Harvey and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2019-008 (7 May 2019 )
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Paula Rose QSO
- Wendy Palmer
- Susie Staley MNZM
ProgrammeThe AM Show
BroadcasterMediaWorks TV Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that comments made by Duncan Garner on The AM Show regarding Don Brash’s visit to Te Tii Marae as a part of Waitangi Day celebrations breached broadcasting standards. During the broadcast, Mr Garner made comments about Dr Brash’s potential reception at Te Tii Marae including: ‘good luck Don, nice knowing you and yeah I think you need security’, ‘hope you return in one piece’ and ‘Rest in Peace’. The Authority found Mr Garner’s comments were unlikely to undermine widely shared community standards and did not amount to unduly disturbing violent content, considering the context of the broadcast and the flippant nature of the comments. The Authority also found the balance and fairness standards were not breached.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence, Balance, Fairness
 During a segment on The AM Show, Duncan Garner interviewed Don Brash about his impending visit to Te Tii Marae for Waitangi Day. Mr Brash discussed his invitation to attend Te Tii Marae and speak on economic challenges facing Ngāpuhi and what they should be doing with poverty in the North. Mr Garner asked Dr Brash whether he had any concerns about his safety, in light of previous incidents between politicians and protestors at Te Tii Marae.
 Throughout the broadcast Mr Garner made comments about Dr Brash’s potential reception at Te Tii Marae including ‘good luck Don, nice knowing you and yeah I think you need security’, ‘hope you return in one piece’ and ‘Rest in Peace’.
 The episode was broadcast on Three on 4 February 2019.
 Jacquelyn Harvey complained that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, violence, balance and fairness standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, for the following reasons:
- Mr Garner repeatedly said Dr Brash was not going to come away from talking at the Waitangi celebrations ‘in one piece.’
- Mr Garner repeated himself throughout the broadcast, often by referring to violence against Dr Brash by Māori, his final words to Dr Brash were ‘Rest in Peace.’
- Mr Garner was inciting violence and hatred through his comments.
The broadcaster’s response
 MediaWorks responded:
- Duncan Garner’s comments to Dr Brash about his potential reception at Waitangi were clearly tongue-in-cheek.
- The tone of the interview was mutually respectful and it was apparent that Dr Brash took the remarks in good humour.
 The good taste and decency standard states that current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast.
 The violence standard states that broadcasters should exercise care and discretion when dealing with the issue of violence.
 The balance standard states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
 The fairness standard states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. The purpose of this standard is to protect the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes.1
 In New Zealand we value the right to freedom of expression. However, when considering a complaint the Authority is particularly concerned with whether a broadcast has caused harm, and whether the broadcaster has appropriately balanced the right to freedom of expression with the obligation to avoid harm. Accordingly, when we consider a complaint that a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, we weigh the value of the programme and the importance of the expression against the level of actual or potential harm that may be caused by the broadcast.
Good Taste and Decency
 The purpose of the good taste and decency standard 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.2
 On this occasion we find Mr Garner’s comments did not reach a level that requires the Authority’s intervention, for the following reasons.
 Context will always be relevant when determining a complaint under this standard.3 We consider the following contextual factors to be relevant in our assessment of Mr Garner’s comments:
- Audiences expect that The AM Show will often contain edgy and controversial material.
- The AM Show is an unclassified news and current affairs show and has an adult target audience.
- Mr Garner is renowned for making controversial and provocative statements.
- Dr Brash is known for making controversial statements about te reo and te ao Māori.4
- There is a history of incidents between politicians and protestors at Te Tii Marae.
 We understand some may find Mr Garner’s implication that Dr Brash might be treated harshly at Te Tii Marae offensive or disrespectful. However, Mr Garner’s remarks were made in the context of Dr Brash’s previous controversial public comments about te reo Māori, his position as spokesperson for Hobson’s Pledge and previous incidents between politicians (including Dr Brash) and protestors at Te Tii Marae. The comments complained about were flippant in nature. Within this context we find Mr Garner’s comments did not go beyond audience expectations for The AM Show and were unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.
 Therefore we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.
 The purpose of the violence standard is to protect audiences from ‘unduly disturbing violent content.’5 Context is important when determining whether a broadcast amounted to unduly disturbing violent content.6 In addition to the contextual factors listed above at paragraph , we note the following:
- Mr Garner’s comments were not explicit or graphic. There was no description of the imagined violence.
- There were no accompanying graphic or violent images or footage.
 Upon consideration of the contextual factors (including Mr Garner’s flippant tone, audience expectations of Mr Garner and The AM Show and the lack of explicit or graphic language), we find Mr Garner’s comments did not breach the violence standard.
 Therefore we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.
 When we consider a balance complaint, the first question is whether the broadcast included a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance in a news, current affairs or factual programme.7 The issue must be controversial and it must be discussed.
 In this case we do not consider that a controversial issue of public importance was raised and therefore we do not consider that the balance standard applies. An issue of public importance is something that would have a significant potential impact on, or be of concern to, members of the New Zealand public.8 A controversial issue will be one which has topical currency and excites conflicting opinion or about which there has been ongoing public debate.9
 It is not entirely clear from the complainant’s submissions what she considers to be the controversial issue of public importance that was discussed in this broadcast. However, her complaint suggests she was concerned that the issue of whether Dr Brash would be safe at Te Tii Marae was not balanced by the views of the invitees, who may have provided assurance that he would be safe. Accordingly, we have approached the balance complaint on that basis.
 We do not consider the issue of Dr Brash’s safety at Te Tii Marae to be a controversial issue of public importance. It was not the safety of Dr Brash that sparked public debate when Dr Brash was invited to Te Tii Marae. Rather, it was the invitation itself, whether it was appropriate, the intent behind it and what Dr Brash would speak about (given the controversial positions Dr Brash has taken on matters of te ao and te reo Māori).
 Dr Brash’s safety was raised flippantly by Mr Garner during the broadcast, while the discussion between Mr Garner and Dr Brash focussed on the wider issues of the invitation to speak and what Dr Brash planned to speak about. Additionally we note that Dr Brash himself insisted he would be safe during his visit. When Mr Garner asked Dr Brash if he was concerned for his safety Dr Brash said ‘no’ and noted ‘we don’t do political assassination in New Zealand.’
 Having determined that the complaint did not address a controversial issue of public importance, the balance standard does not apply.
 Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.
 This standard only applies to individuals or organisations taking part or referred to in a broadcast. Ms Harvey has not identified any person or organisation as being the subject of any unfairness arising from the broadcast.
 Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint under the fairness standard.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
7 May 2019
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Jacquelyn Harvey’s formal complaint – 4 February 2019
2 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 4 March 2019
3 Ms Harvey’s referral to the Authority – 4 March 2019
4 MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 25 March 2019
1 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Guideline 1a
4 See for example: Don Brash's scathing statement on Te Reo usage (Newshub, 29 November 2017)
5 Commentary: Violence, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 14
6 Guideline 4a
7 Guideline 8a
8 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
9 As above