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Taiuru and New Zealand Media and Entertainment - 2015-045

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose

Complainant

  • Karaitiana Taiuru

Dated

25th August 2015

Number

2015-045

Programme

Hauraki Breakfast

Channel/Station

Radio Hauraki

Broadcaster

New Zealand Media and Entertainment

Summary

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

During Jeremy Wells' 'Like Mike' skit on the Hauraki Breakfast show, in which he parodied radio and television presenter Mike Hosking, Mr Wells made various comments about Māori people and Stewart Islanders. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments were racist, offensive and degraded Māori and Stewart Islanders. The item was clearly satirical and intended to be humorous, and was consistent with audience expectations of the programme and the radio station. As satire, the item did not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, Māori or Stewart Islanders and this form of speech is a legitimate and important exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

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


Introduction

[1]  During Jeremy Wells' 'Like Mike' skit on the Hauraki Breakfast show, in which he parodied radio and television presenter Mike Hosking, Mr Wells reflected on Prince Harry's visit to New Zealand and made various comments about Māori people and customs and Stewart Islanders.

[2]  Karaitiana Taiuru complained that the comments were racist, offensive, and degraded Māori and Stewart Islanders.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, discrimination and denigration and responsible programming standards as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast on Radio Hauraki at 7.55am on 15 May 2015. The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Nature of the programme and freedom of expression

[5]  In assessing an alleged breach of broadcasting standards, we must give proper consideration to the right to freedom of expression which is guaranteed by section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Any restriction on the right to free speech must be prescribed by law, reasonable, and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (section 5). The starting point is to assess the value of the particular speech, and then to balance this against the potential harm that is likely to result from allowing the unfettered dissemination of that speech.

[6]  The Hauraki Breakfast show is described as a breakfast radio show that is 'guaranteed to teach you bad new habits, raise your eyebrows, and make you smirk on a regular basis'.1 NZME said the show was 'known for pushing the boundaries of acceptability'.2 Each week on the show, one of the hosts Jeremy Wells performs a satirical 'Like Mike' skit in which he does an impression of well-known broadcaster Mike Hosking. This particular skit reflected on Prince Harry's recent visit to New Zealand. During the segment Mr Wells made the following comments:

  • 'I can't condone all this Māori carry-on. To me, it's embarrassing...'
  • 'Harry has as much business performing the haka as the Queen has in visiting Mermaids [the strip club]'
  • 'It's the same old story every visit... rock star arrives, some Māoris make them pick up a leaf while they're threatening them with a stick, irresponsibly force them to un-hygienically press noses during the cold and flu season, and the latest folly, join in an ancient dance which means nothing to them'
  • 'Believe me, I love Māoris as much as the next Christchurch ex-pat, but I prefer Māoris to keep to themselves, contained within marae, rural rugby clubs or on-stage cultural performances in Rotorua hotels coinciding with a hangi buffet'
  • 'Māoris are loose units... they're often tattooed, the women smoke too much and are free and easy with their affections'
  • 'The world's media are watching us this week. As right-thinking New Zealanders we should be asking, "Is this the image we want to convey to the world?"'
  • '[Prince Harry] cavorted with some in-breds at the bottom of the South Island'.

[7]  This was a satirical skit poking fun at people who hold extreme right-wing views, at times to the point of disseminating racist stereotypes, using an exaggerated character based on Mike Hosking – whom it was also making fun of. Its primary purpose was humour and entertainment, using satire to challenge the validity of these views. The Authority has previously acknowledged,3 and some standards in the Code recognise,4 that humour and satire are important forms of speech on which society places value. We therefore need to give due weight to this form of speech in our consideration of the complaint and should not limit this exercise of free expression unless there is a strong justification for doing so.

Did the broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[8]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.5 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.6

[9]  Mr Taiuru argued the 'racist' and 'degrading' comments in the broadcast were offensive. In response NZME said that Mr Wells is well-known for his satire and edgy brand of humour, both from his role on Radio Hauraki and also his various television shows such as Eating Media Lunch. It noted it had only received complaints about the broadcast after it was shared on social media and alerted people who had not actually heard it, which it felt demonstrated that regular listeners were not generally surprised or offended by the content.

[10]  When we consider a good taste and decency complaint, we take into the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • the time of broadcast at 7.55am
  • Radio Hauraki has an adult target audience of 30- to 59-year-olds
  • the item is a regular skit airing at the same time each week
  • the satirical nature of the broadcast
  • audience expectations of the programme, the radio station and Mr Wells.

