BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Singh and NZME Radio Ltd - 2020-089 (16 December 2020)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Shiman Singh
Number
2020-089
Channel/Station
Newstalk ZB # 2

Summary

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an interview on talkback radio show, Kerre McIvor Mornings, in which host Kerre McIvor criticised a caller for his position on the Government’s COVID-19 response saying ‘For God’s sake, listen to you’, and ‘God you’re pathetic’. The Authority found Ms McIvor’s comments and approach were unlikely to undermine widely shared community standards or to have caused widespread undue offence or distress.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


The broadcast

[1]  During an interview on talkback radio show, Kerre McIvor Mornings, on 2 July 2020 at 11:28am on Newstalk ZB, host Kerre McIvor criticised a caller for his position on the Government’s COVID-19 response as follows:

Caller:                          Well, I think we wait for a vaccine and we just continue to support our citizens.

Ms McIvor:                  How? With what money? We’ve lost 30% of our income. Where is that going to come from?

Caller:                        I just think we need to come up with some new ideas.

Ms McIvor:                  Oh, for God’s sake! Listen to you!

Caller:                        Listen to me?

Ms McIvor:                  Let’s come up with some new ideas – like what, exactly? You think we’re in a brilliant position? Let’s just support our citizens.

Caller:                         I’ve lost my job because of this COVID, so it’s not like it hasn’t affected me. It had a

significant –

Ms McIvor:                  It’s affected everybody, yeah.

Caller:                        Yes, but the economy, shouldn’t it work for us, not the other way around?

Ms McIvor:                  It is at the moment, but how are we going to replace the money that has been vomited out of the taxpayers’ coffers?

Caller:                        Just print some more.

Ms McIvor:                  God you’re pathetic.

[2]  As part of our consideration of this complaint, we have listened to a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[3]  Mr Singh complained the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard because:

  • Ms McIvor was personally vindictive and called an individual pathetic.
  • Ms McIvor pushed her personal agenda.
  • ‘Everyone has a right to their opinion as long as it is given respectfully and the receiver has to also reciprocate in the same way.’
  • People are very vulnerable at this time, including the caller who had just lost his job, and calling him pathetic could be the statement that pushed him over the edge.

The broadcaster’s response

[4]  NZME Radio Ltd (NZME) did not uphold Mr Singh’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • Newstalk ZB is an adult targeted radio station for 30-64 year olds.
  • Ms McIvor is a talk host known for her frank and forthright discussion of all manner of topics and regular listeners would be aware of this.
  • Talkback hosts generally are known for making provocative statements to stimulate robust debate.
  • Robust, challenging statements and opinions are to be expected and tolerated.
  • The host was forthright but not rude.
  • The host’s comments were unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.

The standard

[5]  The good taste and decency standard states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast. Its purpose 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.1

Our decision

[6]  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 have been caused, with reference to the objectives of the standards described above. We may only uphold a complaint where the corresponding limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.

[7]  Talkback radio fills an important place in our liberal democratic society. We have previously found the robust nature of talkback radio means the threshold for finding a breach in this context is high.2 Ms McIvor’s comments and approach did not meet the high threshold of harm justifying intervention or restriction of the right to freedom of expression.

Good taste and decency

[8]  The complainant’s main concern appears to be that Ms McIvor’s criticism of the caller was personally directed, and this may have had an adverse effect on the caller, particularly as he had just lost his job. The good taste and decency standard is typically considered in relation to offensive language, sexual material, nudity and violence, but may also be considered in relation to other content presented in a way likely to cause widespread offence or distress.3

[9]  Context is crucial to assessing whether the good taste and decency standard has been breached. This includes the context in which the material complained about was presented, and the wider context of the broadcast.4

[10]  We understand some listeners may not have liked Ms McIvor’s comments or approach, or agreed with her position. However, in its context, this broadcast would not have caused widespread undue offence or distress. Relevant contextual factors supporting this view are:

  • The broadcast was a talkback radio show, an environment where robust statements are to be expected in the interests of generating debate.
  • Ms McIvor is renowned for her upfront and plainspoken views.
  • The caller engaged positively in the debate with Ms McIvor over a period of time.
  • The caller was given ample opportunity to explain his position and respond to Ms McIvor’s criticism of that position.

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

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

 

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

16 December 2020 

 


Appendix

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

1  Shiman Singh’s formal complaint – 2 July 2020

2  NZME’s response to the complaint – 3 August 2020

3  Mr Singh’s referral to the Authority – 3 August 2020

4  NZME’s response to the referral – 18 August 2020

5  Mr Singh’s final comments – 9, 16 September 2020

6  NZME’s final comments – 16 September 2020


1 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
2 Day & Moss and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2018-090 at [22]
3 As above
4 Guideline 1a