Former Breakfast co-host Paul Henry's comment that homosexuality was "unnatural" was framed to encourage discussion about letting homosexual couples adopt children, the Broadcasting Standards Authority has ruled.
The authority declined to uphold a complaint that Henry's comments were discriminatory and denigrating in a ruling released today.
The comments were made by Henry during a discussion about a proposed law change to allow homosexual couples to adopt children.
On the August 20 broadcast of Breakfast, Henry said he was "iffy" about the law change and that homosexuality was "unnatural".
His co-host Alison Mau questioned Henry's remarks and read out viewer feedback, including one that said, "to call this unnatural is ludicrous and narrow-minded. Gay couples are great parents and are more than qualified to raise children."
Henry replied that people should not be frightened of saying that homosexuality was unnatural.
"It is unnatural. Although homosexuality is through all species. I don't know if it's through all species but many, many species. A lot of monkeys are homosexual," Henry said.
Later in the discussion he said: "The thing is, though, if you go to any animal park, and I've got to be careful what I say here, but if you go to any animal park, you will find monkeys being filthy with each other."
Mau responded: "That is completely beside the point."
Complainant Ken Cage said Henry's comments were offensive and the message conveyed justified "bullying others on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation".
The Free-to-Air Broadcasting Code of Practice says broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community because of, among other things, sexual orientation.
The authority found that while the comments were clearly provocative and would have offended some viewers, they were framed in a way that encouraged discussion about the proposed law change.
Opposing views were clearly presented by the programme's co-host, by two MPs interviewed on the programme and in viewer feedback, the authority said.
In light of the freedom of speech requirements of the Bill of Rights, "a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination," the decision said.
"The Authority considers that on this occasion, particularly in the context of the entire discussion, the host's comments were not sufficiently vitriolic and lacked the necessary invective to reach the threshold for encouraging discrimination against, or denigration of, homosexuals for the purposes of the standard."
- NZ Herald staff