BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Buchanan and Sky Network Television Ltd - 2021-106 (17 November 2021)

Members
  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
Dated
Complainant
  • Graeme Buchanan
Number
2021-106
Channel/Station
SKY Television

Summary  

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

During the coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, host Goran Paladin provided pre- and post-match comments for the boxing match between David Nyika and Uladzislau Smiahlikau. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard due to the host mispronouncing and mocking Uladzislau Smiahlikau’s name. The Authority was satisfied the comments were unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


The broadcast

[1]  During coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Sky Sport 3 at approximately 5pm on 30 July 2021, host Goran Paladin provided pre- and post-match comments for a boxing match between David Nyika and Uladzislau Smiahlikau.

[2]  During the post-match segment, Paladin commented on the results of the match, which New Zealand athlete David Nyika had won. He said:

Funny times at the boxing, in the heavyweight division David Nyika successful in that quarterfinal – we had ‘Jaws’ going hungry earlier and now Smiahlikau has been put out to pasture.

The complaint

[3]  Graeme Buchanan complained that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard on the basis that Paladin deliberately mispronounced Smiahlikau’s name. He added that:

  • The presenter was pretending he couldn’t pronounce the name.
  • The presenter pronounced Smiahlikau’s name as ‘Smellycow’ on multiple occasions.
  • Mispronouncing Smiahlikau’s name as ‘Smellycow’ was ‘racist, insensitive and childish.’

[4]  We note that the 35 minute broadcast excerpt made available by Sky (and depicting coverage before, during and after the relevant fight) did not include any other instances of Paladin pronouncing ‘Smiahlikau’. We are also unable to confirm whether there were any other instances as other footage from this day has since been deleted. The complaint must accordingly be assessed based on the content described above.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  Sky did not uphold Buchanan’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • ‘After reviewing the content we felt that Goran did his best to pronounce the name correctly. From research online we found this link on how it should be pronounced1 and believe Goran came close to this.’
  • ‘We also reached out to our production team who have spoken to Goran and confirmed that he was not pretending he couldn’t pronounce it.’
  • ‘We have been assured Goran did not intend to offend.’

The standard

[6]  The good taste and decency standard2 states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme. The standard is intended to protect audiences from content likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.3

Our analysis

[7]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[8]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.4 We expand on our reasons below.

[9]  The question for the Authority under this standard is whether the comments made by Paladin were likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.5

[10]  The mispronunciation of Smiahlikau’s name and pun on the name having a similar sound to the word ‘cow’ would be offensive to some viewers, particularly to people of Belarus (as Smiahlikau is a Belarusian boxer). However, given the importance of freedom of expression, and that this was a legitimate expression of humour, we do not consider this comment reached a threshold justifying regulatory intervention for the reasons outlined below.

[11]  Context is always relevant when determining a complaint under this standard.6 In this case, the following contextual factors were identified:

  • The 2020 Tokyo Olympics and coverage of this event were aimed at a general audience.
  • A large number of viewers watched the 2020 Tokyo Olympics coverage, particularly when New Zealand athletes were featured.
  • In the correct pronunciation of ‘Smiahlikau’, the final syllable sounds, to the New Zealand ear, similar to the word ‘cow’.
  • Paladin made a pun from this syllable sounding like ‘cow’ by referring to pasture, after a similar pun regarding another athlete nicknamed ‘Jaws’.
  • Audiences expect a level of humour from sports commentary and expect presenters to express some opinion on the events covered.
  • Paladin’s comments were not graphic or malicious.
  • The commentator of the boxing match appeared to correctly pronounce Smiahlikau’s name at least 18 times.

[12]  The Authority has previously recognised that ridicule of a name can breach the good taste and decency standard.7 However this was in circumstances where the ridicule (including ‘sneering and uncontrollable laughter’) was found to involve a ‘sustained and deliberate’ attack on the individual personally (the Indian Chief Minister) and the host’s comments associated the relevant derogatory words with Indian people generally. Paladin’s pun did not reach this threshold.

[13]  We acknowledge Buchanan’s concerns. There was some flippancy in Paladin’s comments and pun. However, having regard to the factors above, and in particular audience expectations of sports commentary on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and of Paladin as a host, we consider the comments were unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Susie Staley
Acting Chair
17 November 2021    

 

 

Appendix

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

1  Graeme Buchanan’s formal complaint – 30 July 2021

2  Sky’s response to the complaint – 2 September 2021

3  Mr Buchanan’s referral to the Authority – 7 September 2021

4  Sky’s confirmation of no further comments – 27 September 2021

5  The Authority’s request for further broadcast footage – 19 October 2021

6  Sky confirming no further broadcast footage available – 21 October 2021


1 HowToPronounce “How to pronounce Uladzislau Smiahlikau” <https://www.howtopronounce.com>
2 Standard 1 of the Pay Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
3 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
4 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
5 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
6 Guideline 1a
7 Adams, Godinet and Parsons and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-145