Radio Pacific – question posed by talkback host – "what is wrong with a father having sex with his daughter anyway?" – breach of good taste – upheld by Radio Pacific – verbal warning given to host – action insufficient
Insufficient action – uphold
Letter of apology to be sent to complainant
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
The host of a Radio Pacific talkback session, broadcast at 3.00am on 27 December 2000, made the comment on air to a caller, "what is wrong with a father having sex with his daughter anyway?" The topic of incest had arisen in the conversation.
Wendy Dickinson complained to the broadcaster, The Radio Works New Zealand Ltd, that the talkback host’s comments were "abhorrent", and should not have been made on radio.
The broadcaster upheld her complaint as a breach of Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. It advised that it had given the show’s host a verbal warning. However, it noted that at no time did the host intend the comments to be taken seriously, and the host stressed he did not agree with the comments and in hindsight should not have made them.
It is not entirely clear whether Mrs Dickinson was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster. In referring her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 Mrs Dickinson indicated: "I would appreciate your opinion on the issue".
For the reasons given below, the Authority finds the action of the broadcaster insufficient, and orders an apology, approved by the Authority, to be sent to Mrs Dickinson.
The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the item complained about, and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
The host of a talkback programme, broadcast at 3.00am on 27 December 2000 on Radio Pacific, made the following comments when discussing incest:
What is wrong with a father having sex with his daughter anyway? [I’d] just like to stress that when I’m talking about a father having sex with his daughter, this is a taboo subject … I’d like to stress I’m talking about adults – consenting adults.
Wendy Dickinson complained to the broadcaster, The Radio Works New Zealand Ltd, that she considered the comments "abhorrent", and she believed the host should not have been allowed to say them on radio.
TRW advised the complainant that the comments had been made "tongue in cheek", and to increase the number of calls to the host. It advised that at no time did the host intend the comments to be taken seriously, and he now regretted having made the remarks.
TRW issued the host with a verbal warning, reminding him of the requirements for broadcasters to be socially responsible and to observe good taste and decency.
Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice requires broadcasters, in programmes and their presentation, to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Guideline 1a of Principle 1 reads:
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.
In referring her complaint to the Authority, Mrs Dickinson advised that she found the broadcaster’s reference to the comments having been made "tongue in cheek" hard to accept.
TRW advised the Authority that the programme’s host had offered his apologies to Mrs Dickinson, and had been given a verbal warning. It considered that this, together with the fact that only one complaint had been received about the broadcast, was sufficient action by the broadcaster.
Mrs Dickinson reiterated her shock and disgust at the broadcast and advised that she no longer listened to the station.
The Authority notes that the remarks made by the talkback host were upheld as a breach of Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, and that the host was given a formal warning. The complainant, it notes, was also provided with an apology. However, in the apology The Radio Works stated:
[The announcer] unreservedly apologises for the distress that this flippant remark has caused you.
The Authority considers that the comments made by the announcer cannot be characterised as "flippant". It finds that the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient, in that its apology to Mrs Dickinson was deficient, and on that basis upholds the complaint that the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient.
For the reasons given, the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken by The Radio Works on a complaint about a talkback session broadcast at 3.00am on 27 December 2000, was insufficient.
Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose penalties under section 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act. In view of the circumstances of this complaint, it imposes the following order:
Pursuant to section 13(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders the Radio Works New Zealand Ltd to send, within one month of the date of this decision, a letter of apology to Mrs Dickinson. The letter shall be approved by the Authority before it is sent.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
7 June 2001
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: