BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Pascoe and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2020-085 (9 December 2020)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Grant Pascoe
Number
2020-085
Programme
Newshub Nation
Broadcaster
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment of Newshub Nation which discussed the National Party’s top Members of Parliament (MPs) under then leader Todd Muller. In the segment, reporter Tova O’Brien asked ‘Why is it that all of these women do the mahi and then this dude gets the treat?’ The question referred to Mr Muller being rewarded as leader over his top three female MPs, Hon Nikki Kaye, Hon Amy Adams and Hon Judith Collins. The complaint was that reference to Mr Muller as ‘that dude’ was in bad taste, unbalanced, unfair and sexist. The Authority found the comment was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress as contemplated under the good taste and decency standard. The fairness standard was not breached as the comment would not have left the audience with an unduly negative impression of Mr Muller. The balance standard was not breached as Ms Kaye’s response to the comment was presented.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Balance


The broadcast

[1]  On 6 June 2020, a segment on Newshub Nation discussed the National Party’s top Members of Parliament (MPs) under then leader Todd Muller, and included the following exchange, in reference to Mr Muller being rewarded as leader over his top three female MPs, Hon Nikki Kaye, Hon Amy Adams and Hon Judith Collins:

Tova O’Brien:              Why is it that all of these women do the mahi and then this dude gets the treat? Why isn’t it that one of you three is the leader?

Nikki Kaye:                  Well I think there’s a couple of things. The first thing is Todd is extraordinary. He’s got a huge amount of business experience. But he’s also got a lot of political experience…

The complaint

[2]  Grant Pascoe complained that Ms O’Brien’s reference to Mr Muller breached the good taste and decency, fairness and balance standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice as ‘that dude’ was, ‘at best, in bad taste, unbalanced and unfair’ and ‘[a]t worst…sexist’.

[3]  Mr Pascoe also raised the discrimination and denigration standard in his referral to us, but not his original complaint. Pursuant to section 8(1B) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, we are only able to consider standards raised in the original complaint. The High Court has clarified that in certain circumstances:1

…it is permissible [for the Authority] to fill gaps… or cross boundaries between Code standards…but only if these things can be done within the wording, reasonably interpreted, of the original complaint, and if a proper consideration of the complaint makes that approach reasonably necessary…

[4]  A proper consideration of Mr Pascoe’s complaint does not require us to refer to the discrimination and denigration standard so we have not addressed it.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  MediaWorks did not uphold Mr Pascoe’s complaint on the following grounds:

  • Calling Mr Muller ‘that dude’ amongst a line-up of female MPs was acceptable, in the context of a question focused on gender representation.
  • The comment comprised the vernacular of the presenter and was intended to draw attention to the fact that amongst a line-up of experienced female MPs, the less experienced male MP got the top job.

The relevant standard

[6]  We consider the good taste and decency standard is the most relevant to the complainant’s concerns about the broadcast, so we have focused our determination on that standard. It states broadcasters should maintain current norms of good taste and decency, consistent with the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast. The purpose of the standard is to protect audience members from viewing or listening to broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.2

[7]  We have briefly addressed the remaining standards at paragraph [13] below.

Our decision

[8]  In considering this complaint, the members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about, and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[9]  We have also considered the important right to freedom of expression, including the broadcaster’s right to impart ideas and information and the public’s right to receive that information. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the broadcast caused actual or potential harm such that limiting the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.

Good taste and decency

[10]  The context in which content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast are relevant to assessing whether this standard has been breached.3

[11]  We find the broadcast did not cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards, taking into account the following contextual factors:4

  • Newshub Nation is a current affairs programme aimed at an adult audience.
  • The nature of Newshub Nation is political and argumentative in its presentation of robust debate.
  • Audiences would expect a robust and critical line of questioning from Ms O’Brien as a political reporter.
  • There was a high level of public interest in the broadcast, concerning a new National Party leadership team and matters of representation amongst MPs.

[12]  Therefore, we do not uphold the complaint under the good taste and decency standard.

Remaining standards

[13]  The remaining standards raised in the complaint have not been breached, for the following reasons:

  • The purpose of the fairness standard is to protect the dignity and reputation of programme participants or those referred to in a broadcast.5 The threshold for breach of this standard is higher for those familiar with dealing with the media.6 The reference to Mr Muller as ‘that dude’ would not have left the audience with an unduly negative impression of Mr Muller.
  •  The balance standard is designed to ensure significant alternative views are presented and viewers can reach informed opinions about ‘controversial issues of public importance’.7 Mr Muller’s eligibility for leadership was potentially such an issue at the time of broadcast, but the programme included Ms Kaye’s response to Ms O’Brien’s question and presented significant views as required under this standard.

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

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

9 December 2020   

 

 
Appendix

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

1  Grant Pascoe’s formal complaint – 23 June 2020

2  MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 16 July 2020

3  Mr Pascoe’s referral to the Authority – 27 July 2020

4  MediaWorks’ response to the referral – 29 July 2020


1 See Attorney General of Samoa v TVWorks Limited, CIV-2011-485-1110 at [62]
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Guideline 1a
4 Guideline 6d
5 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
6 Hagger and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2020-032 at [7]
7 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18