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Bloem and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-132

Members

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

Complainant

  • Steve Bloem of Auckland

Dated

5th February 2015

Number

2014-132

Programme

Vote 2014

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

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

The host of Vote 2014 which covered the results of the 2014 general election, used the terms 'jeez', 'gee' and apparently 'Jesus' as exclamations. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the use of these terms was offensive and inappropriate. The Authority has consistently recognised that the colloquial use of variations of 'Jesus' as an exclamation to express irritation, dismay or surprise is increasingly common and widely accepted. The use of the words in this context, during live coverage of an important political event, did not threaten standards.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  During Vote 2014, comprising five hours of live coverage of the results of the 2014 general election, one of the hosts used the terms 'jeez' and 'gee' and apparently 'Jesus'.

[2]  Steve Bloem complained that the host's use of 'Jesus' shortened to 'jeez' to express 'his shock or distaste' was inappropriate for broadcast in a programme of 'national and public interest'. He argued that, given its significance, the show 'should not be a vehicle for one person's anti-religious bias or theophobic statements'.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The programme was broadcast on 20 September 2014 from 7pm to 12am on TV ONE. The complainant did not specify where the comments occurred. Given our previous decisions on similar complaints we did not consider it necessary to view the entire broadcast. The members of the Authority have therefore viewed part of the broadcast and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast, and specifically the host's language, threaten current norms of good taste and decency, or encourage discrimination or denigration against Christians?

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

[6]  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 variants of the word 'Jesus' used as an exclamation for the purpose of expressing irritation, dismay or surprise, do not amount to coarse language and in our modern secular society have come to be widely used as part of everyday colloquial speech.3 Whether or not Mr Hosking used the term 'jeez' or 'Jesus' to express 'shock' or 'distaste' as alleged does not impact on our finding, because the use of either did not threaten broadcasting standards, particularly in the context of an important political broadcast which carried very high public interest.

[7]  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
5 February 2015


Appendix

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

1      Steve Bloem's formal complaint – 21 September 2014
2      TVNZ's response to the complaint – 20 October 2014
3      Mr Bloem's referral to the Authority – 20 October 2014
4      TVNZ's response to the Authority – 3 December 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, Ironside and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2014-113; Busse and Milner Busse and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2012-038; van der Merwe and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2011-141