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Peet and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-001

Dated

1st April 2015

Number

2015-001

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

MediaWorks TV Ltd

Summary 

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

An item on The Paul Henry Show featured a recent Police press release about a so-called tourist who had reportedly been driving with a kayak attached width-ways to the roof of his car. The presenter commented that the man was ‘a bloody twat’ and that his actions ‘pissed him off’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint about the presenter’s choice of language and his denigration of foreign tourists. In the context of a late-night programme and the presenter’s well-known style, the language did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency and ‘foreign tourists’ are not a section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies.  

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


Introduction 

[1]  The Paul Henry Show reported that a tourist had been driving with a kayak attached width-ways to the roof of his car instead of length-ways.1  The Police had issued a press release and photo stating it was ‘a timely reminder’ to adhere to road rules over the summer period. The presenter, Paul Henry made various comments about the so-called tourist, including that he was a ‘bloody twat’ and that his actions ‘pissed him off’. 

[2]  Steve Peet complained about Mr Henry’s language and his denigration of foreign tourists.
 
[3]  The focus of our determination 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. We have briefly addressed the other standards raised in the complaint at paragraph [17] below.
 
[4]  The item was broadcast on TV3 at 10:40pm on 16 December 2014. 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.2  
 
[6]  Mr Peet did not specify what language in particular he was complaining about. Mr Henry used the following phrases:
 
  •  ‘bloody twat’
  •  ‘shitbox’
  •  that the tourist’s actions ‘pissed him off’
  •  ‘a twat of the highest order’
  •  ‘a piece of shit’
  •  ‘prosecute the bastard’
 [7]  When we consider a complaint about good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:
 
  •  the time of broadcast at 10.40pm
  •  The Paul Henry Show is an unclassified programme containing a mixture of news, current affairs and entertainment
  •  the programme’s adult target audience
  •  the presenter’s well-known, provocative and outspoken style
  •  audience expectations of the programme and of Paul Henry.
[8]  We acknowledge that some viewers may have found Mr Henry’s comments rude and gratuitous. However in the context of the broadcast we do not consider they reached the high threshold necessary to find a breach of Standard 1. The comments were made during an unclassified programme that screened after 10:30pm. The presenter’s sometimes inflammatory and frank presenting style is well-known to viewers and the general New Zealand public. We do not think that viewers would have been unduly surprised, disturbed or offended by the comments in this context.
 
[9]  Accordingly we decline to find a breach of Standard 1.
 

Did the broadcast encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, foreign tourists as a section of the community?

[10]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief. It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard.3  
 
[11]  The complainant argued that the item denigrated foreign tourists. The discrimination and denigration standard applies only to recognised sections of the community. ‘Foreign tourists’ are not a section of the community as envisaged by the standard.4  
 
[12]  Accordingly we decline to find a breach of Standard 7.
 

Did the item breach any other broadcasting standards?

[13]  In his original complaint to the broadcaster the complainant also raised the balance, fairness and responsible programming standards. MediaWorks did not address these standards in their response, arguing that the complaint did not raise any issues that could properly be considered under these standards.
 
[14]  In summary, the balance, fairness and responsible programming standards were either not applicable or not breached because:
 
  •  The broadcast, which focused on a specific Police press release about an individual allegedly driving with a kayak attached to his vehicle incorrectly, did not raise a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the requirement for balancing viewpoints to be      presented (Standard 4).
  •  The fairness standard only applies to persons or organisations taking part or referred to in the broadcast, and the complainant did not specify whom he felt was treated unfairly or why (Standard 6).
  •  The item formed part of an unclassified news and current affairs programme, and did not contain anything likely to unduly alarm or distress viewers (Standard 8).
 [15]  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
1 April 2015 
 
 

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
 
1      Steve Peet’s formal complaint – 16 December 2014
2      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 13 January 2015
3      Mr Peet’s referral to the Authority – 15 January 2015
4      MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 29 January 2015
 
 

1
It has since become apparent that the Police press release contained many inaccuracies; the driver in question was not in fact a tourist, but an Auckland resident. His kayak had been attached correctly to his vehicle but had become dislodged in high winds and swung sideways, at which point he pulled over to the side of the road and was spotted by a police officer: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/64246065/Police-red-faced-over-Irish-kayak-blunder
2 Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112
3 E.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network, Decision No. 2002-152
4 Field and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2014-025