BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Greetham and Sky Network Television Ltd - 2019-059 (2 December 2019)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Susie Staley
Dated
Complainant
  • Jim Greetham
Number
2019-059
Programme
Kick Off
Channel/Station
SKY Sport 1

Summary

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a comment referring to a rugby player as a ‘Jew’ because he was unwilling to pay for his wedding breached the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority observed that the comment was an example of casual anti-Semitism and such comments can contribute to the normalisation of racism. However, while the Authority considered the comment to be ignorant and disrespectful, in the context it did not reach the threshold for regulatory intervention.

Not upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


The broadcast

[1]  The programme Kick Off is part of a series that reviews the week of rugby and includes a segment where a guest or host gives out a ‘red card’. In this particular episode, Bryn Hall explains why he is giving a ‘red card’ to Jack Goodhue:

I’m red-carding…Jack Goodhue for his mullet…the real reason why he’s running a mullet at the moment is that he’s engaged…doesn’t want to pay for his wedding, so he’s actually looking for Women’s Day or Women’s Weekly to try and get behind and pay for his wedding, so red card for being a Jew, Jack, so there you go mate.

[2]  The item was broadcast at 8:30pm on 13 June 2019 on SKY Sports 1. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[3]  Jim Greetham complained that Mr Hall’s reference to Mr Goodhue as a ‘Jew’ for not wanting to spend money on his wedding breached the discrimination and denigration standard of the Pay TV Code of Broadcasting Practice. Mr Greetham asked SKY to show tolerance.

[4]  He submitted that the complaint breached the standard for the following reasons:

  • ‘It is 2019 and I was pretty offended’.
  • ‘Rugby is for everyone and comments like this ruin the reputation of players.’
  • SKY did not seem to understand that comments like this encourage stereotyping and discrimination, as it referred to the incident as ‘a light-hearted dig’ and ‘light-hearted banter’.
  • Although the producers of the show confirmed they spoke to Mr Hall to ensure this doesn’t happen again, ‘it is quite clear’ that ‘SKY think they can get away with comments like this’ as they are only ‘silly jokes’.
  • SKY chose to broadcast the comment again after it was broadcast live on the earlier show.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  SKY apologised for ‘any distress caused as a result of this comment’ and confirmed it had spoken to Mr Hall to ‘ensure this doesn’t happen again’. While it had sympathy for Mr Greetham’s position, it submitted that the complaint did not breach the discrimination and denigration standard for the following reasons:

  • The Authority has previously found that the term ‘Jew’ does not breach the standard in a decision where it found:1
    • 'the remark was intended as a light-hearted dig as opposed to an attack against Jewish people, that listeners were likely to have interpreted the comment as a silly joke and would not have taken it as a serious endorsement of hatred or abuse against that group.’
    • ‘the comment was ignorant and perpetuated stereotypes but did not reach the high threshold necessary for encouraging the denigration of, or discrimination against, Jewish people as a section of the community.’
  • The same assessment applies to Mr Hall’s comment in the context of the Kick Off episode.
  • The comment did not contain the high level of invective necessary to be considered in breach of the standard.
  • The reference to ‘light-hearted banter’ came from the BSA decision referenced, and SKY was applying the same assessment to this context.

The standard

[6] The discrimination and denigration standard 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.

[7]  A high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will be necessary to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in contravention of the standard.2

Our findings

[8]  Freedom of expression, including the broadcaster’s right to impart ideas and information and the public’s right to receive that information, is the starting point in our consideration of complaints. We may only uphold complaints where the limitation on the right is reasonable, prescribed by law and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. We recognise the harm that may be caused by speech, and the discrimination and denigration standard provides some guidelines for broadcasters as to the boundaries for how speech ought to be managed.

[9]  The discrimination and denigration standard states that ‘broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community… as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.’ The standard applies only to recognised ‘sections of the community’ which is consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in section 21 of the Human Rights Act 1993.3

[10]  We accept that Jewish people are a relevant section of the community for the purposes of the standard. The question for us is therefore whether the broadcast encouraged the denigration of or discrimination against Jewish people, as a section of the community.

[11]  We have previously considered the use of ‘Jew’ as a slur in reference to frugality, and agreed that it perpetuated stereotypes about Jewish frugality, and that this would have been offensive to some people.4 In this decision, from 2012, we commented:5

The comment displayed a lack of respect for a group of people based on religious belief, though we do not think that this was intentional. Rather, the host’s remark was made in the context of her co-hosts’ decision not to place bets at the races, and was intended as a light-hearted dig at them, as opposed to an attack against Jewish people. Listeners were likely to have interpreted the comment as a silly joke, and would not have taken it as a serious endorsement of hatred or abuse against that group. Overall, we think that while the comment was ignorant and obtuse, it did not reach the high threshold required to find a breach of the standard.

[12]  While we agree with the reasoning and outcome of that decision, this does not mean that the Authority is unconcerned about the use of the word ‘Jew’ as a slur, whether conveyed in what is intended to be a ‘light-hearted’ manner or otherwise. We consider Mr Hall’s comment to be ignorant and disrespectful. It is an example of casual anti-Semitism and such comments can contribute to the normalisation of racism. We understand that comments like this may be part of people’s ordinary vernacular but that is unacceptable.6 We agree with Mr Greetham that rugby is for everyone and comments like this can suggest a lack of tolerance. There is no room in New Zealand for casual racism and it is important that we all work hard to move away from this type of language.   

[13]  We note that the broadcaster, although it did not uphold the complaint, acknowledged it had sympathy for Mr Greetham’s position and counselled the speaker in order to prevent similar comments being made in future.

[14]  However, overall, we do not consider that the comment contained the level of malice or nastiness required, nor did it amount to a sustained attack on a particular group as required, to find a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard and the threshold for our intervention has not been reached. We also recognise that the broadcaster has taken steps to prevent comments like this being broadcast in future.

[15]  Therefore we do not find a breach of the nominated standard.

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

2 December 2019

 

 

 

 


Appendix

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

1.  Jim Greetham’s complaint to SKY – 14 June 2019

2.  SKY’s response – 17 July 2019

3.  Jim Greetham’s referral to the Authority – 6 August 2019

4.  SKY’s final comments – 29 August 2019


1 Kirk and the Radio Network Ltd, Decision No. 2012-134
2 Guideline 6b
3 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15
Kirk and the Radio Network Ltd, Decision No. 2012-134 at [9]
5 As above, at [10]
6 See the Human Rights Commission’s ‘Give Nothing to Racism’ campaign