Hawthorne and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2015-097 (14 April 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose
- James Hawthorne
ProgrammeTalk with Willie and Alison
BroadcasterMediaWorks Radio Ltd
Channel/StationRadio Live # 3
Te Raumawhitu Kupenga declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the determination of this complaint.
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
During Talk with Willie and Alison, host Willie Jackson referred to a caller (who seemed to snore, rather than talk, on the other end of the phone) as ‘one of those crackers’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the term ‘cracker’ was a racial slur which discriminated against white people and/or poor white people. The host did not appear to use the term in the way alleged by the complainant, but rather as a light-hearted reference to the caller’s state of mind, and could not be said to have encouraged discrimination against, or denigration of, white people and/or poor white people in this context.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
 During Talk with Willie and Alison, host Willie Jackson referred to a caller (who seemed to snore, rather than talk, on the other end of the phone) as ‘one of those crackers’.
 James Hawthorne alleged that Mr Jackson referred to the caller as a ‘cracker’, which he argued was a racial slur that discriminated against white people and/or poor white people and constituted ‘completely unacceptable’ broadcasting.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The item was broadcast on Radio Live on 11 November 2015. 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, white people and/or poor white people 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.
 During the programme subject to complaint, host Alison Mau greeted a caller, saying ‘Hello, Barry’. ‘Barry’ seemed to then snore in response, rather than talk. Ms Mau said, ‘Oh, Barry’s gone to sleep... I would’ve liked to have heard what Barry had to say, but he wasn’t there’. Mr Jackson commented, ‘He was obviously... one of those crackers’.
 MediaWorks argued that Mr Jackson did not use ‘cracker’ as a racial slur, but rather as a humorous and ‘light-hearted suggestion that the caller was not of sound mind’. It said that in the past Mr Jackson had used the term as a ‘gentle jibe shared with callers in reference to their sanity’, usually because they have presented a view opposing that expressed by the host. MediaWorks noted that a high level of invective is required to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination and denigration, and did not consider that the comment in question was delivered in such a manner.
 We do not believe that the term ‘cracker’ was used in the way alleged by the complainant, namely as a racial slur against white people and/or poor white people. We think it more likely that it was intended as a light-hearted reference to the caller’s state of mind, given his unusual behaviour on the other end of the phone, and that most listeners would have taken the comment as such. In this sense the reference to ‘one of those crackers’ could not be said to have encouraged discrimination against, or denigration of, white people and/or poor white people and did not breach the standard.
 Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 7.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
14 April 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 James Hawthorne’s formal complaint – 11 November 2015
2 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 8 December 2015
3 Mr Hawthorne’s referral to the Authority – 14 December 2015
4 MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 28 January 2016