WX and NZME Radio Ltd - 2020-174 (29 June 2021)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
ProgrammeFletch, Vaughan and Megan
BroadcasterNew Zealand Media and Entertainment
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard about a broadcast in which two co-hosts made fun of the third for giving his pet pig a name shared by ‘one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party’, and the three of them joked about distinguishing names associated with Hitler and the Nazis by spelling them differently. The Authority noted the comments may be considered distasteful, in that they trivialised the notoriety of Hitler and the Nazis, but found they did not meet the high threshold required to find a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
 During Fletch, Vaughan and Megan, broadcast on ZM on 17 November 2020, Fletch and Megan made fun of co-host Vaughan for giving his pet pig the name Herman, because it was also the name of a significant figure in the Nazi Party, and the three of them joked about distinguishing names associated with Hitler and the Nazis by spelling them differently:
Vaughan: Got back from the weekend away with the lovely wife for the 10th wedding anniversary, and we picked up the two new additions to the Smith household, Herman and Hamlet, our little Kunekune piggies.
Fletch: Who was that real bad German Nazi?
Vaughan: What we’ve decided to do with our farm animals is not name them after Nazi war criminals.
Fletch: I was like, ‘Oh my God what have you done?’
Vaughan: I’m sure there’s been a couple of Hermans that have been less than satisfactory humans…
Megan: Don’t google it.
Fletch: Hermann Goering?
Vaughan: …Well he’s not named after Hermann Goering.
Fletch: He was one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party!
Vaughan: No! My pig’s not a Nazi!
Fletch: Well now you’ve got a Nazi pig…[inaudible]…
Vaughan: I’m going to have to watch that one… Bloody can’t have my pig joining the extremists.
Fletch: Now how have you spelt it, because he had two ‘n’s?
Vaughan: Oh phew, just one… He’s not a Nazi pig, great.
Megan: Yeah, as long as you name your kid ‘Adolph’ with a ph at the end it’s ok…
Vaughan: I don’t want anyone to think I’m having another child and possibly even thinking of calling it ‘Adolph’.
Megan: Well neither am I, for the record.
Vaughan: Were you? Was that on your name list and you’re going through and you’re like, that one just doesn’t stick right for some reason?
 WX complained the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard, expressing concern about the broadcast’s contribution to anti-Semitism. She submitted Hitler should never be joked about.
The broadcaster’s response
 NZME did not uphold WX’s complaint:
- ‘The hosts were clearly trying to distance the name of Vaughan’s pig from Nazi Hermann Goering. Vaughan was trying to make it very clear there was no linkage whatsoever to this person in naming his pig.’
- ‘While the host’s tones were light-hearted, which some listeners might find distasteful given the subject, the overall takeaway from the section of programming was that all hosts rejected any sort of association with Nazis.’
- ‘We do not consider the hosts handled the [discussion] in a malicious or nasty way, nor do we think that the conversation in any way discriminated or denigrated against any of the groups who were persecuted by the Nazis.’
 The discrimination and denigration standard1 states that 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. ‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment.2 ‘Denigration’ is defined as devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community.3
 We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 We have also considered the important right to freedom of expression, which is our starting point. This includes the broadcaster’s right to offer a range of content and the audience’s right to receive it. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the broadcast has caused actual or potential harm at a level that outweighs the right to freedom of expression. For the reasons below, we have not found such harm in this case.
 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 the standard.4 This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is legitimate humour, drama or satire.5
 The standard applies only to recognised ‘sections of the community’, which is consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993.6 The Jewish community is a relevant ‘section of the community’ for the purposes of the standard.
 As acknowledged by the broadcaster, the comments in this broadcast may be considered distasteful, in that they trivialised the notoriety of Hitler and the Nazis. However, applying the relevant factors we concluded, on balance, they did not breach the standard. In particular:
- The forum in which the comments were made was a radio programme known for its irreverent humour.
- The premise of the humour was that it is not good to be associated with Hitler or the Nazis.
 Taken together, these factors mean the broadcast did not reach the high threshold for finding harm at a level that justifies restricting freedom of expression.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
29 June 2021
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 WX’s formal complaint – 18 November 2020
2 NZME’s response to the complaint – 11 December 2020
3 WX’s referral to the Authority – 14 December 2021
4 NZME’s confirmation of no further comments – 8 January 2021
1 Standard 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Guideline 6a
3 As above
4 Guideline 6b
5 Guideline 6c
6 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 16