IHC welcomes Henry's apology

TVNZ's decision to uphold complaints about broadcaster Paul Henry's description of singer Susan Boyle as "retarded" has been welcomed by Intellectually Handicapped Children (IHC) New Zealand.

TVNZ yesterday said it upheld complaints about the remarks made by Henry on the Breakfast programme on November 23, saying it breached standards of good taste and decency.

TVNZ said Henry had apologised and no punishment had been handed out.

IHC New Zealand chief executive Ralph Jones said the organisation was pleased with the decision and with Henry's apology.

"Paul's apology will make things easier for people with intellectual disabilities, who have been enormously embarrassed and offended by what he said," Mr Jones said.

"I'm pleased that TVNZ's stance gives Paul some guidance as to what is appropriate behaviour and language on air. Our goal was to make TVNZ and Paul Henry realise that the words they broadcast are extremely powerful and can affect how people feel about themselves and others.

"My challenge to Paul is to use his position as a broadcaster in a positive way, not to denigrate groups of society who have difficulty speaking up." He said the apology was sufficient and IHC did not plan on taking the issue further.

The complaint was laid after Henry joked about a quote from a magazine article which said Boyle suffered from a mild intellectual impairment.

"Here's the really interesting revelation: she is in fact retarded ... and if you look at her carefully, you can make it out," Henry said.

TVNZ said Henry told the committee he never intended to offend people with disabilities.

"I am sorry that some people have taken what I said in a way that I never intended," he said.

"In fact, I have a great amount of respect for people who rise to the challenges imposed on them in life. The amount of support and coverage I, and the programmes I'm associated with, give to these issues is evidence of the commitment we have to these people, their families and friends."

However, the committee said the language used would have caused offence to a significant number of users and breached the relevant standard.

TVNZ news and current affairs head Anthony Flannery said: "It should be remembered that in 600 hours of live television each year there have been very few times when he [Henry] has overstepped the mark. However, we acknowledge that this was one such occasion, and we apologise to those who were hurt and distressed by it."

- NZPA

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