BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Martin and Mediaworks Television Ltd - 2020-002 (29 June 2020)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Dawn Martin
Number
2020-002
Programme
The AM Show
Broadcaster
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary

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

The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mark Richardson’s response to a gift from a guest on The AM Show breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. Noting contextual factors, including audience expectations of the programme and of Mr Richardson, the Authority did not consider that Mr Richardson’s comments were likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, undermine widely shared community standards or adversely affect children. The Authority also did not uphold a complaint that a discussion about beer brands breached the alcohol standard. While the Authority found that the positive comments regarding Peroni could be regarded as promotion of the Peroni brand, the Authority considered that any promotion of alcohol was socially responsible in the context.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Alcohol


The broadcast

[1]  On an episode of The AM Show, a guest, Hamish McKay, brought Christmas gifts for the hosts of the show. Mark Richardson commented on his gift by saying:

But, like, it is very generous but if they are not wrapped they’re not really Christmas presents are they?

[2]  The following exchange occurred between the parties:

Mr McKay: I didn’t have time to and I wanted to see you guys…

Amanda Gillies (to Mr Richardson): You’re so ungrateful.

Mr Richardson: Well apart from the fact that I consider cuff-links to be bling and as a real man I don’t wear bling.

Ms Gillies: He’s so ungrateful isn’t he?

Mr McKay: No, no he’s alright, I know, I have been listening to his mood this morning… I decided that I had to push through with this.

Ms Gillies: You brought gifts and it still hasn’t put a smile on his face.

[3]  Later in the conversation, Mr Richardson made the following comment:

It’s rare I do ads on this show ‘cause I’m not really allowed to but I just want to come out in support of that Peroni as a beer actually, if you’re looking for a lager with a little bit of taste to it - I do not know how Heineken has been able to corner the market. That is a horrible, horrible drink. I’ve been asking our producer – slash – pseudo boss to turn up on Fridays, because our Friday drinks are at 9.00 o’clock in the morning, aren’t they…to start getting Peroni. Has he listened to me, no. He continues supplying this absolute rubbish and, because of that, I am refusing to come to the meeting today unless there is a Peroni waiting for me, on my desk, at 9.00am.

Ms Gillies: But no one drives after we’ve drunk those Peronis at 9.00am…

Mr Garner: And get a dozen, a six pack…

[4]  The item was broadcast on 6 December 2019 on Three. In considering this complaint the members of the Authority have watched a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[5]  Ms Martin complained that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests and alcohol standards of the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1

Good Taste and Decency and Children’s Interests

[6]  Ms Martin was of the view that Mr Richardson’s attitude and response toward the gift showed a lack of graciousness. Ms Martin added that ‘we try to teach our children that a gift is given to you with thought’ and Mr Richardson’s response was rude and ‘not a good example for children’.

Alcohol

[7]  Ms Martin also complained that Mr Richardson’s comments ‘about how great Corona is over Heinekens’, breached the alcohol standard.

[8]  While it is not material to our findings, we note that while Ms Martin has referenced a discussion about ‘Corona’ beer, the broadcast actually compares Peroni and Heineken beers.

The Broadcaster’s response

[9]  MediaWorks did not uphold Ms Martin’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • Mr Richardson’s comment about the unwrapped gift was intended to be humourous.
  • The comments about beer were facetious references to the refreshments provided at The AM Show’s Friday drinks and were not part of a sponsorship agreement.

The relevant standards

[10]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2

[11]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. Material likely to be considered under this standard includes violent content or themes, offensive language, social or domestic friction and dangerous, antisocial or illegal behaviour where such material is outside the expectations of the programme’s classification.3

[12]  The alcohol standard (Standard 7) requires broadcasters to observe restrictions on the promotion of alcohol appropriate to the programme genre. The purpose of this standard is to prevent broadcasts which promote alcohol in a socially irresponsible way in the context of the programme.4

Our findings

[13]  The right to freedom of expression, including the broadcaster’s right to impart ideas and information and the public’s right to receive that information, is the starting point in our consideration of complaints. Our task is to weigh the value of and public interest in the broadcast complained about, against the level of actual or potential harm that may be caused by the broadcast, with reference to the objectives of the standards described above. We may only interfere and uphold complaints where the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.

