BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Reardon and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2001-120

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Sonia Reardon
Number
2001-120
Programme
The Panel promo
Channel/Station
TV3

Complaint
The Panel – promo – panellist mocked Princess Margaret – breach of good taste

Findings
Standard G2 – not a breach of good taste – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

A promo for the programme The Panel, broadcast on TV3 on 31 May 2001, included a segment where panellist Pam Corkery pointed to a photograph of Princess Margaret from The New Zealand Herald and said, "Princess Margaret wore dark glasses and appeared to be able to see", before bursting into laughter.

Mrs Sonia Reardon complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that it was a breach of good taste and decency for the panellist to make a mockery of Princess Margaret.

Declining to uphold the complaint, TV3 explained that Ms Corkery had in fact been laughing at the "seemingly absurd" comment that had accompanied Princess Margaret’s photo in The New Zealand Herald, and not at Princess Margaret herself.

Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mrs Reardon referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

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

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the promo complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

A promo for the programme The Panel, broadcast on TV3 on 31 May 2001, included a segment where panellist Pam Corkery pointed to a photograph of Princess Margaret from The New Zealand Herald and said, "Princess Margaret wore dark glasses and appeared to be able to see", before bursting into laughter.

The Complaint

Mrs Sonia Reardon complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the promo breached standards of good taste and decency. In her recollection, Ms Corkery had said Princess Margaret was "wearing dark glasses and I reckon she could see all the time". Mrs Reardon complained that Ms Corkery, in what she said was her "usual vitriolic manner", had made a mockery of Princess Margaret. She said:

Princess Margaret has had a miserable time healthwise and Corkery uses her as a butt for her distorted sense of humour. It is sheer bad taste!

The Standard

TV3 considered the complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In the preparation and presentation of programmes, standard G2 requires broadcasters:

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

The broadcaster explained that The Panel was a "topical and edgy" show where the panel dealt with events of the week in a "humorous and irreverent" manner. It said the promo which was the subject of Mrs Reardon’s complaint included material from dress rehearsals as a "coming soon" tease for the new series, material which was never broadcast in its entirety.

TV3 corrected the complainant’s recollection of the exact words Ms Corkery had used. It explained that, while it was not clear from the promo, Ms Corkery had in fact been laughing at the "seemingly absurd" comment that had accompanied Princess Margaret’s photo in The New Zealand Herald, and not at Princess Margaret herself.

Declining to uphold the complaint, TV3 said:

While it is not entirely clear from the promo that the focus of Ms Corkery’s laughter was not Princess Margaret, the [Standards] Committee finds that the comment "Princess Margaret wore dark glasses and appeared to be able to see" in the context of the promo is not cruel or in bad taste, but merely appears to be somewhat baffling.

The Referral to the Authority

Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mrs Reardon referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

The complainant acknowledged that she may not have quoted Ms Corkery exactly in her letter of complaint to TV3. However, she said the "gist" of her complaint was the same, and stated:

My serious complaint is that Princess Margaret’s health (three strokes, the last which affected her eyesight) was the cruel butt of Corkery and not the fact that she is "Royal".

Mrs Reardon did not accept TV3’s explanation that Ms Corkery had not been laughing at Princess Margaret.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

In its response to the Authority, TV3 explained that Ms Corkery had discussed The New Zealand Herald’s headline because she found it baffling. The broadcaster said:

And it was the publication’s use of the caption that was the object of Ms Corkery’s hilarity, not Princess Margaret’s health. Even had this not been the case the Committee does not believe a breach of standard G2 would have occurred.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

In her final comment to the Authority, Mrs Reardon said, "Things should be clear so their so called misunderstandings do not occur". She said she saw the promo twice and found it "most offensive", regardless of what TV3 had to say.

The Authority’s Determination

When the Authority considers a complaint which alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it takes into account the context in which the alleged breach occurred. The Authority must also interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way that it does not unreasonably limit the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, enshrined in s.14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

On this occasion, the alleged breach of standard G2 occurred in the context of a promo for The Panel. The complainant formed the view that one of the panellists was making a mockery of Princess Margaret. The Authority is unable to accept the complainant’s interpretation. In its view, it was unclear from the brief clip exactly what the panellist was laughing at. In any event, the Authority finds the excerpt did not offend accepted community norms of decency and taste, and to uphold a breach of standard G2 would be to interpret the standard in a manner which would be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
18 October 2001

Appendix

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

  1. S Reardon’s Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 1 June 2001
  2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 17 July 2001
  3. Mrs Reardon’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 24 July 2001
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 21 August 2001
  5. Mrs Reardon’s Final Comment – 27 August 2001