Harrison and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2019-024 (18 July 2019)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Paula Rose QSO
- Wendy Palmer
- Susie Staley MNZM
- Rachel Harrison
ProgrammeDom, Meg and Randell
BroadcasterMediaWorks Radio Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a segment of Dom, Meg and Randell breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The Authority found that, while comments made on the show may have been distasteful to some, the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression includes the right to broadcast such material provided this does not cause undue harm. The Authority found that, given the well-established nature of the programme, the station and their target audience, listeners and particularly those with children in their care had sufficient information to make an informed decision about what they listened to. The Authority noted that the standards do not prohibit inexplicit sexual references or sexual innuendo during children’s normally accepted listening times, and it was likely that many of the references during this segment would have gone over the heads of child listeners. In any event, The Edge is not targeted at children and this particular segment, while it may have been distasteful to some, did not meet the threshold to justify regulatory intervention.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests
 Dom, Meg and Randell, a morning show broadcast on The Edge, includes a regular segment called ‘Producer’s Diary’, a roundup of clips from the previous week on the show. On 29 March 2019 at 8.20am, this segment included several different clips covering a range of topics, such as:
- Host Dominic Harvey (‘Dom’)’s mum embarrassing him in front of another celebrity and telling a story about Dom (as a child) putting his penis on a spa jet.
- Host Megan Annear (‘Meg’) telling off Dom’s dog when she was looking after it.
- Dom sleeping naked and his dog sniffing his ‘privates’.
- Dom being ‘unprofessional’ by eating chocolates while on air.
- Meg mispronouncing ‘Schwarzenegger’.
- A Florida man having sex with a dolphin. This extended into a discussion amongst the hosts about how he would have done it, that it was ‘disgusting’, and whether they should interview him on-air.
 The programme was broadcast at 8.20am on The Edge on 29 March 2019. As part of our consideration of this complaint, we have listened to a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Rachel Harrison complained that:
- Over a ten-minute span the show included several comments of a sexual nature.
- These comments, particularly those regarding bestiality, were ‘disgusting’ and likely to undermine widely shared norms of good taste and decency.
- The topics were inappropriate for the time of day as children were likely to be listening before school.
- The topics were not decent and did not add value.
- Broadcasters who have a voice should use it for good.
- If such stories need to be told, they should at least wait until children are at school.
 She also advised that she had heard the broadcast in a shop (on the route to two schools) which was playing the radio.
The broadcaster’s response
 MediaWorks submitted the broadcast did not breach broadcasting standards for the following reasons:
- The segment was within audience expectations of Dom, Meg & Randell and was unlikely to have caused widespread undue offence or distress to its target audience.
- Provocative and edgy content is a hallmark of the show (its tagline is ‘nothing’s off limits’).
- It is expected that parents will take that into account when making a listening decision on behalf of their children.
- While the complainant heard the broadcast in a public place, this was a decision by the shop owner over which MediaWorks has no control.
 The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from listening to broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.1 The context in which the content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast are relevant to assessing whether the broadcast has breached the standard. Audience expectations are crucial. Audiences who know what they are getting can usually avoid this material or supervise their children’s exposure to it.2
 The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. The purpose of this standard is to enable audiences to protect children from material that unduly disturbs them, is harmful, or is likely to impair their physical, mental or social development.3
 In New Zealand we value the right to freedom of expression. Accordingly, when we consider a complaint that a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, we weigh the value of the programme, and the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast.
 In this instance, the potential harm is that the broadcast could offend or distress those listening, particularly children.
Good Taste and Decency
 The complainant submitted that the broadcast was indecent and, at times, disgusting. The comments identified by the complainant as likely to undermine widely shared norms of good taste and decency included sexual references and references to acts of bestiality.
 While we acknowledge that some may find the segment complained about at times distasteful, the right to freedom of expression includes the right to broadcast material of this nature, provided this does not cause undue harm. The purpose of this standard is to maintain current norms of good taste and decency, consistent with the context of the programme.
