BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Dale and Horizon Pacific Television Ltd - 1997-017

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • A J Dale
Number
1997-017
Programme
ATV news bulletin
Channel/Station
ATV


Summary

In the course of being interviewed during the News Bulletin on ATV on 13 November

1996 at 5.45pm about her objections to the proposed Britomart project for Auckland,

Pam Corkery MP used the term "bugger-up".


Mr Dale complained to ATV that he considered the term to be objectionable on a news

item broadcast at 5.45pm, being a time when children might be watching television.

ATV's response, later endorsed by the broadcaster Horizon Pacific Television Ltd, was

to advise Mr Dale that it agreed the phrase at issue was inappropriate in a 5.30pm news

bulletin, but that it would be inappropriate to ban a politician from appearing on the

news. It forwarded a copy of its letter to Mr Dale to Ms Corkery.

Dissatisfied with the response, Mr Dale referred the complaint to the Broadcasting

Standards Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the complaint.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the item complained about and have read the

correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the Authority

determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Pam Corkery MP, while being interviewed on ATV's News Bulletin on 13 November

1996 at 5.45pm about the proposed Britomart project for Auckland, said the following:

I also think more importantly it could bugger-up any chance of - oh deary me,

use of everyday language may offend – it may ruin any chance of going ahead

with a proper transport scheme....


Mr Dale complained to ATV Auckland that the use of the term "bugger-up" was

absolutely objectionable in a news bulletin at that time of day when children might be

watching.

ATV in response, agreed that the use of the phrase was inappropriate especially in a

5.30pm news bulletin. However, it said that it would be inappropriate, too, for ATV to

ban politicians from appearing on its news. It advised that it would forward a copy of

Mr Dale's letter and its reply to Ms Corkery.

Mr Dale in referring his complaint to the Authority, asked the question: "...does this

mean because they are a politician they don't have to conform to standards of decency?"

The broadcaster, Horizon Pacific Television, responded to the Authority's request for

comment. It considered the complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice which 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.


Horizon Pacific endorsed the action of ATV in considering the complaint and in

bringing the matter to the attention of Ms Corkery. It said that ATV was placed in a

difficult situation given that the phrase was used live on-air and ATV News staff were

unable to "edit" the phrase. Its view was that it was reasonable for broadcasters to

assume that persons interviewed would respond positively to complaints drawn to their

attention by broadcasters.

The Authority points out that broadcasters are responsible for material that is broadcast.

The fact that comments are made by Members of Parliament does not exempt the

broadcaster from ensuring that broadcasting standards are maintained. In this case, the

Authority considers the comment at issue made by Ms Corkery to have breached the

currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language in the context of a 5.30pm

television news item.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority upholds the complaint that the

broadcast at about 5.45pm during the News Bulletin on ATV on 13

November 1996 breached standard G2 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice.


Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make an order under s.13(1) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not intend to do so in this case because although the

broadcaster did not acknowledge the breach, the action taken, in providing a copy of the

letter of complaint and its response to Ms Corkery, was appropriate and sufficient.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
6 March 1997

Appendix


Mr Dale's Complaint to ATV Auckland – 13 November 1996

A J Dale complained to ATV Auckland about the use of the term "bugger-up" by Pam

Corkery MP in an interview, conducted by Tim Drower, broadcast on the News

Bulletin beginning at 5.30pm. He said it was objectionable given the time of the

broadcast, and the fact that it was a news item.

ATV's Response to the Formal Complaint – 18 November 1997

ATV agreed that the use of the phrase "bugger-up" was most inappropriate especially in

a news bulletin but it considered that it would be inappropriate for ATV to ban

politicians from appearing on its news.

ATV said it would forward a copy of its letter to Mr Dale to Ms Corkery in the hope that

it would prompt a more careful choice of words in any future interviews.

Mr Dale's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 
21 November 1996

Dissatisfied with ATV's response, Mr Dale referred his complaint to the Broadcasting

Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act of 1989.

Mr Dale commented on ATV's response by posing the question: "...does this mean

because they are a politician they don't have to conform to standards of decency?"

Horizon Pacific Television Ltd's Response to the Authority –
16 December 1996

HPTV considered the complaint under standard G2 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice. Its view was that the phrase complained about was used "live"

on-air in a news bulletin, and that while HPTV did not approve of its use, it was unable

to "edit" the phrase.


HPTV felt that the actions of the ATV General Manager in bringing the complaint to the

attention of Ms Corkery, was the appropriate action.


Mr Dale's Final Comment – 31 December 1996

Mr Dale believed that there were standards to be met regardless of whether or not the

person complained about was a politician. He considered that his complaint could be

satisfied by the broadcaster pre-recording any future interviews with Ms Corkery.