BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Filmer and MediaWorks Radio Limited - 2020-080 (21 December 2020)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Jarret Filmer
Number
2020-080
Broadcaster
MediaWorks Radio Ltd
Channel/Station
The Rock # 5

Summary  

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

The Authority did not uphold a complaint that a spoof of OMC hit song ‘How Bizarre’, in which the singer mimicked the original artist’s accent, breached the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority found the accent used was an attempt to imitate the distinctive singing voice of Mr Fuemana and sound of ‘How Bizarre’, in the spirit of spoofing the song itself, rather than an attempt to imitate a specifically Māori or Pacific Island English accent. It did not encourage discrimination against or denigration of Māori or Pacific Islanders.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


The broadcast

[1]  On 21 June 2020 at 5pm, during a segment on The Rock Drive with Jay and Dunc, producer Jeremy Pickford spoofed OMC hit song ‘How Bizarre’ in his song about Waitara.

[2]  The segment was introduced as follows:

‘Poo Town’ is a song about a new Kiwi town each week. The lyrics are made up of your Facebook comments on The Rock Drive Facebook page. The song is performed by our producer Jeremy. And it's Poo Town’s number 98. Poo Towns of Waitara, this week.

[3]  The spoof included the following:

Its nickname is ‘Dub T’, the Masonic is a pub. And there's also ‘T and C’, it's the Town and Country Club. It's where the people go for some bingo or a lay. And some loose guy called Harley sings Nickelback all day. The ‘rego’ and the warrant on your car is optional, and people drive Subaru Foresters round for a thrill…in Waitara, Waitara, Waitara.

There never seems to be any road rules in the town. You'll see more ‘fish and chip’ shops than people that walk around. The most beautifulist women all come from Waitara. People like to fish in the town's dirty brown river. Cows and sheep are floating in it when they are deceased. Sometimes you might find a carcass lying on the beach…in Waitara, Waitara, Waitara.

Brad the Boss is from the Rock. He’s also from this town. He likes to say things like, ‘I was the best athlete around’. It's got only Bin Inn around in Taranaki. So people make the trip to go there from big old NP. A guy called Nick Toa seems to rub people the wrong way on Facebook, you’ll find the ‘You know you lived in Waitara’ page…in Waitara, Waitara, Waitara…

The complaint

[4]  Jarret Filmer complained the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard for the following reasons:

  • ‘The segment was performed by a white person affecting a pronounced “hori” accent traditionally used to ridicule Māori and Pacific Islanders.’
  • ‘It featured several deliberate mispronunciations that conflate that particular accent with stupidity or a lack of education.’
  • ‘This sort of archaic “comedy” is no longer appropriate.’
  • ‘It is a clear case of an attempt to denigrate a community with a Māori large population using the linguistic version of blackface.’

[5]  In his referral to the Authority, Mr Filmer added:

  • ‘There is no context that justifies using an inherently racist form of comedy.’
  • ‘MediaWorks’ suggestion that the accent was affected to further the comedy of the piece is irrelevant given the historically racist nature of a white man affecting such an accent which is inherently denigratory towards Māori.’

The broadcaster’s response

[6]  MediaWorks did not uphold Mr Filmer’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • The Rock is well known for its humorous and edgy context, and the parody was well within audience expectations of both the station and the segment.
  • Mr Pickford’s pronunciation of the lyrics was intended to mimic the original song with the aim of adding to the comedy of the parody.
  • Some words in the song were over-exaggerated to make sure the next line would rhyme. This was a bid to elicit humour, not to conflate a particular accent with stupidity or a lack of education.
  • This light-hearted parody did not amount to hate speech or a sustained attack on Māori, and did not meet the high threshold required to find a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.

The standard

[7]  It states broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief. It protects sections of the community from verbal and other attacks, and fosters a community commitment to equality.1

Our findings

[8]  We have listened to a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[9]  We have also considered the important right to freedom of expression, which is our starting point. This includes the broadcaster’s right to offer a range of content and information and the audience’s right to receive and listen to that content. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the broadcast has caused actual or potential harm at a level that justifies limiting the right to freedom of expression. For the reasons below, we have not found such harm in this case.

Discrimination and denigration

[10]  ‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment.2 ‘Denigration’ is devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community.3 The standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is legitimate humour, drama or satire,4 and context must always be considered when assessing whether the broadcast ‘encouraged’ discrimination or denigration.5

[11]  The following contextual factors are relevant:

  • The segment was a well-established parody commemoration of New Zealand towns (the spoof in question being the 98th in the series).
  • The spoof was based on the comments of listeners, including from Waitara, on The Rock Drive Facebook page.
  • The only word deliberately mispronounced was ‘beautifulist’, quoting a comment from The Rock Drive Facebook page.
  • Earlier ‘Poo Towns’ song spoofs also imitated the singing voices of the original artists.6

[12]  Taking into account those factors, the broadcast did not have the effect of perpetuating racist stereotypes in a manner that encouraged discrimination or denigration of Māori or Pacific Islanders. The spoof was a light-hearted parody.

[13]  Artists are known to have distinctive singing voices, which often do not resemble their spoken voices, and are subject to international and historical musical influences as well as local and cultural factors.7 While some sources recognise Māori English as a distinctive form of English,8 there is also a significant overlap between a Māori English and Kiwi English accent.

[14]  We consider the accent used in the broadcast was an attempt to imitate the distinctive singing voice of Mr Fuemana and the distinctive sound of ‘How Bizarre’, in the spirit of spoofing the song itself, rather than an attempt to imitate a specifically Māori or Pacific Island English accent.

[15]  Accordingly, we do not uphold this complaint.

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

 

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

21 December 2020    

 


Appendix

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

1  Jarret Filmer’s formal complaint – 24 June 2020

2  MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 22 July 2020

3  Mr Filmer’s referral to the Authority – 22 July 2020

4  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 30 July 2020 


1 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 16
2 Guideline 6a
3 As above
4 Guideline 6c
5 Guideline 6d
6 For example, see The Rock (7 May 2019) “Poo Towns – West Auckland” and The Rock (6 May 2019) “Poo Towns of NZ – Waiheke” <www.therock.net.nz>
7 L. V. Anderson “Why Do British Singers Sound American?” Slate (online ed, United States, 19 November 2012)
8 Te Ara (5 September 2013) “Story: Speech and accent” <www.teara.govt.nz>