Pricks, lardos, Vladimir Putin butt plugs and climate change denial: a handy tutorial on what the media can and can’t get away with

The Broadcasting Standards Authority’s rulings on complaints can be a good litmus test for what the New Zealand public can stomach these days—and an entertaining insight into the beliefs of the nation’s easily offended wowsers. We’ve looked at some of the decisions of the last six months and compiled a handy tutorial for those in New Zealand media.

DO: Call New Zealand women ‘lardos’, but preferably when your microphone is off

The BSA let Newstalk ZB presenter Rachel Smalley off the hook for calling New Zealand women ‘heifers’ and ‘a bunch of lardos’ on air when she thought her microphone was switched off.  

The comments were made in response to a news item about emergency contraception being less effective for women over 70kg – the average weight of the New Zealand woman being about 72.1kg.

The BSA ruled: “Her comment was clearly off the cuff; it was light-hearted and did not carry the high level of invective necessary to encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against women based on their weight … We have no doubt that the host was extremely embarrassed by this incident and that it will have had a significant impact on her future behaviour on air”.

DO: Compare international politicians to butt plugs

In a segment on The Paul Henry Show, Paul Henry showed the camera his “[Vladimir] Putin butt plug”. His co-host then presented him with a gift she had bought him: a butt plug made in the likeness of Henry.

Vladimir Knyazev of Auckland complained, but the BSA said Henry “was not being derogatory or nasty towards Mr Putin, and we do not think the subject matter of ‘butt plugs’ was in itself sufficient to threaten current norms of good taste and decency, in context”.

DO: Say something unpopular or incorrect, especially if you are Mike Hosking

At the end of an episode of Seven Sharp, presenter Mike Hosking made comments about the latest dismal climate report from the IPCC. Hosking urged the public not to let the latest research on climate change “ruin [their]night”.

“The seas are rising, the storms are coming, the locusts are close, we are going to climate hell in a handcart. That’s, of course, if you believe them, which as it turns out, I don’t,” he said.

The BSA did not uphold four complaints in September that his comments were misleading and irresponsible because the right to freedom of speech protects expressions of opinion even if they are “unpopular or incorrect”.

They ruled, “[Hosking] was not speaking as a logician. His opinion might suffer from a ‘logical fallacy’. Regardless, it remains his opinion, albeit, perhaps, an illogical opinion. We do not agree that viewers would confuse his layman’s opinion for that of a scientist or logician.”

DO: Show clips involving rodents running on turntables, but don’t allow cruelty, thanks.

Paul Henry strikes again after the BSA received complaints about his showing of a YouTube clip comparing various rodents running around on a turntable. The Authority said the clip was light-hearted, humorous and they had no reason to believe the animals were treated cruelly.

DO: Call someone a ‘prick’, but preferably if that someone is you

After Gareth Morgan spoke at a Mana Party event and said, “I’ll leave it up to you [the guests]to decide whether I’m a prick or not…” the BSA ruled that the word ‘prick’ was used in a ‘humorous and self-deprecating way’, thus was okay.

DO: Use the Lord’s name in vain

A complaint was laid after the host of Canterbury Mornings with Chris Lynch expressed frustration with the length of time it had taken police to decide whether to move forward with criminal investigations in to the collapse of the Christchurch CTV building. He said, ‘for Christ’s sake, police, you can do better than this’. But the BSA thought it was all good, ruling, “The use of ‘Christ’ as an exclamation to express surprise or dismay has become an accepted part of colloquial speech and would not have offended most listeners.”

DO: Auction items left at your house by unrequited Tinder loves

A Valentine’s Day Seven Sharp piece reported on a woman who had auctioned a pair of sunglasses on TradeMe that were left at her house by a Tinder date. The BSA rejected a complaint that the item glamourised theft and was unfair to the man who lost his sunnies. They even thought it was clear from the item that the woman had given the man ample opportunity to retrieve the accessory.

DON’T: Get confused between the UK and England

3 News reported on a shift in social networking choices by young people in the United Kingdom, but referred to ‘England’ in its introduction. MediaWorks upheld the accuracy complaint lodged, and apologised to the complainant.

DO: Compare dogs with their owners or with male genitalia*

While reporting on the Westminster Dog Show, a 3 News: Firstline presenter responded to whether there was a pit bull division in the competition, saying, “I highly doubt it. Imagine what their owners would look like.” The BSA rejected the complaint that the comment was highly offensive to, and denigrated, pit bull owners.

The hosts of the Jay, Flynny and Zoe Marshall Show also made comments that Chihuahuas look like ‘ball bags’ and ‘a scrotum with four legs’. Again, the BSA did not find that the comments breached standards of good taste and decency, instead ruling that they were clearly intended to be funny.

*Comparing dogs owners with male genitalia is untested and may be unsafe for broadcast.

DO: Insult tourists

At the end of a One News weather segment, the weather presenter made reference to ‘bejewelled, corpulent, affluent tourists with big fat wallets’ while looking at a photo of a cruise ship. The BSA ruled that it was a bit derogatory, but it didn’t quite threaten current norms of good taste and decency.

DO: Say “frigging”. Frigging, frigging, frigging.

During an episode of High Country Rescue, a man with a broken leg expressed his gratitude to Land Search and Rescue workers, saying, ‘I really appreciate your help… it would have been a frigging long hopping walk to the hut.’ The Authority refused to rule that the word ‘frigging’ was offensive, and also noted that the claim was frivolous.

DO: Mock the New Zealand accent

The George Selectah Show included audio from a YouTube parody of an ad for ‘Chaffers New Zealand Style Deck Sealant’, making fun of the way New Zealanders pronounce the word ‘deck’ to sound like ‘dick’. The BSA did not uphold the complaint that comments such as ‘every kid in the neighbourhood has been on my dick’ were in bad taste. They said, “This was clearly intended to be humorous and did not promote or endorse paedophilia”.

DO: Use footage of celebrities beating down other celebrities

Screening footage of Solange Knowles trying to high-kick Jay Z in a lift is okay.

The BSA ruled that screening the clip does not make light of domestic violence, and it does not denigrate men as Wayne Burrows of Palmerston complained.

Burrows has formerly complained about ‘gender bias’ against men in a One News item discussing increased rates of domestic violence in Christchurch following the earthquakes. That complaint was also rejected.

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