Good Taste and Decency and Children’s Interests

[14]  Ms Martin’s complaint raises similar issues under the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. As the same contextual factors and other considerations are relevant to our assessment of each of these two standards, we have addressed them together.

[15]  The context in which a statement occurs and the wider context of the broadcast are important considerations relevant to assessing whether a programme has breached both the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards.5

[16]  In this case, we consider the following contextual factors of most relevance to our decision:

  • The AM Show is an unclassified news and current affairs programme.
  • The AM Show is targeted at an adult audience and it is expected that child viewers would likely be supervised.
  • There are established audience expectations of the programme format and the hosts, including that it will feature a level of banter, informal commentary and joking.[6]
  • Mr Richardson is a host of the show and viewers are familiar with his style, manner and type of humour.
  • The tone of Mr Richardson’s comments is humourous.
  • Following Mr Richardson’s comments, another host, Ms Gillies, twice pointed out that Mr Richardson’s response to the gift was ‘ungrateful’.

[17]  Taking these contextual factors into account, in particular audience expectations of The AM Show and of Mr Richardson and the fact that his co-host challenged his ‘ungrateful’ behaviour (making it clear that it was not generally acceptable), we do not consider that Mr Richardson’s comments were likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, undermine widely shared community standards or adversely affect children. Therefore, we do not consider that any potential harm arising from this broadcast reached the high threshold necessary to warrant limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

[18]  For these reasons, we do not uphold the complaint under the good taste and decency or children’s interests standards.

Alcohol

[19]  We apply a two stage test when determining whether the alcohol standard has been breached:7

  • Did the broadcast amount to alcohol promotion?
  • If so, was that alcohol promotion socially responsible?

[20]  For the purposes of this test, ‘alcohol promotion’ may be in the form of one or more of the following:8

  • promotion of an alcohol product, brand or outlet
  • alcohol sponsorship of a programme
  • advocacy of alcohol consumption.

[21]  The broadcaster has indicated that the comments about the beer brands were not made as part of a sponsorship arrangement.9 We do not consider the mere discussion of beer brands and mention of getting ‘a six pack’ constitutes the ‘advocacy of alcohol consumption’. However, we find that the positive comments regarding Peroni (including in comparison to another brand) can be regarded as ‘promotion’ of the Peroni brand within the meaning of the definition above.

[22]  We now turn to the second limb of the test, ie whether the promotion was socially responsible. In addition to the contextual factors above, the following factors are relevant to our assessment under this limb of the test:

  • The broadcast addresses alcohol consumption by adults only (ie MediaWorks staff at their ‘Friday drinks’).10
  • As noted above, the programme itself is not targeted at children.11
  • The segment discussing the two beer brands was brief and did not dominate the programme.12
  • While the reference to getting a ‘dozen’ or a ‘six pack’ may be seen as encouraging more than one drink, in the context under discussion (a gathering of adults) the statement is reasonably interpreted as a recommendation that a ‘dozen’ or ‘a six pack’ be made available to the group (not to one individual).
  • Responsible drinking is also promoted through Ms Gillies’ comments that no driving occurs after the drinking.

[23]  Taking the above factors into account, we find that any promotion of alcohol within the programme was socially responsible and appropriate to the programme genre.

[24]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under the alcohol standard.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair
29 June 2020

 

Appendix

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

1                 Dawn Martin’s complaint to MediaWorks – 6 December 2019

2                 MediaWorks’ response to Ms Martin – 14 January 2019

3                 Ms Martin’s referral to the BSA – 15 January 2020

4                 MediaWorks’ email confirming no further response – 8 April 2020


1 The Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice was refreshed with effect from 1 May 2020. This complaint has been determined under the April 2016 version of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice as the relevant broadcast pre-dated the 1 May 2020 version.
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Guideline 3a
4 Commentary: Alcohol, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 16
5 Guidelines 1a and 3b
6 See Gale and Mediaworks TV Ltd, Decision no. 2019-106 at [18]
7 Commentary: Alcohol, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 16
8 Definitions: Alcohol Promotion, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 9
9 MediaWorks’ response to Ms Martin’s original complaint
10 Guideline 7a
11 Guideline 7b
12 Guideline 7c