[11]  In our view, it would have been clear to anyone who listened to the segment in its entirety that this was a satirical piece, rather than an articulation of genuinely held views. The item was introduced by one of the show's hosts who said, 'This morning on Hauraki Breakfast Jeremy Wells is [music intro] "Like Mike"'. From the outset it was clear the item was designed to parody people who hold extreme right-wing views and perpetuate racist stereotypes. The segment was concluded with the comment, 'And that was the Hauraki Breakfast Hosking rant'.

[12]  The 'Like Mike' skit is a weekly feature on the Hauraki Breakfast show. Regular listeners would have been familiar with the segment and taken it as it was intended – as satire and comedy. Both Radio Hauraki and Mr Wells are known for their provocative and at times challenging brand of humour. Mr Hosking is also well-known for his particular style, and this skit exploits that persona for the purpose of humour. The content of this particular segment may not have been to everyone's liking. Nevertheless we are satisfied that this material, taken in context, did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency and would not have unduly surprised or offended regular Radio Hauraki listeners.

[13]  Accordingly we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

Did the broadcast encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, Māori people and/or Stewart Islanders as a section of the community?

[14]  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.

[15]  The term 'denigration' has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people.7 'Discrimination' has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group, to their detriment.8 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.9

[16]  Mr Taiuru argued that the broadcast degraded and made a mockery of Māori people and customs such as powhiri, haka and hongi, and also of Stewart Islanders by referring to them as 'in-breds'. Mr Taiuru considered the following comments were racist:

  • 'I prefer Māoris to keep to themselves, contained within marae, rural rugby clubs or on stage cultural performances in Rotorua hotels coinciding with a hangi buffet...'
  • 'Māoris are loose units... they're often tattooed, the women smoke too much and are free and easy with their affections...'

[17]  NZME argued that a higher threshold applies to broadcasts containing legitimate humour and satire and the broadcast in question was unquestionably satire. It said the item poked fun not at Māori or Stewart Islanders, but at the people holding the views expressed (which it pointed out are views that neither Mr Wells nor Mr Hosking condone). The segment did this 'through a character, being that of a conservative talk radio host [namely, Mr Hosking]', it said. NZME considered that while the item may have functioned as an 'uncomfortable mirror to some sectors of society', humour is an important vehicle in exposing these sorts of views.

[18]  Guideline 7a states that the discrimination and denigration standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is legitimate humour, drama or satire. This recognises that these forms of expression are valuable and should only be restricted where there is strong justification for doing so.

[19]  As we have said in relation to Standard 1, this skit was clearly satirical and intended to be humorous, rather than offering any genuine criticism of, or amounting to an attack against, the groups referred to. Humour and satire are legitimate tools for drawing attention to controversial views, including views that – when presented in a serious fashion – some may find racist or otherwise offensive.

[20]  As satire, the item could not reasonably be said to carry any invective towards Māori or Stewart Islanders or to amount to hate speech. Radio Hauraki targets an adult audience and the station's regular listeners would not have interpreted the skit as encouraging racism or stereotypes, but rather would have taken it as it was intended.

[21]  For these reasons we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 7.

Did the broadcast breach the responsible programming standard?

[22]  The responsible programming standard (Standard 8) requires broadcasters to ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.

[23]  Mr Taiuru nominated Standard 8 in his original complaint but did not explain why he felt this standard had been breached.

[24]  We do not believe that the broadcast raised any responsible programming issues. It was a satirical piece broadcast during a programme, and on a station, which is known for this type of content. While broadcast at 7.55am when children could have been listening, Radio Hauraki is not targeted at children and the content would not have unduly alarmed or distressed them.

[25]  Accordingly we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 8.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
25 August 2015

 

Appendix

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

1      Karaitiana Taiuru's formal complaint – 20 May 2015
2      NZME's response to the complaint – 12 June 2015
3      Mr Taiuru's referral to the Authority – 20 June 2015
4      NZME's response to the Authority – 23 June 2015

 

 


1 http://www.hauraki.co.nz/shows/the-hauraki-breakfast-with-matt-jeremy-laura/

2 This Authority has also previously described Radio Hauraki as ‘well-known for its style, for its sometimes challenging content, and for occasionally pushing the boundaries’, Hagger and The Radio Network Ltd, Decision No. 2014-074.

3 E.g. Swift and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2012-017

4 See, for example, guideline 6a to Standard 6 (Fairness) and guideline 7a to Standard 7 (Discrimination and Denigration) in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice

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

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

7 See, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks, Decision No. 2006-030

8 For example, Teoh and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-091

9 E.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network, Decision No. 2002-152