BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Frame and Sky Network Television Ltd - 2021-098 (27 October 2021)

Members
  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
Dated
Complainant
  • Ian Frame
Number
2021-098
Channel/Station
SKY Television

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint alleging sports commentary of the ICC World Test Championship final breached the discrimination and denigration standard. The comments ‘it's a story that's akin to David versus Goliath…and living proof that sometimes, just sometimes, nice guys do finish first’ did not refer to a particular section of the community as contemplated by the standard. In any event, it was typical of sports commentary and did not have a prejudicial meaning.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


The broadcast

[1]  As New Zealand won the inaugural ICC World Test Championship against India, broadcast on Sky Sport 2 on 25 June 2021, one of the commentators said:

…how appropriate that Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson are there for this moment, for this team. It's a story that's akin to David versus Goliath. But Kane Williamson and his team, now World Test Champions and living proof that sometimes, just sometimes, nice guys do finish first. Been 21 years of heartache. Some bare margins for New Zealand, but their name will now be on an ICC trophy once again, and it's a group of men that emphasise team first... Congratulations to New Zealand and thanks to India for being such a big part of a great test.

The complaint

[2]  Ian Frame complained the statement ‘it's a story that's akin to David vs Goliath. But Kane Williamson and his team are now World Champions and living proof that sometimes, just sometimes, nice guys do finish first’ breached the discrimination and denigration standard for the following reasons:

  • ‘…it implied most other winners of such events are not "nice guys"’.
  • ‘Previous winners of cricket World Cups have been West Indies, India, Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and England. To imply that any or all of the teams representing these countries are not "nice guys" is discriminatory and denigrating as well as offensive, prejudicial and inflammatory.’
  • ‘There are many immigrants to NZ from these countries who are proud of their heritage and still support their mother country on the sports field. To have their mother countries' representatives publicly described, by implication, as being "not nice" is completely inappropriate and warrants censure of the commentator involved. This is the type of thinking and talk that creates racial disharmony within NZ.’
  • ‘In my opinion, in New Zealand there is too much subversive denigration of other nationalities and it has widespread racial consequences.’

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  Sky did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:

  • ‘…the content did not contain the necessary high level of invective to breach the Code of Broadcasting Practice’.
  • ‘…it did not amount to a sustained attack on a particular group, or the encouragement of the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment’.
  • The comments were ‘an acknowledgement of the long journey the Black Caps had taken to become ICC champions’ and ‘a compliment towards the New Zealand cricket team, rather than being directed at past winners’.
  • ‘…the comments were lighthearted in nature and clearly distinguishable as opinion’.
  • ‘…we were taking an international live feed from the host broadcaster in the UK and had no control over the content being delivered’.

The standard

[4]  The discrimination and denigration standard1 protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, 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.

[5]  ‘Denigration’ is defined as devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community. ‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment.2 

Our analysis

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

[7]  The right to freedom of expression is our starting point when considering complaints. We weigh this right against the harm that may have potentially been caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified, in light of actual or potential harm caused.

[8]  Where discrimination and denigration complaints are concerned, the importance of freedom of expression means that a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will usually be necessary to find a breach of the standard.3

[9]  The first step in considering the potential harm caused, is to determine whether the complaint identifies a recognised section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies. The wording of the standard is based on the grounds for discrimination listed in section 21 of the Human Rights Act 1993.

[10]  The complainant submitted the statement was ‘offensive, prejudicial and inflammatory’ to previous winning teams from West Indies, India, Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and England as it implied they are not ‘nice guys’. He argued it was also offensive to New Zealanders from these countries, especially if they support those cricket teams.

[11]  We understand the complainant’s view, but those he has identified do not amount to a recognised section of the community as contemplated by the standard. He has not identified a specific homogenous group but rather a variety of nationalities with a single commonality (winning an ICC championship). The standard cannot apply to such a broad group.

[12]  In any event, the standard generally requires a high level of condemnation to justify limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.4 Sports commentary by its nature reflects competition between teams and nations, and the audience can expect such metaphorical speech to be used.5 The statement alleged to breach standards was a metaphor indicating how New Zealand was an ‘underdog’ and complimenting the sportsmanship of the team. Additionally, the commentator acknowledged India in his comments. This did not reflect negatively on past ICC Championship winners, and did not have the prejudicial effect alleged by the complainant.

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

  

Susie Staley
Acting Chair
27 October 2021    

 


Appendix

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

1  Ian Frame’s complaint to Sky – 27 June 2021

2  Sky’s decision on the complaint – 26 August 2021

3  Mr Frame’s referral to the BSA – 27 August 2021

4  Sky’s final comments – 8 September 2021


1 Standard 6 of the Pay Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Guideline 6a
3 Guideline 6b
4 Guideline 6b
5 See, for example Newlove and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2019-052