Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Trinity Broadcasting Network – three-hour broadcast on Christian television station – two comments about homosexual relationships – allegedly encouraged denigration and discrimination
Standard 6 (fairness) and Guideline 6g (denigration) – expression of opinion – comments were brief and incidental to the main topic of discussion – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 Channel 7 is a 24-hour Christian television station broadcast in Nelson. On 1 April 2004 the station featured a three-hour programme by Trinity Broadcasting Network, an American Christian television network. Part of this broadcast included a segment by Pastor Miles Munro about the power of the media.
 Pastor Munro spoke about adultery, drinking and murders being shown on television, and how these things gradually become acceptable if viewed repeatedly. He went on to say:
[Children] keep seeing young people solve problems with guns on television, they see them solve problems with knives on TV, and so they try to solve problems eventually in your neighbourhood the same way. It becomes a law by which they live, because the principle has become a lifestyle.
…there are movies where they now have two dads…the issue is not to make you become a homosexual, the issue is to get you to accept it first.
You see it every week – all of a sudden your son begins to think it’s ok to have two dads – it’s the principle they want to get into your heart, into your mind, because if the mind thinks it, so will it feel it. That’s how powerful the media is.
 Later in the programme, the Pastor said of the programme:
We don’t preach divorce, we preach stay together. We don’t preach homosexuality, we preach heterosexual relationships…our message is pure. That’s why the devil don’t want this network to be on the air.
 Ronn Kjestrup complained to Mainland Television Ltd that the programme had included repeated descriptions about the homosexual community including descriptions such as “evil” and “unclean”.
 Mr Kjestrup contended that the material was “offensive and unacceptable on New Zealand television” and in breach of broadcasting standards.
 Standard 6 and Guideline 6g of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint:
Standard 6 Fairness
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.
Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:
i) factual, or
ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or
iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.
 Mainland Television Ltd advised the complainant that it could not control the content of the broadcast because it came live via satellite.
 Responding to Mr Kjestrup’s concerns, Mainland Television Ltd said:
Their comments are their views just like anyone in a free society has a right to their opinion. I can not give you any assurance that that will not occur again. These people follow the bible which I understand opposes Gay activities.
 Mainland Television Ltd stated that it would “protect the right of free speech” and was unable to take any action on the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with the response from Mainland Television Ltd, Mr Kjestrup referred his complaint to the Authority. He stated that the broadcast was in breach of Standard 6 (fairness) because it was:
…clearly intended to denigrate and encourage discrimination against homosexual people and as such is inappropriate for broadcast in New Zealand.
 The complainant voiced his concern at the apparent unwillingness of Mainland Television Ltd to control the content of the broadcast. Mr Kjestrup stated that the right to free speech does not include “this sort of malicious and discriminatory material”.
 While he appreciated that the Christian community was entitled to its own beliefs, Mr Kjestrup did not feel that this broadcast was a “simple expression of a community view - it was an incitement to hatred”.
 After some correspondence with Mainland Television Ltd, the Authority established that the Nelson Media Access Trust (NMAT) was the broadcaster in this case. The Authority requested a response to the complaint from NMAT.
 NMAT provided a letter from Trinity Broadcasting Network stating that they were unable to find any offensive or discriminatory material in the broadcast. They identified one comment that “the complainant may have mis-heard and taken out of context”.
 NMAT agreed that they could only locate one reference to homosexuality, and that this was “not discriminatory but rather a statement of fact. If anything it was a comment on the media”.
 Asked by the Authority to provide a more detailed response to the complaint, NMAT advised that it had viewed the tape and found no use of the words “evil and unclean” with relation to the homosexual community. It said:
The only reference to homosexual persons…was in relation to criticism of the media who can by constant repetition of a particular point of view change the viewer or listeners view point.
The speaker gave several examples and included a statement that two men living together are being regarded as a normal family or a statement to that effect.
 The broadcaster maintained that the preacher had a right to present his view that the Bible does not consider homosexual relations to be normal. NMAT did not believe that the programme “was designed to humiliate homosexual persons nor to incite hatred”.
 The broadcaster did not consider that there had been a breach of Standard 6 (fairness) and declined to uphold the complaint.
 In his final comment, the complainant noted that he was unable to verify the content that he had seen because he did not have access to a copy of the broadcast. Mr Kjestrup wondered whether the broadcaster had looked at the material that was actually broadcast, given the difficulty it had encountered in obtaining the tape.
 Due to the passage of time the complainant said that he could not now “swear” to the content he had seen. However, he stood by his original complaint and maintained that there had been a breach of broadcasting standards. Mr Kjestrup also reiterated his concern about the broadcaster screening overseas material “without any process to check it meets New Zealand standards”.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast as supplied by the broadcaster and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 The Authority observes that the broadcaster went to considerable lengths to obtain a tape of this broadcast from overseas. After viewing the tape provided, the Authority notes that, while the word “evil” was used on several occasions by the speaker, the broadcast did not contain any direct references to homosexuals being “evil” or “unclean”. Although the complainant stands by his original assertions that these references were made, the only evidence available to the Authority is the tape provided by the broadcaster. The Authority is satisfied that it has viewed the correct tape.
 Turning to consider the pastor’s remarks, the Authority regards these as nothing more than the expression of an opinion which is aligned with the beliefs of many religious groups. It notes Guideline 6d which states that broadcasters should acknowledge the right of individuals to express their own opinions.
 The Authority finds that the brief remarks were incidental to a discussion about the power of the media, and notes that the speaker did not use any provocative language. It does not agree that the comments could be perceived as being an “incitement to hatred”, as asserted by the complainant.
 The Authority observes that it has previously adopted a high threshold in considering complaints alleging denigration. In the Authority’s view the high threshold is breached when the comments cause the blackening of the reputation of a class of people. In this case, it does not consider that the comments about homosexuality in the broadcast even approached the threshold of encouraging denigration.
 Accordingly the Authority finds that the broadcast was not unfair or denigratory within the meaning of Standard 6.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
21 December 2004
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: