BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McGregor and Triangle Television Ltd - 2012-021

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Ian McGregor
Number
2012-021
Programme
Bomber’s Blog
Channel/Station
Triangle Television

Complaint under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Bomber’s Blog – presenter Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury used the word “fucking” and the words “Oh fuck” were displayed onscreen – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – political commentary and satire are important forms of speech – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]  During an episode of Bomber’s Blog, broadcast on Triangle TV at 9.45pm on 7 December 2011, the presenter Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, while reviewing the week’s political news, referred to “John fucking Banks”. He also ran a segment “Wank o’ the Week” in which a graphic stating “Oh fuck” was displayed onscreen. The programme was preceded by the following graphic:

Caution: High explosives. The content of the following programme may not reflect the views and opinions of Triangle Stratos.

[2]  Ian McGregor made a formal complaint to Triangle Television Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that “every sentence [in the programme] contained swearing language, including the word ‘fuck’”, and “the word ‘fuck’ was printed in bold language several times”.

[3]  Having not received a response from the broadcaster within the 20 working day statutory timeframe, Mr McGregor referred his complaint to this Authority.

[4]  The issue is whether the programme, and specifically the language used, breached Standard 1 (good taste and decency) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Nature of the programme and freedom of expression

[6]  At the outset, we recognise the right to freedom of expression which is guaranteed by section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and acknowledge the importance of the values underlying that right. The right to free expression includes the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form. Any restriction on the right to freedom of expression must be prescribed by law, reasonable, and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (section 5).

[7]  Bomber’s Blog was a light-hearted, satirical opinion piece offering commentary on current affairs and political issues. The Authority has previously acknowledged the importance and value of political discussion.1 In addition, a number of standards in the Code recognise that humour and satire are important forms of speech, on which society places value.2

[8]  Taking into account the nature of the item and the value of the speech engaged on this occasion, we consider that an adequate justification is required to restrict the speech.

Did the broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[9]  Standard 1 states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. The standard is primarily concerned with the broadcast of sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.3 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.4

[10]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • Bomber’s Blog was broadcast at 9.45pm more than an hour after the AO watershed
  • it was not preceded by a warning for language
  • the nature of the programme
  • the programme’s adult target audience
  • Bomber is well known for his style of commentary
  • audience expectations of Bomber.

[11]  Triangle TV said that “the opinion show Bomber’s Blog usually uses slightly stronger language, but always in the context of the opinionated nature of the programme. Triangle TV allows freedom of speech in its programmes made by programme providers and we schedule it at an adult viewing time (9.45pm) for that reason.”

[12]  Taking into account the above factors, particularly the late time of broadcast, the adult target audience, the fact that Bomber is relatively well known, and audience expectations, we consider that most viewers would not have been surprised or offended by the use of the word “fucking” or the visual depiction of the word “fuck” when broadcast in this context. Having viewed the programme, we are satisfied that these were the only two instances of coarse language. We also note that the programme presenter spoke very quickly and his words were somewhat difficult to discern.

[13]  While, in our view, it would have been preferable for the programme to be preceded by a specific warning for language that may offend, we are satisfied that, taking into account the context and the value of the speech engaged, the potential harm to viewers in terms of the objective of standard 1 was minimal, and did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

[14]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
8 June 2012

Appendix

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

1                  Ian McGregor’s formal complaint – 12 December 2011

2                 Mr McGregor’s referral to the Authority – 13 February 2012

3                 Triangle TV’s responses to the Authority – 21 February and 19 April 2012

4                 Triangle TV’s response to the Authority’s request for further information – 18 May 2012


1For example, Rutland and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2012-009, and Hill and TVNZ, Decision No. 2011-169

2See, for example, guideline 6a to Standard 6 (fairness) and guideline 7a to Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) of the Free-to-Air Television Code.

3Turner and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-112

4Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November, 2006)