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Burridge and The Radio Network Ltd - 2001-086

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • B Hayward
  • J H McGregor

Complainant

  • S E Burridge of Auckland

Dated

2nd August 2001

Number

2001-086

Programme

"Know Your Dairy"

Channel/Station

91ZM

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint
ZMFM – game – "Know Your Dairy" – denigrated foreigners – upheld by broadcaster under Principle 7 – action taken insufficient

Findings
Action taken insufficient – unsatisfactory complaints procedure – warning

Principle 8 – tape retention inadequate

Order
Broadcast of statement

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

A game called "Know Your Dairy" was broadcast on 91ZM on 9 April 2001. The game invited contestants to call dairy owners to ask a basic question about New Zealand. The telephone calls were then broadcast.

S E Burridge complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that the game was racist and xenophobic.

TRN advised that the game was no longer a part of 91ZM broadcasts, and apologised to the complainant for offending her.

Dissatisfied with the action taken by TRN, Miss Burridge referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken was insufficient.

Decision

The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. No tape of the broadcast was provided. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

A game called "Know Your Dairy" was broadcast on 91ZM on 9 April 2001. The game invited contestants to call dairy owners to ask a basic question about New Zealand. The telephone calls were then broadcast.

S E Burridge complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that the game was racist and xenophobic. According to the complainant, whose version of the broadcast was not disputed by the broadcaster:

In explaining the competition, [the DJ] commented, "Have you ever noticed that dairies are owned by foreigners?" and went on to say that the least such people could do is learn to speak the language if they wanted to live here. A call went ahead and the listener/contestant proceeded to ask a woman of Asian origin the name of New Zealand’s national bird. The unwitting victim became obviously confused, repeatedly asked which company was calling, and sounded baffled by the persistent questioning. When she was unable to answer correctly, the call was disconnected while the DJ and listener laughed at her expense.

Miss Burridge complained that the broadcast breached Guideline 7a to Principle 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Principle 7

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

Guidelines

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.

In Miss Burridge’s view, the broadcast vilified and ridiculed foreigners. She considered that it was of particular concern that a mainstream, primetime radio show could promote such antisocial behaviour.

TRN advised that the game was no longer a part of 91ZM broadcasts, and apologised to the complainant for offending her.

Miss Burridge referred the complaint to the Authority, as she considered the action taken by TRN had been inadequate.

After receiving a copy of Miss Burridge’s referral to the Authority, TRN apologised for its initial response which it said did not follow TRN’s procedures. TRN advised that it upheld the complaint, and advised that the series had been removed and the DJ responsible had been counselled. It submitted that the action it had taken was appropriate.

In her final comment, Miss Burridge made two points. First, she stressed her concern that

…given the target audience of this station is relatively young (and perhaps impressionable by DJs they may wish to emulate) such comments are really dangerous.

Secondly, she said that TRN had " missed the point" in apologising to her, as she said:

It was not about me being offended, it was about the harm caused to the communities they ridiculed. Surely these people are far more deserving of an apology.

The Authority’s Findings

First, the Authority notes its disapproval about the way the complaint was originally dealt with by TRN. The Authority reminds TRN that it is required to have in place a proper procedure for dealing with complaints. This principle is set out in s.5(a) of the Broadcasting Act.

The Authority also records its concern that TRN did not provide a copy of the broadcast complained about. Principle 8 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice requires broadcasters to be able to provide copies of all open line programmes. The Authority reminds the broadcaster of its obligations under Principle 8.

In the absence of a tape, it is the Authority’s usual practice to accept the complainant’s version of the broadcast. Taking into account that Miss Burridge’s version of the broadcast was not disputed by the broadcaster, the Authority determines the complaint on the basis of the complainant’s account.

Turning to the substance of the complaint, the Authority will now consider whether the action taken by TRN was sufficient when it upheld the complaint that the broadcast breached Principle 7 of the Radio Code.

The Authority notes that when the broadcaster upheld the complaint it advised that "the series had been removed from air and the DJ was counselled". The broadcaster also apologised to Miss Burridge for any offence the broadcast had caused her.

In the Authority’s view, the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient. The broadcaster had accepted that its broadcast had breached Principle 7 of the Radio Code. That standard requires broadcasters to be socially responsible, and requires that broadcasts do not portray people in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community on account of race. The Authority considers that the broadcast was clearly in breach of Principle 7, and that the denigration of those whose first language is not English is a very serious matter.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken by The Radio Network Ltd in relation to a broadcast on 9 April 2001 was insufficient.

Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make orders under ss.13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. Accordingly, it invited the parties to make submissions on penalty.

In its submission, the broadcaster said that it had already taken the programme segment off air and had counselled the DJ concerned. In addition, TRN said it was prepared to broadcast an apology.

Miss Burridge sought the broadcast of a statement summarising the decision and the reasons why it was upheld. She considered that the statement should be broadcast during the time slot in which the breach occurred and also during prime time. She also submitted that the statement should be printed in the major national newspapers.

Taking into account the nature of the breach on this occasion and the submissions made by the parties, the Authority imposes the following order.

Order

Pursuant to section 13(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders The Radio Network Ltd to broadcast, within one month of the date of this decision, a statement summarising the decision which shall include an apology, as agreed to by the broadcaster. The statement shall be approved by the Authority and shall be broadcast at a time and date to be approved by the Authority.

The Authority draws the broadcaster’s attention to the requirement in section 13(3)(b) of the Act for the broadcaster to give notice to the Authority and the complainant of the manner in which the order has been complied with.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
2 August 2001

Appendix

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

  1. S E Burridge’s Formal Complaint to The Radio Network – undated
  2. TRN’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 7 May 2001
  3. Miss Burridge’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 15 May 2001
  4. TRN’s Response to the Complaint – 30 May 2001
  5. Miss Burridge’s Final Comment – 18 June 2001
  6. TRN’s Submission on Penalty – 16 July 2001
  7. Miss Burridge’s Submission on Penalty – 19 July 2001