Lawler and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2013-068
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Rosalie Lawler
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand Concert
Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]
A presenter on Radio New Zealand Concert introduced a piece of music, saying the composer was ‘considered to be a degenerate in Germany because of his Jewish origins’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the announcer’s comment was in bad taste and denigrated Jewish people. The comment was simply a factual statement giving context to the composer’s work, and was a reference to how he was viewed by the Nazis, not an expression of the presenter’s personal opinion.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
 On the morning of 6 September 2013, the presenter of Radio New Zealand Concert introduced a piece of music, as follows:
…and now we’ve a fantasy by a composer considered to be a degenerate in Germany because of his Jewish origins. He fled Germany and ended up in America where he primarily wrote for films… These two fantasies: the Carmen Fantasy and the Tristan and Isolde Fantasy were adapted for a film called Humoresque in 1946 about a virtuoso violinist of modest circumstances and his unhappy relationship.
 Rosalie Lawler made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd (RNZ), the broadcaster, saying the announcer’s comment the composer was a ‘degenerate’ was in bad taste and denigrated Jewish people.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards, as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Did the broadcast breach broadcasting standards?
 The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts that contain sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence,1 or to content likely to cause offence or distress.2 The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.
 Ms Lawler argued that the announcer’s comment was unacceptable and in bad taste, saying, ‘Surely the announcer is not there to gossip nor to pass judgement on the composer but to introduce the music’.
 RNZ described the comment as ‘entirely factual’ and as providing context to the composer’s work, saying, ‘The work of Jewish (and other) writers, artists and composers (including Waxman) in Germany under the regime of the National Socialists (1933–45) was officially dubbed Entartete Kunst – literally “Degenerate Art”.’ It considered Ms Lawler had misheard or misinterpreted the comment.
 We agree with the broadcaster. Introducing the music, the announcer said the composer ‘was considered to be a degenerate in Germany because of his Jewish origins’ [our emphasis], which was a reference to how he was viewed by the Nazis, not an expression of the presenter’s personal opinion. It was not necessary for the presenter to explicitly refer to the Nazis, as her use of the words ‘considered to be’ and her reference to the composer’s Jewish origins, made this clear. The comment did not denigrate Jewish people, but was simply a factual statement giving context to the composer’s work.
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
19 December 2013
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Rosalie Lawler’s formal complaint – 6 September 2013
2 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 26 September 2013
3 Ms Lawler’s referral to the Authority – 3 October 2013
4 Ms Lawler’s additional referral letter – 8 October 2013
5 RNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 November 2013
1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112
2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November, 2006)