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Pereira and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-034 (25 July 2016)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Daniel Pereira

Dated

25th July 2016

Number

2016-034

Programme

Dr Ken

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

In an episode of an American sitcom Dr. Ken, Dr Ken met his wife’s successful former boyfriend, Dr Kevin O’Connell, and was jealous. At the end of the episode, Dr O’Connell was portrayed as being drunk and asking Dr Ken’s staff for a lift home. The three staff all replied in unison, ‘I’ll do it!’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the scene normalised rape and portrayed rape against men as a ‘laughing matter’. In the context of a fictional sitcom, which was intended to be humorous, the scene did not carry any level of invective, and could not be said to have encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of, men as a section of the community.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  Dr. Ken is an American sitcom based around a doctor (husband and father of two) who wants to be a stand-up comedian. In the episode complained about, Dr Ken met his wife’s successful former boyfriend, Dr Kevin O’Connell, and was jealous. At the end of a benefit to honour his work, Dr O’Connell said to Dr Ken’s staff, ‘Sorry to bug you guys, I’ve had a little too much to drink and my judgement’s kind of impaired. Can one of you guys give me a ride home?’ The three staff all replied in unison, ‘I’ll do it!’

[2]  Daniel Pereira complained that this scene, which in his view suggested the staff might take advantage of Dr O’Connell when he was drunk, normalised and made a ‘laughing matter’ of rape against men. Mr Pereira considered the episode would not have been aired if the Dr O’Connell character had been a woman.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1

[4]  The episode was broadcast on TV2 on 2 March 2016 at 7.30pm. 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, men 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. 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 encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard.2

[6]  Mr Pereira complained that ‘If that had been a drunk woman being rushed out to be taken advantage of, the programme would not have even been aired’. He questioned why it was acceptable for rape against men to be a ‘laughing matter’.

[7]  TVNZ argued the scene was intended to be light-hearted and did not advocate rape or sexual violence.

[8]  Guideline 7a to the standard states that it is not intended to prevent the broadcast of legitimate humour. This recognises that humour is a valuable form of expression that must be protected. In our view, the humour in this scene was generated from the storyline involving Dr Ken being jealous of his wife’s successful former boyfriend, rather than making light of the issue of rape. While the characters idolised, and acted flirtatiously and ingratiatingly towards, Dr O’Connell, we do not agree there was any suggestion that they intended to ‘take advantage’ of him in a sexual or predatory way.

[9]  In the context of a fictional sitcom which was intended to be humorous, we do not think it can reasonably be said that this scene involving Dr O’Connell being intoxicated and asking for a lift home carried any level of invective, such that it encouraged the different treatment of men to their detriment, or denigrated men as a section of the community. Upholding the complaint would, in our view, unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of expression.

[10]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 7.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich

Chair

25 July 2016

 

Appendix

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

1      Daniel Pereira ’s formal complaint – 2 March 2016
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 1 April 2016
3      Daniel Pereira ’s referral to the Authority – 26 April 2016
4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 June 2016

 


1 This complaint was determined under the previous Free-to-Air Television Code, which applied up until 31 March 2016. The new Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook took effect on 1 April 2016 and applies to any programmes broadcast on or after that date: http://bsa.govt.nz/standards/overview

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