Voice of Islam – comments by converts to Islam – denigration of Hindu and Christian communities on account of faith
Standard 6 and Guideline 6g – genuinely held opinion – high threshold not reached – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision
 The Voice of Islam is a weekly two-hour programme, broadcast by Triangle Television on Saturdays at 11pm and repeated the following Monday. The programme on Saturday 21 June 2003 included a personal account of the conversion of two men to Islam, one from the Hindu faith, the other Jewish.
 Rakesh Chand complained to Triangle Television Ltd, the broadcaster, that during the accounts of their conversion, the two men used disparaging language to describe other religions and their deities.
 In response, Triangle Television argued that Standard 6 of the Television Code enabled the producers of a programme like the Voice of Islam to express genuine opinions and commentary about religion and matters of faith. Accordingly, it declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with Triangle’s decision, Mr Chand referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a video of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaints without a formal hearing.
 Two men related personal accounts of their conversion to Islam on the Voice of Islam broadcast on Triangle Television at 11pm on Saturday 21 June 2003. The men commented on their previous faiths and related religious stories. During Brother Abu Omer’s account of his conversion, he described contradictions in the Hindu faith and condemned the worship of "fickle gods".
 Mr Chand complained to Triangle Television about the deliberate denigration of other religions and their deities. He said:
I found that the way this programme slandered Hinduism, Christianity and a couple of other religions to be an incitement of "Religious Hate" in New Zealand…"
 In view of the complainant’s concerns, Triangle Television assessed the complaint under Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standard and relevant Guideline provides:
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.
6g 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.
 Triangle Television advised Mr Chand that his complaint had been referred to the programme producer to answer any specific questions that he [Mr Chand] might wish to have answered. The broadcaster also suggested that the complainant contact the producer directly and added:
All our programme producers "use" Triangle Television to get their message out and we have no preference or quota in the allocation of air time, nor do we interfere or censor editorially.
 Triangle Television maintained that Guideline 6g of Standard 6 enabled producers of a programme like the Voice of Islam to present expressions of genuinely held opinion. This, in the broadcaster’s view, included commentary about matters of religion. Accordingly, it declined to uphold the complaint.
 In referring his complaint to the Authority, Mr Chand contended that Triangle Television allowed the producers of the Voice of Islam to cross the line between "Freedom of Expression" and "Religious Slandering", by broadcasting a programme that denigrated sections of the community on account of their religious beliefs.
 Triangle Television argued that its charter remit, giving programme providers editorial freedom of expression, was in keeping with the principles of "freedom of speech". The broadcaster said:
The access-style of Triangle Television allows groups and individuals to present their own communities, faiths and languages without undue outside interference.
 Triangle also said that, in keeping with its constitution, it offered the complainant the opportunity to broadcast his own point of view or a view contrary to the broadcast complained about.
 Mr Chand contended that while he agreed with Triangle Television that apostates should be able to express their views on television, he was absolutely opposed to them [apostates] denigrating other religions and their deities in the process. In the complainant’s view, derogatory comments of this nature were contrary to Standard 6 of the Television Code.
 The Authority has noted previously that a high degree of denigration is required before a broadcast is in danger of contravening Guideline 6g. For a breach to occur, the commentary referred to by the complainant would have to be of such a nature that it actually encouraged denigration of, or discrimination against, ‘other’ religions. In the Authority’s view, the broadcast fell short of such encouragement and therefore the threshold was not reached.
 The Authority also notes that standard 6 is not intended to prevent the broadcast of genuinely held opinions in factual programmes. As the Voice of Islam was an Islamic programme that was factual in nature, and as all comments made by the participants were expressions of genuinely held opinion, the Authority concludes that Standard 6 was not contravened.
 The Authority also considers it timely to remind broadcasters that regardless of the origin of a programme, or the manner in which it is broadcast, the broadcaster remains ultimately responsible for ensuring all programming complies with the Broadcasting Codes of Practice.
 The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
18 September 2003
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: