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Raj and Triangle Television Ltd - 2011-125

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Deo Chand Raj of Auckland

Dated

22nd November 2011

Number

2011-125

Programme

Zindagi Forever

Channel/Station

Triangle Television

Broadcaster

Triangle Television Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Zindagi Forever – programme featured stage-set musical performance – song lyrics made references to God – allegedly in breach of controversial issues, accuracy and fairness standards

Findings
Standard 4 (controversial issues) and Standard 5 (accuracy) – standards not applicable as not a news, current affairs or factual programme – programme wholly opinion-based and explored religious beliefs – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – Hinduism a religious tradition and not an individual or organisation to which the standard applies – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  Zindagi Forever, a religious programme, was broadcast on Triangle TV on 17 September 2011. The programme featured a stage-set musical performance in which the song lyrics (in Hindi with English subtitles) made various references to God.

[2]  Deo Chand Raj made a formal complaint to Triangle Television Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the musical performance breached the controversial issues, accuracy and fairness standards. He argued that the performance depicted scenes which made a mockery of Hindu belief systems and attributed the social problems in India and the misery of the people to following the “wrong religion called Hinduism”.

[3]  The issue is whether the musical performance in the programme breached Standards 4 (controversial issues), 5 (accuracy), and 6 (fairness).

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the musical performance unbalanced or inaccurate in breach of Standards 4 or 5?

[5]  Standards 4 and 5 only apply to news, current affairs and factual programmes.

[6]  The Authority has previously stated that factual programmes exclude programmes that are wholly opinion-based, for example those that discuss or explore religious, cultural or political beliefs.1

[7]  We agree with this reasoning, taking into account the objectives of Standards 4 and 5. Standard 4 is designed to enable audiences to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion. Standard 5 aims to protect viewers from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.

[8]  In our view, programmes which are wholly opinion-based should not be held to the requirements imposed by those standards. A reasonable viewer would understand that what is presented in those programmes is not an even-handed examination of the issue or subject matter reported on. In a society which values freedom of expression, including religious expression, we consider that such programmes fall outside the ambit of “factual programmes” for the purposes of Standards 4 and 5.

[9]  On this occasion, the content subject to complaint formed part of the religious programme Zindagi Forever. The musical performance offered a commentary on the practice of certain beliefs. In these circumstances, we agree with Triangle TV that to uphold the complaint would unjustifiably limit the programme providers’ freedom to include content relevant to their target audience.

[10]  Accordingly, we find that the standards are not applicable and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standards 4 and 5.

Was the musical performance unfair to Hinduism in breach of Standard 6?

[11]  The fairness standard requires broadcasters to deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. In our view, the complainant’s fairness concerns relate to the perception of Hinduism as a religious tradition, and not to an individual or organisation to which the fairness standard applies. We therefore find that Standard 6 does not apply and we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
22 November 2011

Appendix

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

1                  Deo Chand Raj’s formal complaint – 17 September 2011

2                 Triangle TV’s response to the complaint – 21 September 2011

3                 Deo Chand Raj’s referral to the Authority – 29 September 2011

4                 Triangle TV’s response to the Authority – 7 October 2011

5                 Deo Chand Raj’s final comment – 21 October 2011

6                 Triangle TV’s final comment – 26 October 2011


1See Banks and Others and TVNZ, Decision No. 2003-141–158