BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McMeekin and The RadioWorks Ltd - 2002-167

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • J H McGregor
  • R Bryant
Dated
Complainant
  • H B McMeekin
Number
2002-167
Programme
Morning Grill
Broadcaster
The RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio Pacific # 3

Complaint
Radio Pacific – Morning Grill – offensive remarks about the Queen

Findings
Principle 1 – contextual matters – no uphold

Principle 7 – no denigration or discrimination – high threshold not reached – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] On the Morning Grill programme broadcast by Radio Pacific on 2 August 2002 at approximately 6.04am, the presenters (Pam Corkery and Paul Henry) discussed the Queen’s recent visit to a mosque in Britain. The presenters focused on the fact that entry into the mosque required the Queen to remove her shoes.

[2] H B McMeekin complained to The RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the presenters’ comments were "insulting, gratuitous, and ageist".

[3] In declining to uphold the complaint, the broadcaster submitted that the comments complained about were "lighthearted and were not intended to be offensive."

[4] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, H B McMeekin referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the item complained about, and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] The Morning Grill programme broadcast by Radio Pacific on 2 August 2002 at approximately 6.04am, included a discussion between the presenters (Pam Corkery and Paul Henry) about the Queen’s recent visit to a mosque in Britain. The presenters focused on the fact that entry into the mosque required the Queen to remove her shoes.

[7] The presenters discussed a photograph they had of the Queen with her shoes removed, about to put on a pair of ballet slippers. One of the presenters commented that it was rare to see a photograph of the Queen’s feet, to which the other presenter said "she’s never, to my knowledge, been photographed naked".

[8] The presenters continued to discuss the Queen’s clothing, including her handbag and dress. Referring to the Queen’s dress, one of the presenters remarked: "is that well pressed, has that been given a decent iron?" The presenter continued "actually have her legs been given a decent iron?"

The Complaint

[9] H B McMeekin complained to The RadioWorks, the broadcaster, that the presenters’ comments were "insulting, gratuitous, and ageist".

[10] H B McMeekin wrote:

The NZ listening public can do without these sort of remarks. They are also ageist, especially the leg ironing part.

The Standards

[11] The broadcaster assessed the complaint against Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. It reads:

Principle 1 Good Taste and Decency

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Guideline

1a  Broadcasters will take into consideration current norms of decency and good taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast (eg time of day, target audience).

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[12] In declining to uphold the complaint, the broadcaster advised that "[T]he comments were made in a lighthearted [sic] and were not intended to be offensive."

The Referral to the Authority

[13] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, H B McMeekin contended that the presenters made "cruel and insensitive remarks" about the Queen. H B McMeekin also claimed that the remarks contravened the human rights of an individual. The complainant wrote:

I reiterate that just because the Prime Minister can openly insult the Queen, talkback hosts cannot. Lighthearted remarks are meant to be enjoyed by both sides.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14] The broadcaster advised the Authority that it had examined the complaint, and could find no breach of Principle 1. It reiterated that "the comments were made in a lighthearted manner and were not intended to be offensive."

[15] The broadcaster advised further that:

Principle 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice permits the broadcaster to use humour or satire in broadcasting. This is the case with this broadcast.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[16] H B McMeekin disagreed with the broadcaster’s response, and wrote:

Humour it was not, nor was it lighthearted. It was thoughtless and out of control.

The Authority’s Determination

[17] When it determines a complaint that a broadcast contravenes Principle 1 of the Radio Code, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breaches currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant, but does not determine whether the programme breached the principle. Accordingly, the Authority has considered the context in which the comments complained about were broadcast.

[18] The Authority considers that the relevant contextual factors on this occasion are the nature of the programme (light conversational tone), the time of the broadcast (at 6.04am), the programme format and the target audience (adult listeners).

[19] In addition, while the Authority accepts that some listeners may have found the remarks discourteous, in its view the comments were irreverent rather than insulting. Accordingly, the Authority does not accept that the comments breached current norms of good taste and decency, and it concludes that on this occasion there has been no breach of Principle 1.

[20] Finally, the Authority notes that the broadcaster raised Principle 7 in defence of its position when, in its response to the Authority, it stated that Principle 7 permitted the use of "humour or satire in broadcasting." The Authority considers that while the comment "actually, have her legs been given a decent iron", could have ageist overtones, it could also refer to the Queen’s immaculate presentation. While ageist remarks are unfortunate, Principle 7, as the Authority has noted previously, has a very high threshold – the portrayal has to be such that it encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, old people. In the Authority’s view, the broadcast fell short of such encouragement. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that Principle 7 was not contravened.

[21] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 October 2002

Appendix

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

  1. H B McMeekin’s Formal Complaint to The RadioWorks Ltd – 2 August 2002
  2. The RadioWorks’ Response to the Formal Complaint – 7 August 2002
  3. H B McMeekin’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 19 August 2002
  4. The RadioWorks’ Response to the Authority – 23 August 2002
  5. H B McMeekin’s Final Comment – 2 September 2002