New Zealand Law Society - Drop in complaints to broadcasting watchdog

Drop in complaints to broadcasting watchdog

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has ruled on fewer complaints over the past year, its just-released annual report for the 2016-2017 year reveals.

The number of complaints that were not upheld has increased slightly.

“Overall, however, numbers remain relatively low which we see as a positive reflection of the system’s effectiveness and functionality,” the report says.

The BSA received 113 complaints and issued 102 decisions. In 15 decisions one or more standards were upheld; 82 were not upheld and five did not go any further.

In the previous year, there were 124 complaints received, of which 23 were upheld. The high for the five past years was 2015 when 151 complaints were made.

“We have seen a small reduction in complaint numbers received compared with last year (9% down) with an increase in decisions issued (101 decisions issued last year),” the BSA’s report notes.

The Authority says complaint numbers shift each year, and it is difficult to determine the key driver.

But it does say, for 2017, the primary shift has been an increase in complex and challenging complaints requiring careful consideration. It says broadcasters are taking a wide range of content to their audiences which contain high value in terms of freedom of expression.

‘Prison rape’ radio stunt went too far

One of the upheld complaints, under the good taste and decency standard, related to a radio broadcast that featured a stunt on The Rock Morning Rumble, during which then-Prime Minister John Key was invited to enter a cage in the studio. He was then asked to ‘pick up the soap’, and one of the hosts quoted a recognised rape scene from the film Deliverance, saying, ‘You’ve got a pretty little mouth Prime Minister’. The BSA found that this was a deliberate reference to prison rape, that had the effect of trivialising sexual violence, and that the stunt overstepped the boundaries of legitimate humour.

In other decisions, the Authority also commented that it is an important function of the media to comment critically on political party policy in the lead up to an election period, and found high public interest in a Sunday item which exposed the mistreatment of bobby calves.