BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Grant and NZME Radio Ltd - 2022-032 (6 July 2022)

Members
  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
Dated
Complainant
  • Anthony Grant
Number
2022-032
Channel/Station
Newstalk ZB # 2

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about comments made by Mike Hosking on Mike Hosking Breakfast that he ‘can’t wait’ to be a close contact of a person with COVID-19, and that ‘there’s so much more fun to have’ in relation to the ‘Omicron experience.’ The Authority found the comments did not breach the good taste and decency standard and were likely tongue-in-cheek, referring to the possible difficulties Hosking would face if working from home. Taking into account audience expectations of Newstalk ZB and Mike Hosking as a host, as well as the flippant, humorous nature of the comments, the Authority found they were unlikely to have caused widespread undue offence or distress or undermined widely shared community standards. Accordingly, they did not reach the threshold for regulatory intervention.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


The broadcast

[1]  On Mike Hosking Breakfast, broadcast on 21 February 2022 on Newstalk ZB, host Mike Hosking discussed Starlink internet speeds with his producer, and asked listeners to text in with their internet speeds. Their discussion contained the following dialogue:

Producer:                 So when you eventually become a close contact and you're broadcasting from home, we'll want you on the hyper fibre, mate, because -

Hosking:                   I tell you what - I was going to broadcast from home, from the country. They said, where do you want to go? I said, I'll go into the country. And we had the guys around. They said, oh, this will work fine, on 12! Do we now regret that decision? When I become a close contact? ….

Producer:                 Well maybe all the people who complain that you talk too fast - if you're on 12, it might slow you down and they’ll be able to understand what you're saying.

Hosking:                  Oh, wait till I'm a close contact. I can't wait. I mean, I've barely touched this Omicron experience. I need to be a close contact, and I preferably need to get it and oh there's so much more fun to have.

The complaint

[2]  Anthony Grant complained that Hosking’s comments that ‘he [cannot] wait to become a close contact as getting [Omicron] is fun’ breached the good taste and decency standard. Grant stated:

  • the comments were ‘reckless and stupid’ given the breadth of his audience and ‘taking into account the current NZ death toll of 443 as at today’s date.’
  • ‘I don’t really think that anyone who has had it or even worse lost someone close would appreciate Mr Hosking’s [c]omments.’

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  NZME Radio Ltd did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:

  • ‘Newstalk ZB is an adult targeted radio station for 30-64 year olds’. 
  • ‘…regular listeners would also understand the established format of this programme, and would expect a robust articulation of Mr Hosking’s opinion on topical issues during the programme. The BSA has stated in a previous decision relating to this standard that “audiences expect that Newstalk ZB will often feature conservative and controversial opinions.”1
  • ‘Mr Hosking’s comment (“Oh, there’s so much more fun to have”) was not meant to be taken literally but was intended to be humorous. The host was not suggesting that contracting Omicron was a fun experience, but instead was alluding to the fact that for most people the experience of being sick with Omicron was not enjoyable.’
  • ‘The host was also referring back to the preceding comments regarding his intention to continue to broadcast while self-isolating on Waiheke Island and that he would need to speak more slowly while on air due to the slower speed of his internet connection at that location.’
  • ‘As the Authority recognised in Yukich and Mediaworks TV Ltd – 2019-080 (4 February 2020) (at [10]): “Satire and humour are important elements of the right to freedom of expression.”’

The standard

[4]  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

[5]  We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[6]  The right to freedom of expression is an important right in a democracy and it is our starting point when considering complaints. We weigh the right to freedom of expression 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.4

[7]  In a radio context, the good taste and decency standard is usually considered in relation to offensive language, sexual material, or, sometimes, violence, but may also apply to other material presented in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.5

[8]  On listening to the broadcast, we considered the comments were ambiguous. Hosking did not actually state that getting Omicron would be fun as the complainant has suggested. It is more likely that Hosking’s comment ‘there’s so much more fun to have’ was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the difficulties he would face if he were working remotely, due to internet speeds (which was the focus of the discussion).

[9]  Further, the context in which content occurs, and the wider context of the broadcast, are relevant to assessing whether the broadcast has breached the standard.6 The following contextual factors were relevant here:

  • Newstalk ZB is an adult targeted radio station for 30-64 year olds and is known for robust, opinionated discussion. 7
  • Hosking is well-known for his provocative, outspoken style.8
  • Hosking’s comments were made during a light-hearted, humorous discussion between himself and his producer which was primarily about internet speeds, then discussed how the show would be broadcast if he became a close contact (as this would rely on Hosking’s personal internet connection).
  • The comments were made flippantly, in an attempt at humour, and most listeners were likely to interpret them as such.
  • Hosking’s comments were made in relation to himself, and he was not suggesting that others should want to be close contacts or get Omicron.

[10]  While we appreciate the complainant’s concerns that the comments were reckless given the current COVID-19 pandemic, we also note that allowing the free and frank expression of humour and satire is a necessary part of living in a democracy. Having regard to the factors above, we consider the comments were unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards. They therefore do not reach the threshold for regulatory intervention.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Susie Staley
Chair
6 July 2022

 

 

Appendix

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

1  Anthony Grant’s complaint to NZME – 21 February 2022

2  NZME’s decision on the complaint – 21 March 2022

3  Grant’s referral to the Authority – 22 March 2022

4  Grant’s further comments on referral – 22 March 2022

5  NZME’s final comments – 6 April 2022

6  Grant’s final comments – 6 April 2022


1 Day & Moss and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2018-090 at [21].
2 Standard 1, Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
3 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 35
4 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
5 Lee and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2017-030 at [12]
6 Guideline 1a
7 Woolrych & Glennie and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2019-100 at [18]
8 As above