 Therefore, context is highly relevant to our assessment of whether the broadcast undermined widely-shared community standards.4 In our consideration of this complaint we found the following contextual factors to be relevant:
- The Edge has an adult target audience.
- There is an established audience expectation that The Edge will broadcast edgy and challenging material.5
- The hosts and producers of this programme are known for their particular brand of humour.
- The segment complained about was a summary of clips from the show from the previous week, and reflected the general tone and nature of the show.
- The clips complained about, particularly the clips containing sexual references, were brief and interspersed with other innocuous clips.
 Taking into account the above contextual factors, particularly audience expectations of The Edge and the Dom, Meg and Randell show, we do not consider that the programme undermined current norms of good taste and decency to the level necessary to justify regulatory intervention.
 We therefore do not uphold this complaint under the good taste and decency standard.
 Material likely to be considered under this standard includes (among others) material in which animals are humiliated or badly treated and sexual material or themes which are outside audience expectations of the station or programme.6 This interview was broadcast at 8.20am before school and during term time, when children might be listening.7 However, protecting children is a shared responsibility between parents and broadcasters. Given The Edge is clearly targeted at an adult audience, and audience expectations of The Edge (and particularly of the hosts and producers of this show) are well established, we consider caregivers had sufficient information available to them to make a decision about whether this broadcast was appropriate for children in their care.
 The standards do not prohibit inexplicit sexual references or sexual innuendo during children’s normally accepted listening times.8 We consider that the terms used in the broadcast (‘penis’, ‘sex’, ‘privates’) were not vulgar. Children listening may have found the comments silly, or they may have not understood, prompting curiosity. We do not consider that these comments would unduly disturb children or cause harm of the kind envisaged by the standard.
 We acknowledge that the hosts’ discussion about ‘the Florida man’, however, contained more explicit sexual references and references to bestiality (for example, when one of the hosts asked ‘where was he having sex with the dolphin?’, another replied ‘the blowhole I guess? No, the aquarium!’). As we have acknowledged above, some listeners may have found this discussion distasteful, and it pushed the boundaries of what may be acceptable during children’s usual listening times. However, in the context of the segment as a whole, taking into account the contextual factors listed in paragraph  above, particularly the programme’s target audience and audience expectations, we do not consider that the threshold justifying regulatory intervention has been reached.
 We note that the complainant heard the broadcast in a public place, meaning she was not able to control her listening decision. We acknowledge this concern, and agree that children may inadvertently hear radio broadcasts in shops that may be inappropriate for them. However, that outcome is caused by a decision of the shopkeeper rather than the broadcaster’s breach of broadcasting standards. We recognise that it is not possible or practicable for broadcasters to shield children from all potentially unsuitable content.9
 While children may have been curious about the comments made, taking into account the contextual factors listed above, we do not consider children were likely to be adversely affected by this broadcast to a level requiring our intervention.
 In reaching this decision, we acknowledge the evolving challenges facing parents and caregivers when managing the ever-increasing content to which children are exposed. Broadcasting standards are based on the premise that audiences have the right to make a choice about what they and their children listen to. Where broadcasters clearly signal the nature of their content, enabling audiences to choose not to listen, their obligations will often be discharged. For stations that offer edgy content, it is all the more important for audiences to be discerning in their listening choices, particularly when children may be listening.
 We therefore do not uphold the complaint under the children’s interests standard.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
18 July 2019
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
- Rachel Harrison’s formal complaint – 29 March 2019
- MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 26 April 2019
- Ms Harrison’s referral to the Authority – 1 May 2019
- MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 21 May 2019
1 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, as above
3 Commentary: Children’s Interests, as above, page 13
4 Guideline 1a
5 Anderson and MediaWorks Radio, Decision No 2017-094 at 
6 Guideline 3b
7 Guideline 3a
8 Ahern and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2014-063, at  and Hastie and the Radio Network Ltd, Decision No. 2013-060 at 
9 Commentary: Children’s Interests, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 13