Swearing, nudity, blasphemy and Clarke Gayford – these are just some of the things New Zealanders have been vehemently complaining about to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) over the past year.
Using the Lord’s name in vain is always a big no-no for many God-fearing New Zealanders. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) gets plenty of these types of complaints on a regular basis (one woman even wrote in to complain about the word ‘Fridgemas’ in a Pak n’ Save ad) and it turns out the BSA deals with its fair share of blasphemy-related flack as well.
Just this month, it announced it would not uphold a complaint about a Shortland Street promo’s use of the phrase “Oh, Jesus…”, which was accused as being “blasphemous, offensive and inappropriate” for broadcast, particularly in the early evening when children might be watching. It made a similar ruling on an earlier complaint about Seven Sharp’s decision to show the “Open your mouth…Jesus is cuming” road sign during a story about the road sign itself.
It also struck down a complaint about the use of the words “Jesus fucking Christ” in the crime thriller series Paula; the complainant argued that the use of Christ’s name and the “f-word” together wasn’t just blasphemy, but “obscene blasphemy”. She also said that she’d never heard the phrase used on telly before, which makes me think I’d hate to hear what she thought if she ever watched The Thick of It.
Mind you, there were plenty of complaints that weren’t even about real swearing, but just words that kind of-maybe-might be construed as swearing, even though they’re not. One complaint was about The Edge making rude-ish allusions to the names ‘Mark Hunt’ and ‘Mike Hunt’ (not upheld) while another was about Kim Hill’s use of the acronym ‘WTF’ (also not upheld).
The best complaint, of course, refers to Shortland Street’s infamous fucking/freaking incident from earlier in the year, an incident which was so hotly contested that even the entire Spinoff office was sharply divided on where they landed on the issue. Regardless of whether you side with “fruckin”, “ficken”, or “frickin”, one thing’s for sure – it’s certainly not “fucking”, with the BSA making the contentious choice not to uphold the complaint.
It should be noted that complaints do get made about actual swearing sometimes, like when the word “shit” was aired at 3:45 pm on RNZ National. The complaint, however, was not upheld considering the nature of the programme, with the BSA adding that only 11% of those surveyed considered the word ‘shit’ to be totally unacceptable in any broadcasting context, placing it at the lower end of the scale of offensiveness. Also, what sort of kid is going to be listening to a satirical audio series hosted by Ken Oath on a weekday afternoon?
Don Brash getting picked on
Despite having not been in political office since 2011, former ACT and National Party leader Don Brash has miraculously managed to stay somewhat relevant after all these years. A large part of that enduring sliver of relevance seems to be fuelled by the fact that media outlets can’t seem to stop putting his opinions on radio and TV.
The majority of complaints the BSA receives about Don Brash seem to take issue with the media’s approach to interviewing the former politician about te reo Māori, a subject which Brash has no particularly controversial opinions on at all. One complaint filed by Robin Grieve (not to be confused with Greive) complained that Kim Hill’s interview with Brash on RNZ painted him in “a poor light” that negatively impacted on his reputation. A second complaint about the same RNZ interview lodged by Christopher Cape complained that Kim Hill’s attitude and lack of “intelligent investigative questioning” left the public with a lack of information regarding the points Brash was attempting to raise (which was that the use of te reo on RNZ without translation was unacceptable to a large portion of the public and detrimental to the public good).
Cape later made another Don Brash-related complaint to the BSA, this time in reference to Brash’s appearance on The AM Show where his views on the use of te reo on RNZ were again discussed. Cape said the interview was biased and imbalanced, making note of Mark Richardson and Amanda Gillies’ folded arms, which was “defensive and uncomfortable” body language.
But in the end, all that huffing and puffing seems to have been in vain because the BSA refused to uphold all three complaints.
Surprise surprise, people still think it’s weird to be talking about weed in 2018, and who else but Hauraki breakfast hosts Jeremy Wells and Matt Heath to be at the forefront of complaints? The complainant took issue with the hosts’ discussion of marijuana in relation to a slate of National Party MPs publicly stating that they’d never tried it. The hosts then fielded calls from listeners who had also never tried marijuana to ask why.
However, Hauraki wasn’t the only radio station getting complaints about their on-air discussions about the green stuff: RadioLIVE talkback host Garry McAlpine received a complaint this year for broadcasting his dope-friendly views live on air.
Both complaints were not upheld by the BSA.
Climate change is a tricky subject, not because there’s any doubt over whether it exists (it does), but because there still seems to be people out there who think it’s a subject that’s up for debate (it isn’t). So far this year, the BSA has received at least four complaints about the way climate change has been discussed on screen, with all four failing to be upheld.
One complaint was about two 1 News segments on clean-up efforts on the West Coast following torrential rain and flooding back in January. The complainant argued that climate change wasn’t happening in New Zealand and that it was “mischievous” to claim that an extreme weather event like the one covered by 1 News was establishing a “new normal”. Another two complaints took issue with the fact that 1 News said sea levels in Fiji and Kiribati were rising. A fourth complainant said that while they didn’t deny the existence of climate change, they did think that it was inaccurate to claim that CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere and that therefore we shouldn’t need to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.
The complainant took issue with the way RNZ introduced Clarke Gayford as Jacinda Ardern’s ‘partner’, not Jacinda Ardern’s ‘publicist’, stating that the latter should come before the former. And before you say, “Gosh, what a stupid fucking thing to complain about”, you should know that the BSA didn’t actually fail to uphold the complaint, but that it thought the complaint was so trivial that it didn’t make a ruling on it at all.
The gender pay gap
In an interview on Breakfast between presenter Hilary Barry and Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter, the pair discussed the gender pay gap in New Zealand. But according to one complainant, the discussion was unbalanced as it failed to present “any view other than the dominant feminist view that there is a pay-gap problem and that it is explained by discrimination against women”.
According to them, TVNZ should have had an anti-feminist or men’s rights voice in the debate, because isn’t that what really what makes for balanced discussion? Just chucking in some ‘men’s rights’ to keep the whole thing proper and sane? Regardless, the BSA didn’t think it was necessary, ruling that the complaint would not be upheld.
Another complaint considered too trivial for the BSA to rule on was around 1 News’ coverage of a trial involving DNA found on a crucial piece of evidence, with the reporter stating that DNA was “800,000 million times more likely to have come from [the suspect] than anyone else”. The complainant, Allan Golden (who really seems to like complaining to the BSA considering his track record), wrote in to say that that the reporter’s statement was inaccurate, as it did not take into account the possibility that the man in question could have an identical twin.