BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Kirke and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-020 (29 June 2021)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Michael Kirke
Number
2021-020
Programme
The AM Show
Broadcaster
Discovery NZ Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a remark ‘there will probably be some racists tuning in’ in reference to the English greeting following ‘kia ora koutou katoa’ during a comedy skit shown on The AM Show. The complainant alleged this was ‘racist’ and the broadcaster should apologise to ‘all English-speaking people’. The Authority found ‘English-speaking people’ are not a section of society to whom the standard applies. In any event, the comment was not directed specifically at English speakers, it was satirical and it would not have met the threshold required for a breach of the standard.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


The broadcast

[1]  During an episode of The AM Show, broadcast on 18 February 2021 on Three, a reporter rounded up ‘the best of the Internet’ during a Level 3 lockdown in Auckland. He played an excerpt of a comedy skit originally featured on the Spinoff, ‘Stage managing the Covid-19 media update’ by Janaye Henry.

[2]  The skit cut between clips from the press conference and clips of Ms Henry acting as ‘stage manager’, directing the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

Ms Henry         Start with the ‘kia ora koutou katoa’.

Ms Ardern       Kia ora koutou katoa.

Ms Henry         Yeah and then say ‘good afternoon everybody’, there will probably be some racists tuning in.

Ms Ardern:      Good afternoon everybody.

The complaint and the broadcaster’s response

[3]  Michael Kirke complained the comment ‘there will probably be some racists tuning in’ was in breach of the discrimination and denigration standard. He argued it was ‘racist’ and the broadcaster ‘should apologise to all English-speaking people’.

[4]  Discovery NZ Ltd did not uphold Mr Kirke’s complaint as ‘Ms. Henry's skit was readily identifiable as satire and intended to be comedic. It did not contain the required level of malice, nor was it a sustained attack on a particular group.’

The standard

[5]  The discrimination and denigration standard1 states broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, 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. It protects sections of the community from verbal and other attacks, and fosters a community commitment to equality.2

[6]  ‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group, to their detriment. Denigration is defined as devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community.3 The importance of freedom of expression means that 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 this standard.4

Our analysis

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

[8]  The right to freedom of expression is an important right in a democracy and it is important that we weigh the right to freedom of expression against the harm that may have potentially been caused by the broadcast. Comedy and satire are important and valuable forms of expression. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.

[9]  The discrimination and denigration standard applies only to the recognised sections of the community set out in the standard and in the Broadcasting Act 1989.5 English-speakers are not one of the recognised sections of the community. Accordingly, the discrimination and denigration standard does not apply.

[10]  In any event, Ms Henry’s comment ‘there will probably be some racists tuning in’ was not directed at English-speakers specifically, nor would it have met the threshold required for a breach of the standard. It was a satirical comment directed at those who may have an adverse reaction to the use of te reo Māori greetings (who are also not a recognised section of the community for the purposes of the standard).

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

  

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

29 June 2021    

 


Appendix

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

1  Michael Kirke’s complaint to Discovery – 18 February 2021

2  Discovery’s decision – 4 March 2021

3  Mr Kirke’s referral to the BSA – 5 March 2021

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comments – 10 March 2021


1 Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 16
3 Guideline 6a
4 Guideline 6b
5 Section 21(1)(e)(iv)