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Braddon-Parsons and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2007-035

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Ian Braddon-Parsons of Rotorua

Dated

27th June 2007

Number

2007-035

Programme

Nine to Noon

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Nine to Noon – interviewee said “Jesus” and “for Christ’s sake” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Findings
Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – words not used sensationally, or gratuitously repeated – fitted into the category of an exclamation of irritation or alarm – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  An interview with Derek Fox, the editor of Mana Magazine and a commentator on Māori issues, was conducted on Radio New Zealand National’s Nine to Noon programme on the morning of Thursday 15 February 2007. Mr Fox spoke about Māori achievement levels in the education system. At various points in the interview, Mr Fox used the expressions “Jesus” and “for Christ’s sake”.

Complaint

[2]  Ian Braddon-Parsons made a formal complaint about the language used by Mr Fox to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. He stated that the blasphemy was offensive and had contravened standards of good taste. Mr Braddon-Parsons also contended that blasphemy “against any religious deity of any faith is denigration of that deity and that faith”. He argued that Principles 1, 4 and 7 of the Radio Code had been breached.

Principles

[3]  The complainant nominated the following standards in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice:

Principle 1

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Principle 4

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Principle 7

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.

Guideline 7a
  
Broadcasters will not portray people in a manner which encourages denigration of or discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender, race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation; or as the consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement does not extend to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i)    factual; or
ii)   a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion, or
iii)  by way of legitimate humour or satire.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]  RNZ assessed Mr Braddon-Parsons’ complaint under Principle 1 (good taste and decency), subsuming Principles 4 and 7 into its consideration of that standard. It contended that the language used by Mr Fox had not breached broadcasting standards, although it acknowledged that some people may have been offended.

[5]  RNZ contended that the language had not been used sensationally or in a gratuitous manner, but was used by Mr Fox in a passionate address on what he viewed as being the failings of the education system in respect of Māori students. It noted that the broadcast was not targeted at children, and the terms “Jesus” and “Christ” were not used as direct references to the person of Jesus Christ but by way of a general exclamation.

[6]  While it found that the language had not breached broadcasting standards, RNZ advised the complainant that it had raised issues in terms of what RNZ found acceptable for on-air language. These issues had been raised with and acknowledged by the programme participant, it said.

Referral to the Authority

[7]  Dissatisfied with RNZ’s response, Mr Braddon-Parsons referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He disagreed with RNZ’s argument that the words had not referred to Jesus Christ.

Authority's Determination

[8]  The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[9]  The Authority notes that Mr Braddon-Parsons’ formal complaint nominated Principles 1, 4 and 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. RNZ considered the complaint under Principle 1, subsuming Principles 4 and 7. In his referral to the Authority, Mr Braddon-Parsons did not indicate any dissatisfaction with this process. The Authority agrees with RNZ’s approach and therefore it restricts its consideration of the referral to Principle 1.

[10]  When the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the time of the broadcast, at 11:45am on a Thursday morning
  • the adult target audience
  • the fact that the words were not repeated gratuitously.

[11]  The Authority has previously considered the use of the words “Jesus” and “Christ” (Decision Nos 2005-124 and 2005-032) and declined to uphold those complaints on the basis that the use of the words “fitted into the category of an exclamation of irritation and alarm”. Taking into account the contextual factors listed above, the Authority sees no reason to depart from that position in the present case. Accordingly, the complaint is not upheld.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
27 June 2007

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1     Ian Braddon-Parsons’ formal complaint – 16 February 2007

2    RNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – received by complainant on 23 March 2007

3    Mr Braddon-Parsons’ referral to the Authority – 25 March 2007

4    RNZ’s response to the Authority – 25 May 2007