BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Martin and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2005-091

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Robert Martin
Number
2005-091
Programme
Campbell Live
Broadcaster
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – Prince Philip’s birthday – host noted that the Prince had criticised a number of ethnic and social groups over the years – host mentioned the right to freedom of expression – showed a picture of Prince Philip defaced with a moustache and horns, with a speech bubble saying “I’m a dork” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, unbalanced and unfair

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – innocuous prank – raised no issue of good taste and decency – not upheld

Standard 4 (balance) – no controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – not unfair to Prince Philip – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] On 10 June 2005 on Campbell Live at 7pm on TV3, presenter John Campbell began by mentioning that it was Prince Philip’s birthday. This was a continuation of a regular feature marking the birthdays of famous people. He noted that over the years Prince Philip had criticised a number of ethnic and social groups, exercising his right to freedom of expression. Noting that he was similarly exercising his right to freedom of expression, the presenter then showed a picture of the Prince defaced with a moustache and horns, with a speech bubble saying “I’m a dork”.

Complaint

[2] Robert Martin complained to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the broadcast breached standards of good taste and decency, balance and fairness.

[3] Referring to his good taste and decency complaint, Mr Martin considered that the presenter had listed “defects in Prince Philip’s attitudes” which he considered denigrated the Prince. He also found the defaced picture offensive.

[4] Addressing balance and fairness together, Mr Martin argued that the programme should also have recognised Prince Philip’s 60 years of service to his country, including as a naval officer during World War II. Mr Martin also noted that the Prince had been patron to many charitable organisations, and had many other interests in the field of science and technology.

Standards

[5] CanWest assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 4 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] CanWest did not uphold the complaint. Responding to the good taste and decency complaint, it noted that Campbell Live, as a current affairs programme, was unclassified. Further, the broadcaster said that while the tone of the programme was usually serious, it used humour from time to time.

[7] The point being made by this item, CanWest responded, was that freedom of expression works to protect the public’s right to express opinions, and to receive information. It protects those who offer opinions – both positive and negative – and means that even famous people can be ridiculed and critiqued.

[8] CanWest said that the graffiti on the picture was deliberately juvenile and irreverent; it was making a point of principle about freedom of expression and was not a criticism of Prince Philip himself. For these reasons, it concluded, Standard 1 was not breached.

[9] On the issue of balance, CanWest considered that the birthday and views of Prince Philip was not a controversial issue of public importance, and thus balance was not required.

[10] CanWest concluded that for the same reasons that the item did not breach Standard 1, it also did not breach Standard 6 (fairness). It stated:

Prince Philip is a public figure with strong views which he has unhesitatingly expressed. Here reference was made to those views and he, and his views, were used to make a point about freedom of expression.

Referral to the Authority

[11] Dissatisfied with CanWest’s response, Mr Martin referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He argued that while CanWest saw the programme in the context of a tongue-in-cheek discussion about the operation of the right to freedom of expression, he did not see it that way. He stated that the presenter’s demeanour and the “humour within the studio” indicated that it was far from being a juvenile antic and that the presenter instead was delighted to use the birthday of Prince Philip to make his point.

Authority's Determination

[12] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[13] The Authority considers that the item amounted to a relatively innocuous prank made in the context of a light-hearted discussion about the right to free expression. In the Authority’s view, the item contained no offensive language or behaviour, and raised no issue of good taste and decency. The Authority finds that Standard 1 was not breached.

[14] Similarly, the Authority finds that there was no breach of Standard 6 (fairness). It notes that Prince Philip is a sometimes controversial public figure who has attracted criticism for his strong opinions. In light of this, the Authority considers that Prince Philip was an appropriate example to illustrate the host’s point about the right to freedom of expression. In this context, the Authority considers that he was not treated unfairly.

[15] Finally, the Authority notes that Standard 4 (balance) applies to items which deal with “controversial issues of public importance”. The Authority agrees with CanWest that the birthday and views of Prince Philip was not a controversial issue of public importance. Accordingly, the Authority finds that balance was not required.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
28 September 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Robert Martin’s formal complaint – 15 June 2005
  2. CanWest’s decision on the formal complaint – 19 July 2005
  3. Mr Martin’s referral to the Authority – 27 July 2005
  4. CanWest’s response to the Authority – 10 August 2005