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'Indian hate slur' ex-TVNZ anchor Paul Henry responsible for record number of complaints

December 4, 2011 - Islamabad

Former New Zealand TV host Paul Henry was almost single-handedly responsible for the Broadcasting Standards Authority receiving a record number of complaints in the past year.

As viewers and listeners railed against sex, violence and bad language, the BSA received 250 complaints in the year to June, compared to 210 the year before and 162 in 2008-09. The figure is a 90 per cent increase on four years ago, reports.

The two most complained about programmes were Breakfast on TV1 and Outrageous Fortune on TV3. According to the authority's annual report, the Breakfast complaints particularly relate to two episodes featuring comments made by former host Paul Henry, both of which prompted multiple complaints.

Media commentator Brian Edwards said Henry was "a broadcaster who likes to exceed the normal boundaries of good taste and what is acceptable and who made his name by doing that. His success is based on his offending people by making comments that were racist, sexist or abusive in some way".

In general, however, Edwards said "the boundaries of taste have been extended enormously by television ... we now accept language, sexual activity, violence and a whole variety of other things that many people consider unacceptable.

"You can get away with a lot more now than if you go back to ancient times when I was on television. In those days I think you would have been in trouble for saying 'bloody'."

Ahead of the Common Wealth Games last year, Henry created a controversy by mocking Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's name. This led to huge protests in India, eventually leading His ouster from the channel.

One of the more infamous comments from Henry was his description of singer Susan Boyle as "retarded". The numerous complaints were upheld and TVNZ was ordered to broadcast a statement on Breakfast. The other major complaint against Henry came when he asked Prime Minister John Key whether then-Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand was "even a New Zealander" and asked of the next envoy choice: "Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?"

Of the 250 complaints, the authority issued 236 decisions and 69 complaints were upheld in full or in part. Of the complaints, 96 said that standards of good taste and decency had been breached, while the second biggest complaint was about accuracy.

A Sunday Star-Times reader poll found that 79 per cent of people surveyed believed that television "standards" had dropped in the past few years because of the prevalence of "low brow" reality TV shows, the increasing use of bad language, violence and sex, often at an early time of night.


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