BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Hall and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-051 (6 September 2021)

Members
  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
Dated
Complainant
  • Matthew Hall
Number
2021-051
Programme
7 Days
Broadcaster
Discovery NZ Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary  

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

The Authority did not uphold a complaint about a segment on 7 Days which made a joke referring to a picture of Prince Philip, shortly after his death. The Authority found the segment did not contain any material outside of what viewers could reasonably expect from the programme (as a long-running comedy show based on finding comedic elements in the news of the week, audiences are well-familiar with its format and style of content and humour), and did not cause any harm justifying the restriction of freedom of expression.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


The broadcast

[1]  On 15 April 2021, 7 Days was introduced by host Jeremy Corbett:

The following show is for adults only and contains bad language that may offend some people. And well, there’s only one big story this week. To Prince Philip, wherever you are, rest easy. And to the newly-widowed Queen Elizabeth, why don’t you put down corgi and try a Corby. Have I got a tea bag for you.

[2]  During a segment titled ‘That’s the Spirit’, where Mr Corbett tasks a panellist with finding a ‘story about someone that encapsulates the human spirit’, panellist Rhys Mathewson presented a story which ended with a joke referencing a picture of Prince Philip:

Got a great story that encapsulates the human spirit. A Spanish man has been arrested for driving around Europe with a dead body in the passenger seat. And at first, as I get it, we’ve all done things to drive in the T2 lane. Turns out it was his partner who had passed away, and one of his bucket list items was to drive around. But the guy died like three weeks earlier… and it’s like very beautiful and just a story about love. And I just thought it was wonderful. And I thought, where did you get this idea to drive around in a car with a dead person? It turns out it was from this [pointing to a picture of Prince Philip on the screen].

[3]  The programme was rated 16LC and broadcast at 8.30pm. In addition to Mr Corbett’s verbal warning (paragraph [1]), a written audience advisory was displayed onscreen at the beginning of the programme (‘This programme is 16 and may contain coarse language (L) or offensive content (C)) and the 16LC symbols also appeared onscreen after the first ad-break.

The complaint

[4]  Matthew Hall complained the broadcast breached current norms of good taste and decency by deliberately linking the panellist’s story to the picture of Prince Philip (who ‘did not look well’), when he had ‘just died and his funeral had not even taken place’.

The broadcaster’s response

[5] Discovery NZ did not uphold Mr Hall’s complaint, saying:

  • The programme was classified 16LC with audience advisories appearing at the start and after the first ad-break.
  • A verbal warning also preceded the programme with Jeremy Corbett saying: ‘the following show is for adults only and contains bad language that may offend some people’.
  • Mr Corbett also foreshadowed any jokes about Prince Philip at the beginning of the programme: ‘…and well there’s only one big story this week. To Prince Philip, wherever you are, rest easy…’
  • 7 Days is a comedy panel talk show often containing challenging material, including strong language. The episodes are focused on attempting to find some comedic and light-hearted element in the biggest news stories of the last seven days.
  • The content did not exceed what the audience would reasonably expect from 7 Days.

The standard

[6]  The good taste and decency standard1 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.2

Our analysis

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

[8]  We have also considered the important right to freedom of expression, which is our starting point. Our task when we determine a complaint is to weigh the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the level of harm justifies placing a reasonable limit on the right to freedom of expression.3

Good Taste and Decency

[9]  We acknowledge the complainant was offended by the Prince Philip joke. However, attitudes towards taste and decency differ widely and continue to evolve in a diverse society such as ours. The standard does not prohibit challenging material, but rather ensures that broadcasts fall within the broad limit of not seriously violating community norms of taste and decency.4 Context is crucial in the consideration of whether a broadcast is likely to cause widespread undue offence, or undermine widely shared community standards.5

[10]  In this case, relevant contextual factors include:6

  • The nature of the programme: 7 Days is a comedy satire show featuring New Zealand comedians, and focused on finding a comedic element in the biggest news item of the week. It is known for containing material and language that is at times provocative or that some viewers may find challenging.
  • The programme’s classification and scheduling: The programme aired at 8.30pm and was classified 16, indicating it was suitable for audiences aged 16 and above. It also carried audience advisory symbols for language and content that may offend (L and C). 
  • The use of audience advisories: A verbal warning was given at the start of the programme by the host, as well as a written, onscreen audience advisory at the start of the programme, and advisory labels displayed onscreen at the end of the first ad-break.
  • Audience expectations of the programme: 7 Days has been on air for 13 years, so audiences are now well familiar with its format and style of content and humour.7
  • The target and likely audience: The programme was targeted at an adult audience and broadcast outside of children’s normally accepted viewing times (usually up until 8.30pm).

[11]  In this context, we do not consider the segment was likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. The content did not go beyond what the audience could reasonably expect from the programme given its premise of making light of the week’s news stories, and following the host’s verbal warning and advisories onscreen for content that may offend. The broadcaster provided sufficient information to enable the audience to exercise choice and control and make a different viewing choice if they wished.8

[12]  We have not found any harm arising from the broadcast that warrants regulatory intervention or restricting the right to freedom of expression.

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

 

Susie Staley MNZM
Acting Chair
6 September 2021

 

 

Appendix

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

1  Matthew Hall’s complaint to Discovery NZ – 16 April 2021

2  Discovery NZ’s decision on the complaint – 10 May 2021

3  Mr Hall’s referral to the Authority – 27 May 2021

4  Discovery NZ confirming no further comments – 28 May 2021


1 Standard 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
4 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
5 As above
6 Guideline 1a
7 See Campbell and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-019 at [13]
8 Guideline 1b. See also Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12