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Ironside and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2014-113

Members

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

Complainant

  • M C Ironside of Orewa

Dated

3rd December 2014

Number

2014-113

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

MediaWorks TV Ltd


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

The host of The Paul Henry Show used the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ several times to express frustration. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this was unacceptable.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


Introduction

[1]  During an episode of The Paul Henry Show, the host used the terms ‘Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ several times to express his frustration at the show’s later airing time that evening and in regards to taking part in a Woman’s Day photo shoot with his co-host.

[2]  Mrs M C Ironside complained that the use of ‘Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ was unacceptable and deeply offensive.

[3]  The issue is whether the item breached the good taste and decency standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The broadcast took place at 10.50pm on 19 August 2014 on TV3. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the item and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the item 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.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]  Mrs Ironside said that as a Christian she found Paul Henry’s use of the words ‘deeply offensive... [and] totally unacceptable’. She argued that just because the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ was commonly used to express frustration, this did not make it acceptable, and its use in this context placed it in the same category as swearwords.

[7]  MediaWorks argued that the host did not use the words to denigrate or disparage Christianity or Christians, but as an ‘exclamation employed instinctively… to express frustration’. It referred to the ‘widespread colloquial use of “Jesus” as an exclamation’.

[8]  While we acknowledge the use of ‘Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ would be considered by some people to be blasphemous, this Authority has consistently recognised that variations of ‘Jesus’, used as an exclamation for the purpose of expressing irritation, dismay or surprise, does not amount to ‘coarse language’ and in our modern secular society has come to be widely used as part of everyday colloquial speech.3 Here, it was clear the host was using ‘Jesus’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ to express frustration, not to be offensive. We are satisfied that most viewers would not have been offended by the programme taking into account its context.

[9]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Peter Radich
Chair

3 December 2014

Appendix

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

1            Mrs M C Ironside’s formal complaint – 21 August 2014

2            MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 27 August 2014

3            Mrs Ironside’s referral to the Authority – 1 September 2014

4            MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 1 October 2014


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

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

3 See, for example, Busse and Milner Busse and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2012-038, van der Merwe and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2011-141, McArthur and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2002-187