasis]

[8]  Mr Hashimoto argued that ‘damn’ was a ‘swear word that totally lacks decency’, and that using such a word to describe Chinese people was derogatory and in bad taste. MediaWorks argued that the complainant heard the term out of context as ‘it was used sarcastically with reference to a previous caller’.

[9]  The Authority has consistently recognised that talkback radio is a robust and opinionated environment in which hosts and callers often express strong or provocative views.3 ‘Damn’ is a word at the lower end on the spectrum of offensiveness. The host’s use of the word would not have offended most listeners in the context of a talkback radio broadcast, particularly as the host was using sarcasm to refute the comments made by an earlier caller. It was obvious from his sarcastic tone that he was actually making positive inferences about China, not criticising China or Chinese people. We think the complainant misunderstood the meaning of the host’s comments.

[10]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.

Did the broadcast encourage the discrimination or denigration of any section of the community?

[11]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[12]  Mr Hashimoto argued that the host showed a lack of respect for Chinese people by referring to them as ‘Damn Chinese’ and describing them as ‘terrible’. He said that even if the comment was meant to be sarcastic, ‘sarcasm itself is an expression of disrespect’.

[13]  As we have said above in relation to good taste and decency, the complainant has misunderstood the meaning of the host’s comments. It was obvious from the host’s tone, and his reference to China as ‘the most populace and largest country and economically strong country in the world’, that he was actually defending China in response to the comments made by an earlier caller. He was being positive towards China, not negative, so his comments could not be said to have encouraged discrimination or denigration in relation to Chinese people.

[14]  Even if the comments were intended to be negative, the references to ‘terrible Chinese people’ and ‘damn Chinese’ were relatively mild in the context of talkback radio and a discussion about a legitimate issue, and did not carry the level of invective necessary to cross the threshold for a breach of this standard.

[15]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold this part 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            Masaru Hashimoto’s formal complaint – 10 March 2014

2            MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 8 April 2014

3            Mr Hashimoto’s referral to the Authority – 21 April 2014

4            MediaWorks’ response to the referral – 20 May 2014


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

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)
3See, for example, Mazer and RadioWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2010-021