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Zaman and The RadioWorks Ltd - 2003-121

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Gul Zaman of Auckland

Dated

23rd October 2003

Number

2003-121

Programme

Radio Pacific

Channel/Station

Radio Pacific

Broadcaster

CanWest RadioWorks Ltd


Complaint
Radio Pacific – host is said to have stated that he supported invasion of Iraq and that Iraqis in New Zealand who did not do so should leave – bad taste – encouraged denigration

Findings
Principle 1 and Guideline 1a, Principle 7 and Guideline 7a – conflict as to content of host’s comments – no tape – decline to determine

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] In comments about the invasion of Iraq, the host (Paul Henry) on Radio Pacific is said to have stated that the invasion had the support of Westerners. Moreover, the complainant reported, the host stated that Iraqis in New Zealand who did not support the invasion should leave the country. The comments were said to have been broadcast at about 6.45am on 11 April 2003.

[2] Gul Zaman complained to The RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the comments were in bad taste and encouraged denigration of and discrimination against Iraqis.

[3] In response, The RadioWorks said, first, that the comments were the host’s opinion, and second, that it was unable to find them on a recording of the broadcast made at the time the comments were said, by the complainant, to have been made.

[4] Dissatisfied with The RadioWorks’ decision, Mr Zaman 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 determine the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing. As explained below (see para [11]), the broadcaster was unable to supply the Authority with a tape of the programme complained about.

The Programme

[6] The invasion of Iraq was one of the matters discussed on Radio Pacific talkback on the morning of 11 April 2003.

The Complaint

[7] Gul Zaman complained to The RadioWorks Ltd about comments made by a host on Radio Pacific (Paul Henry). Mr Zaman stated that the host had said that Westerners supported the invasion of Iraq by forces from the United States and the United Kingdom, and that Iraqis in New Zealand should also support the invasion or leave the country. Mr Zaman contended that many Westerners, including New Zealanders in particular, did not support the invasion of Iraq by "Bush and Blair", whom he described as the "Butchers of Basra and Bagdad".

The Standard

[8] The broadcaster has not nominated the standards pursuant to which it has assessed the complaint. In view of the matters raised, the Authority considers that the following Principles in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant.

Principle 1

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

Guideline

1a  Broadcasters will take into consideration current norms of decency and good taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast eg time of day, target audience.

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.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] The RadioWorks denied that the host’s comments breached the standards. It also described the comments as the host’s opinions which were not necessarily shared by other hosts. The broadcaster added later that the host would not apologise.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[10] When he referred the complaint to the Authority, Mr Zaman stated that his concern focused on the host’s statement that "Iraqis who do not support the invasion of Iraq by the USA/UK coalition should leave NZ and return to their homes". That statement, Mr Zaman wrote, was not only in bad taste, but also encouraged denigration and discrimination of Iraqis in New Zealand.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11] The RadioWorks advised that it had been unable to find the comment complained about within half an hour on either side of the time Mr Zaman said that it had been made. A recording of the broadcast had been listened to by Radio Pacific’s Programme Manager and Marketing Manager. However, before the recording was sent to the Authority, The RadioWorks added, it had been deleted through human error. The RadioWorks stated that its staff were prepared to sign affidavits that the comments had not been made as claimed by Mr Zaman.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[12] Pointing out that the broadcaster had not denied that the host had made the comments when the matter was first raised, Mr Zaman expressed his amazement at the claim now made.

Further Correspondence

[13] Because of the possibility of confusion about the date of broadcast to which the complaint related, the Authority asked The RadioWorks to confirm that the recording accidentally deleted applied to the broadcast on Radio Pacific between 6.15 – 7.15am on 11 April. It also sought confirmation, first, that the host had not said that Westerners supported Mr Bush and Mr Blair, and second, that Iraqis in New Zealand who did not do so, should leave the country.

[14] The RadioWorks advised the Authority:

We wish to confirm that the recording from 11 April 2003 was deleted, through human error. We can confirm, on behalf of Mr Henry, that he never, and would never, broadcast a statement that "Iraqis in this country should get out".

[15] In response, Mr Zaman expressed his disappointment with the response from The RadioWorks. Because of the absence of a tape, it was necessary he wrote to review the history of the complaint. Mr Zaman began by referring to The RadioWorks initial response to the complaint when he had been told that the opinions were those of the host and the RadioWorks apologised if he had been offended. Mr Zaman asked:

If [the host] did not make any offensive remarks as I claimed in my letter …, then why try to justify [the host’s] "comments" as within the principles of BSA; moreover, why should [The RadioWorks] apologise on behalf of [the host]??

[16] He added:

May I reiterate that my complaint is based on the remarks made by [the host] as I stated earlier. [The host] did not make the remark in isolation but as an extension of his views on the objections of various people – in particular Iraqis in New Zealand – of the invasion of Iraq by the Bush and Blair coalition.

The Authority’s Determination

[17] The RadioWorks has been unable to provide the Authority with a tape or transcript of the host’s remarks broadcast on Radio Pacific at about 6.45am on 11 April 2003. Mr Zaman took umbrage at the broadcast when, he said, the host stated that Iraqis in New Zealand who did not support the invasion of Iraq by forces from the US and UK should leave New Zealand.

[18] Initially, The RadioWorks advised Mr Zaman that the host’s comments about the invasion of Iraq were "opinion based". When Mr Zaman referred his formal complaint to the Authority, The RadioWorks advised that, after listening to a recording of the broadcast, "there was no reference to Iraq at the time specified by [the complainant] or in fact in the half hour on either side of that claim".

[19] The RadioWorks, however, was unable to provide that recording to the Authority as, due to a "human error", the recording was deleted before a copy was made.

[20] Mr Zaman expressed some scepticism about The RadioWorks’ account. The RadioWorks advised the Authority that its staff who had listened to a recording were prepared to sign affidavits that the host had not referred to Iraq at the time alleged.

[21] In view of the direct conflict as to the comments made by the host, and in the absence of a recording, the Authority considers that it has no option but to decline to determine the complaint.

[22] The supply of tapes of programmes complained about has been a concern which the Authority has commented upon on a number of occasions in decisions. It has been a topic of periodic discussions over the years between the Authority and the Radio Broadcasters Association. In late 2002, an agreement was reached whereby radio broadcasters would take steps to put in place systems which would ensure the supply of tapes to the Authority. The agreement was put in place to avoid the need for the issue of tape retention to be addressed by way of statutory regulation.

[23] The Authority notes that the failure to provide a tape in regard to Mr Zaman’s complaint puts that agreement in jeopardy. Nevertheless, in view of the success of the agreement for the most part, the Authority will desist from taking the regulatory path immediately.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
23 October 2003

Appendix

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

1. Gul Zaman’s Complaint by email to The RadioWorks – 11 April 2003
2. The RadioWorks ’s Response to Mr Zaman by email – 29 April 2003
3. Mr Zaman’s Response to The RadioWorks – 29 April 2003
4. The RadioWorks’ Response to Mr Zaman – 3 May 2003
5. Mr Zaman’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 11 May 2003
6. The RadioWorks’ Response to the Authority – 10 July 2003
7. Mr Zaman’s Final Comment – 17 August 2003
8. The RadioWorks’ Second Response to the Authority – 2 September 2003
9. Mr Zaman’s Final Comment – 10 September 2003