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Hendry and Mediaworks TV Ltd - 2018-084 (18 December 2018)

Members

  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Susie Staley

Complainant

  • Angela Hendry

Dated

18th December 2018

Number

2018-084

Programme

The Block

Channel/Station

Three

Broadcaster

MediaWorks TV Ltd

Summary

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

A complaint about comments, made by contestants about a landscaper during an episode of The Block, was not upheld. During the episode, a new landscaper started work on the property of contestants, Chlo and Em. Em referred to the landscaper and said, ‘Who’s that new meat on The Block? Come over.’ Chlo then said ‘Some fresh meat for Em’. The complainant submitted the references to the landscaper as ‘meat’ were sexist, unacceptable and amounted to sexual harassment. The Authority highlighted the importance of context when considering whether comments of a sexual nature have breached broadcasting standards. The Authority noted that, in some contexts, these comments could be considered to be inappropriate. In this case, however, the comments did not go beyond audience expectations of The Block. They were not explicit or graphic, nor were the comments made with malice or nastiness. The Authority also did not uphold the complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard, finding the comments did not contain any malice or invective.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration


The broadcast

[1]  During an episode of The Block, a new landscaper started work on the property of two contestants, Chlo and Em. Em referred to the landscaper and said, ‘Who’s that new meat on The Block? Come over.’ Chlo then said ‘Some fresh meat for Em’.

[2]  This episode was broadcast on Three on 14 August 2018 at 7:30pm.

The complaint

[3]  Angela Hendry complained the contestants’ references to the landscaper as ‘meat’ were sexist, unacceptable and amounted to sexual harassment. Ms Hendry stated sexual harassment in the workplace is no longer socially acceptable and the comments were inappropriate for a television show with a family audience. Ms Hendry also said that, if it was a male builder who referred to the female contestants as meat, there would be a ‘very strong public reaction’ and that men should not have to tolerate ‘what women wouldn’t for the purposes of entertainment.’

[4]  Ms Hendry submitted the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards of the Free-to Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  MediaWorks apologised for the offence the comments caused the complainant. Nevertheless, it submitted the good taste and decency standard was not breached, taking into account:

  • The comments the complainant identified were plainly intended to be humorous.
  • The comments did not cause any offence to the landscaper, who laughed along with Chlo and Em.
  • Em’s behaviour in the scene was consistent with the persona she has presented throughout the series and would not have surprised regular viewers of the show.
  • Visually the scene did not convey an undue or salacious focus on the landscaper, who was shown only briefly. The scene’s focus was on Em.

[6]  In regards to the discrimination and denigration standard, MediaWorks submitted that while some viewers may not have enjoyed the comments, they were not made with a high level of condemnation. Furthermore, they were identifiable as humour, which the standard is not intended to prevent.

The standards

[7]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 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. The purpose of the good taste and decency standard is not to prohibit challenging material, or material that some people may find offensive. Its purpose is to ensure sufficient care is taken so that challenging material is included only in an appropriate context, and that the challenges are not so offensive that they are unacceptable regardless of context.2

[8]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 6) 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. The standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is legitimate humour, drama or satire.3 A high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will be necessary to find that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard.4

Our findings

[9]  At the outset, we acknowledge the importance of appropriate behaviour in the workplace and that both men and women are entitled to respectful treatment. In this case, our role is to assess the comments complained about in the context of the broadcast as a whole. When we consider a complaint that a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, we first look at the right to freedom of expression. We weigh the right to freedom of expression against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast. This could be harm to an individual, or harm to society or the audience generally. On this occasion, the harm alleged is offence to the wider community, as the complainant is concerned that inappropriate sexual comments were broadcast on a show with a ‘family audience’.

[10]  As stated above, we acknowledge the current climate and societal issues surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace. We also recognise the complainant’s concerns regarding the normalisation of female-to-male sexual objectification and understand some viewers may have found these comments to be offensive or inappropriate. However, on this occasion, and in the context of the programme as a whole, we consider that the comments were unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards, to the extent required for us to intervene and limit the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

[11]  We found the following contextual factors to be relevant to our assessment of whether the comments undermined widely-shared community standards:5

  • The Block aired at 7:30pm during the Parental Guidance Recommended (PGR) timeband. The PGR timeband may include ‘programmes containing material more suited to mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult.6
  • Audiences expect that The Block, as a reality television show, will at times touch on adult themes.
  • The comments, and the segment as a whole (which implied Em was attracted to the landscaper), were intended to be light-hearted rather than threatening or malicious.
  • The comments were not graphic or explicit.
  • MediaWorks apologised to the complainant for any offence caused.

[12]  Having regard to these contextual factors, we have reached the view that the comments did not reach the threshold required to find a breach of the good taste and decency standard. The comments were not explicit or graphic, nor were they made with malice or nastiness. While the comments may have been offensive to some, when taken in context, they did not go beyond audience expectations of The Block and were therefore unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress.

[13]  For these reasons, we do not uphold the complaint under the good taste and decency standard.

Discrimination and Denigration

[14]  Taking into account the contextual factors referred to above, it was clear the comments were not made with the condemnation or malice required to find a breach of this standard.7

[15]  Therefore we do not uphold the complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard.

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

 


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judge Bill Hastings
Chair
18 December 2018

 

 

 


Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      Angela Hendry’s formal complaint – 15 August 2018
2      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 11 September 2018
3      Ms Hendry’s referral to the Authority – 1 October 2018
4      MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 19 October 2018


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

2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12

3 Guideline 6c

4 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15

Guideline 1a

6 Guideline 2a

7 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 16