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Anderson and NZME Radio Ltd - 2017-066 (16 October 2017)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Alistair Anderson

Dated

16th October 2017

Number

2017-066

Programme

Overnight Talk

Channel/Station

Newstalk ZB

Broadcaster

New Zealand Media and Entertainment

Summary

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

During a talkback segment on Overnight Talk, a caller rang up to discuss Metiria Turei’s resignation as Co-Leader of the Green Party in the wake of benefit and electoral fraud allegations. The caller made the remark that, ‘[i]t’s almost a situation where, the Green Party are in a room and Metiria dropped a big, fat, juicy, smelly fart.’ A complaint was made that the caller’s comments were demeaning and derogatory towards Ms Turei, and breached the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, noting that the discrimination and denigration standard applies only to sections of the community, and it does not apply to individuals. Even had the standard applied, the Authority was satisfied that, while some may find the choice of language distasteful, the comments did not reach the high threshold necessary to find a breach.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  During a talkback segment on Overnight Talk, a caller phoned in to discuss Metiria Turei’s resignation as Co-Leader of the Green Party in the wake of benefit and electoral fraud allegations. The caller made the following remarks:

  • ‘It’s almost a situation where, the Green Party are in a room and Metiria dropped a big, fat, juicy, smelly fart.’
  • ‘She’s now decided to leave the room and she’s left the smell lingering.’

[2]  Alistair Anderson complained that these comments were ‘demeaning and derogatory’ towards Ms Turei.

[3]  The issue raised in Mr Anderson’s complaint is whether the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast at 4.20am on Newstalk ZB on Thursday 10 August 2017. The members of the Authority have listened to 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, any section of the community?

[5]  The objective of the discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 6) is to protect sections of the community from verbal and other attacks. The standard 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] ‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment. ‘Denigration’ is defined as devaluing the reputation of a class of people (guideline 6a).

[7] In light of the importance of the right to freedom of expression, a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will be necessary to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard (guideline 6b).

The parties’ submissions

[8] Mr Anderson submitted that the comments made by the caller were ‘demeaning and derogatory’ towards Ms Turei.

[9] NZME submitted:

  • The statements made by the caller were not made in relation to Ms Turei’s gender, ethnicity, or other ground of discrimination as set out in the Human Rights Act 1993.
  • The caller’s comments were a figure of speech used as a metaphor for Ms Turei’s exiting from the Green Party following scrutiny regarding her benefit collections whilst living with a family member.
  • While some listeners may find the metaphor crass or distasteful, the BSA has previously noted that speech which offends, or which is rude, is not a determinative breach of the standard. 

Our analysis

[10] The discrimination and denigration standard applies only to sections of the community. It does not apply to individuals. We do not consider the caller’s statements could be interpreted as commenting on any section of the community, as envisaged by the standard. The statements were squarely limited to Ms Turei as an individual, in her political capacity.

[11] We therefore do not uphold the complaint on the basis the standard raised in the complaint, Standard 6 (discrimination and denigration), does not apply. Where comments are made in relation to individuals, the fairness standard (Standard 11) may be triggered. Concerns about the language used may also trigger the good taste and decency standard. However as these standards have not been raised in this complaint we are unable to consider them.

[12] Although they were distasteful and crude, we are satisfied that the caller’s comments did not reach the high threshold required to find a breach of broadcasting standards, or to justify limiting the right to freedom of expression. As submitted by the broadcaster, the caller used metaphorical language to express his views on Ms Turei’s departure from the Green Party. While some people may have found the metaphor and the caller’s choice of language objectionable, the comments were not at a level which would threaten broadcasting standards in the context of the talkback radio environment at 4:20am on a Thursday.

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


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
16 October 2017  

 

Appendix

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

1      Alistair Anderson’s formal complaint – 10 August 2017
2      NZME’s response to the formal complaint – 15 August 2017
3      Mr Anderson’s referral to the Authority – 25 August 2017
4      NZME’s confirmation of no further comment – 5 September 2017