The Heat – announcer named manager and referred to staff of Classic Hits abusively and as fuckwits – broadcaster upheld complaint – written apology insufficient.
Action taken insufficient
Broadcast of apology
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
Between 5.30–6.00pm on Saturday 30 June 2001, an announcer on The Heat named the manager of Classic Hits 99FM in Timaru and referred abusively to him, and to his staff. They were described on air as "fuckwits" and listeners were invited to phone Classic Hits and tell them what they thought of them.
Garey Hanifin, Manager of Classic Hits 99FM in Timaru, complained to The Heat that the comments amounted to a "gross breach" of broadcasting standards.
The Heat upheld the complaint. It accepted that the remarks were unfair and uncalled for, and apologised by letter. It assured the complainant that a similar broadcast would not occur. Mr Hanifin then referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 as he considered the action taken insufficient
For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken was insufficient.
The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
Garey Hanifin, Manager of Classic Hits 99FM in Timaru, complained to The Heat, the broadcaster, about comments broadcast between 5.30 and 6.00pm on Saturday 30 June 2001. The Heat announcer, he said, had referred to him by name and had used four-letter words to abuse him and his staff. In 20 years of broadcasting, Mr Hanifin wrote, he had never heard such abuse on air.
The Heat (in Timaru), acknowledged that the remarks had been broadcast and accepted that they were uncalled for and unfair. It apologised in writing to Mr Hanifin and his staff and assured them that the behaviour would not be repeated. The Heat had, it said, "learnt a very valuable lesson".
On behalf of Classic Hits, Mr Hanifin referred the complaint to the Authority. He stated that the announcer at The Heat had said the staff of Classic Hits were "fuckwits" and he (Mr Hanifin) had been described as a "fucking wanker", and listeners had been invited to call Classic Hits. Mr Hanifin said that The Heat's manager had been spoken to by the Police, as had one of the callers who had left an offensive message in the station’s answering machine in response to the suggestion on the broadcast.
However, since receiving the letter of apology, which he said had been initiated by the Police, he had not heard from The Heat.He concluded that it had to learn that this behaviour was totally unacceptable and accordingly he referred the matter to the Authority.
In its response to the Authority, The Heat said that it did not have a tape of the item. It acknowledged that the announcer, had described the staff of Classic Hits as "fucking wankers", but denied that this term was applied to Mr Hanifin explicitly. Furthermore, it added, 5.45pm on Saturday was a low listening time for the radio station. The Heat did not condone the broadcast and concluded:
There has been Police involvement and a letter of apology which has been written to Mr Hanifin and a meeting with Mr Hanifin and a Police Officer to sort the matter out. We feel the matter has been sorted out with the Police and letters of apology and no further action should take place.
In his final comment, Mr Hanifin maintained his view that the broadcast "was totally unacceptable". He found the association of his name in a string of obscenities to be offensive and upsetting. He repeated his opinion that the matter should be put before the Authority to decide what other measures, if any, should be taken.
A broadcast by The Heat in Timaru on 30 June abused the staff of Classic Hits 99FM, another radio station in Timaru. The Heat upheld a complaint.
The Authority agrees with Classic Hits that the broadcast was a gross breach of the broadcasting standards relating to good taste and decency. It also accepts that this was the first occasion that such a broadcast occurred. Because the comments were made on air, it considers that an apology should be broadcast on air. The Authority notes that should The Heat make a similar broadcast, it must expect a heavier penalty.
For the reasons above, the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken by The Heat, having upheld a complaint that a broadcast between 5.30–6.00pm on 30 June 2001 breached the standards, was insufficient.
Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. As the offending broadcast was made on air, the Authority considers that an apology should be broadcast on air.
Pursuant to s.13(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders The Heat to broadcast, within one month of the date of this decision, a statement apologising to the complainant for the broadcast on 30 June. The apology shall be approved by the Authority and shall be broadcast at a time and place to be approved by the Authority.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
20 September 2001
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: