Davie and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-090 (1 March 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Craig Davie
BroadcasterMediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/StationTV3 # 4
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The host of Paul Henry said ‘bastards’ when referring to phone scammers and said the word ‘God’ several times as an exclamation when discussing the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this language breached broadcasting standards. It would not have offended a significant number of viewers or adversely affected any children who might have been watching.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration
 The host of Paul Henry said ‘bastards’ when referencing phone scammers and said the word ‘God’ several times when discussing the 2015 Rugby World Cup – for example, ‘by God they are playing well’.
 Craig Davie complained that Mr Henry used ‘foul language’ and was ‘taking the lord’s name in vain’, which was offensive and unsuitable for children.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests and discrimination and denigration standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The segment was broadcast on TV3 at 6.40am on Thursday 8 October 2015. 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 threaten current norms of good taste and decency?
 The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is usually concerned with broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1
 MediaWorks argued that Mr Henry ‘is well-known for his irreverent, frank and outspoken style of broadcasting’ and that his language was ‘at the low-end of the offensive language spectrum’. It said that the host’s ‘humorous and irreverent perspective on news stories is an element of his show that regular viewers would expect’ and that his language on this occasion ‘was unlikely to have disturbed or offended a significant number of viewers’.
 We agree with the broadcaster that audiences know what to expect from Mr Henry, and that sometimes he uses low-level offensive language such as the word ‘bastard’. The Authority has recognised this in previous decisions.2 Additionally, the word ‘God’ is not considered coarse language by most people in New Zealand’s secular society; it is widely used as part of everyday colloquial speech,3 including as an exclamation, as it was used here. Accordingly, we do not consider that Mr Henry’s language would have offended a significant number of viewers or that it threatened current norms of good taste and decency taken in context. Given Mr Henry’s well-known presenting style, viewers who find his language unacceptable are able to make a different viewing choice.
 We therefore do not uphold the Standard 1 complaint.
Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?
 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.4
 Mr Davie argued that he could not watch Paul Henry with his children because there was ‘too much foul language’, and said that it should be screened after 8.30pm. MediaWorks argued that Paul Henry targets an adult audience and is ‘unlikely to be watched unsupervised by young children’. In any case, it said, ‘the language in question was not unacceptably challenging for children viewing with parental supervision’.
 Children are not the target audience of Paul Henry and are more likely to be drawn to programming on other channels aimed at younger viewers. In the case of any children who were watching, the Authority has recognised that there is an expectation of adult guidance and discretion when viewing unclassified news and current affairs programmes with children.5 Parents who do not want their children to hear the language typically used by Mr Henry have the opportunity to exercise discretion accordingly and make a different viewing choice. In any case, for the reasons we have set out above in paragraph , we do not think the language used on the programme would have unduly alarmed or distressed children.
 We therefore find that the broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests and we do not uphold the Standard 9 complaint.
Did the broadcast encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any group as a section of the community?
 The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) 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.
 Mr Davie did not specify which group he considered to be denigrated or discriminated against, nor did MediaWorks address this standard in its response. As we have not been pointed to any material which engaged Standard 7, we do not uphold this aspect of the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
1 March 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Craig Davie’s formal complaint – 8 October 2015
2 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 4 November 2015
3 Mr Davie’s referral to the Authority – 15 November 2015
4 MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 14 December 2015
1 Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112
3 See, for example, Ironside and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2014-113
4 E.g. Harrison and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-066
5 E.g. Bracey and Ee and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2013-084