BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Cherry and Mediaworks Radio Ltd - 2017-077 (16 November 2017)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Anna Cherry
Number
2017-077
Programme
Jono, Ben & Sharyn
Broadcaster
MediaWorks Radio Ltd
Channel/Station
The Edge

Summary

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

During The Edge’s afternoon show Jono, Ben & Sharyn, host Jono Pryor referred to a particular television channel as ‘the wanker channel’. A complaint was made that Mr Pryor’s use of the term ‘wanker’ was inappropriate and offensive. The Authority found that, taking into account relevant contextual factors including The Edge’s target audience, audience expectations of Jono, Ben & Sharyn and the nature of the explicit language used, the comment did not reach the threshold required to justify limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

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


Introduction

[1]  During The Edge’s afternoon show, Jono, Ben & Sharyn, host Jono Pryor referred to a particular television channel as ‘the wanker channel’.

[2]  Anna Cherry complained that Mr Pryor’s use of the term ‘wanker’ was ‘inappropriate’.

[3]  The issues raised in Ms Cherry’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 5.45pm on 28 August 2017 on The Edge. 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 breach broadcasting standards?

[5]  Ms Cherry’s complaint raises similar issues under the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. As the same contextual factors and other considerations are relevant to our assessment of each of these two standards, we have addressed them together.

[6]  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. In a radio context, this standard is usually considered in relation to offensive language, sexual references or references to violence, but may also apply to other material presented in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.

[7]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) requires broadcasters to consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepted listening times – usually up to 8.30pm. The purpose of the standard is to protect children from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.

The parties’ submissions

[8]  Ms Cherry submitted:

  • The use of ‘wanker’ on the radio is inappropriate and should be stopped.
  • The term ‘wanker’ is still unacceptable when used in a jovial, non-literal context.
  • Unlike terms such as ‘dick’ and ‘bugger’ that are ‘used more commonly in NZ’, wanker is likely to offend most New Zealanders.
  • People should be able to ‘flick between radio stations whilst driving the kids around’ without the risk of hearing such language.
  • MediaWorks’ response ‘effectively amounts to them saying that they have no responsibility to uphold any decency standards when it comes to language, as their programmes are offensive and everyone should know that and avoid them if they don't like them.’

[9]  MediaWorks submitted:

  • The term ‘wanker’ was used in a humorous, light-hearted context; it was not abusive or directed at an individual. Further, it was not intended in a literal sense.
  • Given the light-hearted context of the comment, most listeners would not have found Mr Pryor’s use of the term unduly offensive.
  • Jono, Ben & Sharyn targets listeners aged 18 to 34. It is not intended to be a family show and is not promoted as such.
  • The Edge regularly broadcasts provocative and ‘edgy’ content and indeed such material contributes significantly to the station’s appeal.
  • Parents had sufficient information to make an informed listening decision on behalf of their children.
  • Testing the boundaries of taste is routine and expected by the audience. Given this audience understanding, the segment was unlikely to have surprised or alarmed regular listeners of Jono, Ben & Sharyn.

Our analysis

[10]  Context is highly relevant to a consideration of the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards, nominated in Ms Cherry’s complaint. We have previously found that the purpose of the good taste and decency standard is not to prohibit challenging material, or material that some people may find offensive, but rather to ensure that sufficient care is taken so that such material is played only in an appropriate context, and that the challenges are not so offensive that they are unacceptable regardless of context.1 In this case relevant contextual factors include:

  • the time of broadcast at 5.45pm, during children’s normally accepted listening times
  • the target audience of The Edge radio station and Jono, Ben & Sharyn, being adults between the ages of 18 and 34
  • audience expectations of Jono, Ben & Sharyn as an entertainment, music and talkback show that at times contains risqué content
  • audience expectations of the hosts, in particular Mr Pryor, a comedian and media personality known for humour that can be provocative or challenging
  • the light-hearted tone of the comment and the segment as whole
  • the singular use of ‘wanker’ (as opposed to repeated use).

[11]  The broadcasting standards are developed in consultation with New Zealand broadcasters to uphold community standards. The question is whether this broadcast exceeded what the community would consider to be acceptable, in this context. Research conducted by the Authority in 2013 into community views about the acceptability of certain words showed that 21% of participants surveyed considered the term ‘wanker’ to be ‘totally acceptable in all scenarios’, 50% said it ‘depends on the scenario’, and 29% considered the word to be unacceptable in all scenarios. The research indicates that context surrounding the use of the word is relevant to its acceptability.

[12]  We acknowledge Ms Cherry’s concerns regarding the use of coarse language on the radio without warning, at a time when children may be listening. However, taking into account the contextual factors listed above, in particular audience expectations of the station and the often edgy and risqué entertainment radio environment which The Edge inhabits, we do not consider this broadcast reached the high threshold necessary to warrant limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

[13]  While the use of the word ‘wanker’ is coarse, it was not used in an abusive manner or directed towards any individual, which mitigated its potential offensiveness. Rather, it was used an expression of Mr Pryor’s opinion of a particular television channel. The comment was brief and the use of the word was not repeated or dwelt upon. We therefore do not consider that it went beyond what listeners reasonably expect from this station, the programme, and the host Mr Pryor. Nor do we consider that it was likely to unduly alarm or distress any children who happened to be listening.

[14]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint.

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

 


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
16 November 2017 

 


Appendix

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

1      Anna Cherry’s formal complaint – 28 August 2017
2      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 22 September 2017
3      Ms Cherry’s referral to the Authority – 22 September 2017
4      MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 28 September 2017

 


Fattorini and RadioWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2012-034, at [10]

2 What Not to Swear: The Acceptability of Words in Broadcasting 2013, page 17