BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Walker and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2014-108

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • John Walker
Number
2014-108
Programme
The Panel
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio New Zealand National

Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

During The Panel, a study was discussed which showed women are now outdoing men in some areas of cognition. The panellists joked about whether the study explained the reasons behind a ‘man’s look’ or why men do not replace toilet rolls. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that their comments denigrated men. They were clearly intended to be humorous and light-hearted, and did not carry any invective.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  During The Panel, the male host and female panellists discussed a new study which showed women are catching up to men in some areas of cognition and outpacing them in others due to better health, education and living conditions. After detailing the results of the study, the female panellists joked about whether the study could also explain why men do not replace toilet rolls or look for things properly.

[2]  John Walker complained that the ‘use [of] cheap humour and sarcasm to denigrate men as a group’ was ‘sexist’.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item aired on Radio New Zealand National on 27 September 2014. The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, men as a section of the community?

[5]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. The term ‘denigration’ has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people.1 ‘Discrimination’ has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment.2

[6]  The panellists and host discussed new studies comparing women’s and men’s relative cognition, as follows:

Panellist 1:       [Name]… was there any explanation at all as to why, when a man opens a pantry looking for something, they cannot see it? You know that thing about having to move it, ‘It’s behind the peanut butter’, ‘no it’s not’, ‘Yes it is’. Is there anything in the study about why they can’t see things in the pantry?

Panellist 2:       I think it’s quite legitimate, relates to their linear thinking... So they look at something, and if it’s not in front of them, it never occurs to them that it could be anywhere else. So that’s why we call it a ‘man look’. Because they’re not lateral, and they don’t think outside what’s directly in front of them. They’re very linear.

Panellist 1:       Okay, [name], but that doesn’t explain why they never put a new roll of toilet paper on the toilet roll holder in the toilet either. Was that in study as well, [name]?

Host:                No, that’s just a sexist slur. [Laughing]

Panellist 2:       No, that’s training, [name].

[7]  Mr Walker argued that the panellists’ comments ‘attack men by reinforcing a stereotype… that men are dumb because they are unable to carry out simple tasks that are second nature to women’. He said that the female panellists suggested men ‘actually have a mental defect that prevents them from “seeing straight”… [and] are either so lazy or stupid that they are unable to replace a toilet roll when it is used up’. He considered there would be an outcry if similar comments were made about women, which showed ‘there is one rule for women and another for men in the broadcast media’.

[8]  RNZ responded that Mr Walker had missed ‘the humorous aspects of the exchange’ which triggered the exemption in guideline 7a to the discrimination and denigration standard for legitimate humour.

[9]  It is well-established that in light of the requirements of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard.The panellists’ comments did not carry any invective. They were clearly intended as a humorous take on the different ways that men and women think about and approach tasks, in light of the study under discussion. The tone of the comments and the laughter from the panellists and host clearly indicated they were not intended to be taken seriously. This was good-natured ribbing, the male host was not offended by the comments, and he responded with sarcasm and good humour.

[10]  We are satisfied that the broadcast did not encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, men as a section of the community and we 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

3 December 2014

Appendix

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

1            John Walker’s formal complaint – 29 July 2014

2            RNZ’s response to the complaint – 21 August 2014

3            Mr Walker’s referral to the Authority – 3 September 2014

4            RNZ’s response to the Authority – 9 October 2014


1 See, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks, Decision No. 2006-030

2 For example, Teoh and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-091

3 E.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network, Decision No. 2002-152