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Anderson and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2017-094 (2 March 2018)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Jacqui Anderson

Dated

2nd March 2018

Number

2017-094

Programme

The Edge Fresh 40

Channel/Station

The Edge

Broadcaster

MediaWorks Radio Ltd

Summary

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

During a segment broadcast on The Edge, the radio hosts made several references to the names ‘Mark Hunt’ and ‘Mike Hunt’, with the apparent intention to imply the phrase, ‘my c***’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this conversation breached the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found that, while the conversation was gratuitous and immature, the hosts did not explicitly use the phrase, and the segment as a whole was not so extreme or offensive that it went beyond audience expectations of The Edge radio station. The Authority also declined to uphold the complaint under the children’s interests standard, finding children were unlikely to understand the conversation, mitigating the broadcast’s potential harm.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children's Interests 


Introduction

[1]  During a segment broadcast on The Edge, the radio hosts made several references to the names ‘Mark Hunt’ and ‘Mike Hunt’, with the apparent intention of implying the phrase, ‘my c***’.

[2]  Jacqui Anderson complained that this segment was ‘blatant and offensive’. Ms Anderson submitted the conversation went beyond audience expectations for what is acceptable on The Edge and requested an apology and an undertaking from The Edge and the hosts that they will not engage in similar conversations in the future.

[3]  The issues raised in Ms Anderson’s complaint are whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The segment was broadcast at 3.14pm on The Edge, on 14 October 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 threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from listening to broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. Current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast.

The parties’ submissions

[6]  Ms Anderson submitted:

  • The announcers’ ‘lengthy’ conversation contained multiple references to ‘the C word’.
  • This ‘heavy implication’ went beyond audience expectations and would be highly offensive to regular listeners.
  • The level of offence was ‘exacerbated’ by repetition; there were ‘a dozen or more’ references to the word in the broadcast.

[7]  MediaWorks submitted:

  • The Edge is targeted at listeners aged 18-34. It is not targeted at children.
  • The Edge regularly broadcasts humorous, provocative and ‘edgy’ content, which contributes to the station’s appeal.
  • The purpose of the standard is not to prohibit challenging material, or material that some people may find offensive, but rather to ensure sufficient care is taken so that challenging material is played only in an appropriate context.
  • The potential offensiveness of the segment was significantly mitigated by ‘its conspicuous levity of tone’.
  • The segment’s humour arose from the act of telling the joke and the playful discussion it engendered, not the ‘bawdiness of the wordplay’.
  • The word implied by the wordplay was not expressly stated, described or alluded to in any other way.

Our analysis

[8]  The word complained about was not explicitly used by the hosts. Clearly it was implied by the context around references to ‘Mike Hunt’ and ‘Mark Hunt’.

[9]  The word which was not in fact vocally articulated during the conversation, and which has prompted this complaint, was ranked by those surveyed in 2013 as the most offensive phrase or word in the Authority’s What Not to Swear research.1 Many people find the use of this word abhorrent, and in this respect we understand and acknowledge the complainant’s concerns and her reasons for lodging the complaint.

[10]  Word play around ‘Mike Hunt’ and ‘Mark Hunt’ is old and tired humour, lacking any level of sophistication or creativity. The segment was in our view lazy, puerile broadcasting which most listeners would not find edgy, clever or entertaining.

[11]  However, our view that this broadcast was of poor quality is insufficient to find it breached standards. The right to freedom of expression includes the right to broadcast low grade humour when, in our view, the threshold of actual or potential harm has not been reached.

[12]  The difficulty with this piece is that, while it was very juvenile, the offensive word was not in fact explicitly used by the hosts. Additionally, there is an established audience expectation that The Edge will sometimes broadcast edgy and challenging material. The target audience of the radio station and the type of content that appeals to them is a key contextual element. We do not think the segment as a whole would have unduly surprised or alarmed regular listeners of The Edge.

[13]  On balance, we do not think we can take the complaint to a point where we would be justified in limiting freedom of expression and making a finding that the content as broadcast crossed the line of what was acceptable. Accordingly we have not upheld the complaint under the good taste and decency standard.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[14]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 9) requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm. The purpose of the standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.2

The parties’ submissions

[15]  Ms Anderson reiterated her submissions under the good taste and decency standard and further submitted:

  • There were likely to be children listening to the show at 3.10pm on a Saturday.
  • MediaWorks’ submission that most children would not have immediately understood the inference is wrong and ‘beside the point’. The host’s laughter during the segment would have indicated to children that something was funny, and as a result parents would have to either ‘try and brush over it or explain the reference to the children’.

[16]  MediaWorks also reiterated its submissions made under the good taste and decency standard, and further submitted:

  • It is highly unlikely that children who listened to the broadcast would have ‘possessed the sophistication necessary’ to infer the meaning implied by the ‘Mark’ and ‘Mike Hunt’ references.
  • Therefore the announcers’ exchange was unlikely to have disturbed or alarmed children, and did not breach the standard.

Our analysis

[17]  We acknowledge MediaWorks’ submission that children do not form part of The Edge’s target audience, being adults aged 18 to 34. However, as the segment was broadcast at 3.10pm on the weekend, during children’s normally accepted listening times,3 children may have formed part of the likely audience.

[18]  In any event, as we discussed above, the word complained about was not explicitly stated by the radio hosts. While the word was inferred a number of times, unless children had prior knowledge of the word they were unlikely to understand the joke or the references made by the announcers. These factors in our view mitigated the potential harm to child listeners. While some may have been curious about the content, we do not think any children who happened to be listening would have been unduly alarmed or distressed by the broadcast.

[19]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
2 March 2018

 


Appendix

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

1     Jacqui Anderson’s original complaint – 14 October 2017

2     MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 13 November 2017

3     Ms Anderson’s referral to the Authority – 20 November 2017

4     MediaWorks’ further comments – 6 December 2017

 


1 What Not to Swear: The Acceptability of Words in Broadcasting, 2013, page 9

2 Eg, Harrison and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-066

Definitions, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 9