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Solanki and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2015-069 (1 December 2015)

Dated

1st December 2015

Number

2015-069

Programme

The Chase

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary 

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
 
During The Chase, a British quiz show, the host introduced one of the trivia experts as ‘“The Governess” Anne Hegerty – big brain, big bo…ots?’ to audience laughter. The Authority declined to uphold a complaint that the host commented on Ms Hegerty’s ‘big boobs’ which was discriminatory against women, distasteful and unfair to Ms Hegerty, among other things. While the comment may have offended some viewers, it did not reach the threshold necessary to find a breach of broadcasting standards. 
 
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Responsible Programming, Accuracy  

Introduction 

[1]  During The Chase, a British quiz show, the host introduced the four trivia experts (the ‘chasers’) as follows:
Who will you be up against today? Could it be Paul ‘The Sinnerman’ Sinha – big brain, bad suit? Maybe it’s ‘The Barrister’ – big brain, bald head? Or could it be ‘The Beast’ Mark Labbett – big brain, big head? Or ‘The Governess’ Anne Hegerty – big brain, big bo…ots?
[2]  Anjali Solanki complained that ‘the host introduce[d] all the male chasers with non-sexual digs at their head or clothes but the one female chaser is denigrated with “Big Boobs”’.
 
[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration, good taste and decency, fairness, responsible programming and accuracy standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In our view, the most relevant standards are discrimination and denigration, good taste and decency and fairness. We have briefly addressed the remaining standards from paragraph [19] below. 
 
[4]  The programme was broadcast on TV ONE at 10am on 6 August 2015. 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 encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, women as a section of the community?

[5]  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.
 
[6]  The complainant argued that ‘this is [a] clear case of sexual discrimination. No wonder there is only one female out of four [chasers].’ TVNZ disagreed that the host’s comment, ‘which is intended to be humorous and references “boots”’, would lead to the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of society.
 
[7]  We understand Ms Solanki’s concern that a remark of this kind, which was open to being interpreted as a comment on Ms Hegerty’s breasts (whether or not the word ‘boobs’ was actually used), could be seen by some as offensive and as objectifying women. 
 
[8]  However, it is 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 encouraged denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard.1  This particular comment was made in the context of a game show that regularly features humour, teasing and back-chat between the host, the ‘chasers’ and contestants. It was fleeting in the context of the programme as a whole, and we do not think it carried any element of malice or vitriol, or that it was intended to comment on women in general. 
 
[9]  For these reasons, we do not consider that the host’s comment encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of, all women as a section of the community. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 7.
 

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

[10]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.2  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.3 
 
[11]  The complainant argued that the host was ‘cheap and indecent’ and ‘unfit for his job’. TVNZ noted The Chase was a G-rated game show aimed at adult viewers, which sometimes contains cheeky comments and double entendre. It pointed out that the host did not say ‘big boobs’ but ‘big boots’, and said the comment was intended to be humorous. It did not consider it was inappropriately sexual or dwelt on, and concluded the comment would not have offended a significant number of viewers. 
 
[12]  When we consider a complaint about good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:
 
  • The Chase was classified G;
  • the time of the broadcast at 10am on a weekday (during the school term);
  • the programme’s adult target audience;
  • expectations of regular viewers;
  • the other ‘chasers’ were also the subject of light-hearted ribbing (see paragraph [1]).
 [13]  Overall, we are satisfied that the host’s comment did not threaten standards of good taste and decency in this context. It was fleeting and in the nature of teasing which was consistent with expectations of the programme. We do not think the host intended it to be nasty or offensive.
 
[14]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.
 

Was Ms Hegerty treated unfairly?

[15]  The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. 
 
[16]  The complainant argued that ‘it was unfair to single out one chaser for sexual denigration’. TVNZ maintained Ms Hegerty was well aware of the nature of the programme and her participation in it, and noted the host actually said ‘big boots’. TVNZ referred us to comment from Ms Hegerty that she ‘thinks it’s funny’ to have nicknames such as ‘Frosty Knickers’ and likes being called ‘the Governess’ because it’s ‘kinky’.4 
 
[17]  On the basis of the material TVNZ provided, we agree it is likely that Ms Hegerty was well aware of the type of banter that takes place on The Chase, and that she willingly participated in it. The host did not comment negatively on Ms Hegerty. Earlier in the programme the ‘chasers’ collectively were referred to as ‘Britain’s finest quiz brains’. The host’s ribbing of the participants was not exclusive to Ms Hegerty. He also made light-hearted comments about the other ‘chasers’, saying, for example, that one had a ‘big head’ and one a ‘bald head’. In these circumstances we do not think it could be said that Ms Hegerty was unfairly singled out or otherwise treated unfairly. Viewers would not have been left with a negative impression of her.
 
[18]  As a result we decline to uphold the Standard 6 complaint. 
 

Did the broadcast breach any other broadcasting standards?  

[19]  The complainant also submitted that the responsible programming and accuracy standards were breached. She argued that it was irresponsible for TVNZ to ‘promote and make it okay to single out women and poke fun at their bodies’. She also said the host’s comment was inaccurate because Ms Hegerty was well-proportioned.
 
[20]  These standards were either not applicable or not breached because: 
 
  • the complaint did not raise any matters of responsible programming, which typically is concerned with programme classifications and warnings (Standard 8); and
  • the complaint did not allege that any material points of fact were inaccurate, so the accuracy standard did not apply (Standard 5). 
[21]  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 December 2015

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
 
1      Anjali Solanki’s formal complaint – 6 August 2015
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 3 September 2015
3      Ms Solanki’s referral to the Authority – 7 September 2015
4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 16 October 2015
 

1
 E.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network, Decision No. 2002-152
2  Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112
3 Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)
4 ‘Anne “The Governess” Hegerty on ITV’s hit quiz “The Chase”’, 2 June 2014: http://attitude.co.uk/governess-chase/