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Couling and RadioWorks Ltd - 2012-044

Members

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

Complainant

  • Ken Couling of Christchurch

Dated

17th July 2012

Number

2012-044

Channel/Station

MAI FM

Broadcaster

MAI FM Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Mid-Mornings with K-Lee – song titled “Our Love Suicide” by Tinie Tempah – broadcast at 11.15am – contained the lyric “love suicide” – allegedly in breach of standards relating to good taste and decency and responsible programming

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – the song lyric “love suicide” was used metaphorically to refer to the ending of a relationship and not in its literal sense – term innocuous when used in this context – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – the song did not promote or glorify suicide but related to the ending of a relationship – song not socially irresponsible – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]  A song titled “Our Love Suicide” by rap artist Tinie Tempah was broadcast during Mid-Mornings with K-Lee on MaiFM at approximately 11.15am on 4 January 2012. The song contained the lyric “love suicide”.

[2]  Ken Couling made a formal complaint to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the song’s “in your face” message promoted and glorified suicide. He expressed concern about the impact of the song on Tongan youth, stating that “this song is exactly the sort of music young Tongans will be listening to”.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast of the song breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency) and 8 (responsible programming) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Did the broadcast of the song threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  Standard 1 states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. The standard is primarily concerned with the broadcast of sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[6]  In assessing an alleged breach of broadcasting standards, we must give proper consideration to the right to freedom of expression which is guaranteed by section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Any restriction on the right to free speech must be prescribed by law, reasonable, and demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (section 5).  

[7]  The starting point is to assess the value of the particular speech in issue, and then to balance this against the potential harm that is likely to result from allowing the unfettered dissemination of that speech. The song “Our Love Suicide” was a hip-hop song that formed part of the rap and hip-hop music genre, a legitimate form of artistic expression that often incorporates cultural and political speech. The song was broadcast at 11.15am on MaiFM which is a hip-hop and R&B radio station, targeted at, and appealing to, a youth audience.

[8]  The song contained various references to “suicide”, though the term was used in a metaphorical sense to refer to the intentional “killing” or ending of a relationship, as opposed to denoting its usual meaning. We agree with the broadcaster that the song did not discuss the death of a person by suicide methods, but the death of love between two people. This was obvious from the context of the lyrics, for example the term “suicide” was used as follows:

  • “Love suicide is killing me, you’re getting into my head like a guillotine, you’ve got me grasping for air in your vicinity and now you’re saying some things that you don’t really mean, that’s really mean.”
  • “Tell me the reason why you committed a love suicide, I think you want our love to die. You did it on purpose I’m all out of tears, time to get outta here, you made it very clear.”

[9]  While we acknowledge that Mr Couling was concerned about the impact of the song lyrics on young people, we accept RadioWorks’ contention that, “Most teenage audiences take the time to get to know the lyrics of a song and when the chorus is considered in context, the metaphor becomes clear.” We do not consider that the song lyrics required “detailed scrutiny” in order to understand their meaning, as contended.

[10]  Taking into account the relevant contextual factors, and the importance of protecting the right to freedom of expression, we decline to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

Was the broadcast of the song socially irresponsible?

[11]  Standard 8 requires broadcasters to ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.

[12]  As the song did not promote or glorify suicide, as interpreted by the complainant, but related to the ending of a relationship, we find that the broadcast was not socially irresponsible. Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standard 8.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
17 July 2012