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Ouwerkerk and The Radio Network - 2013-032

Members

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

Complainant

  • Roy Ouwerkerk of Christchurch

Dated

25th July 2013

Number

2013-032

Channel/Station

Radio Sport

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
D’Arcy Waldegrave Drive – host and producer referred to rugby players as “Jesus” and “God” – allegedly in breach of standards relating to good taste and decency, discrimination and denigration, and responsible programming

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency), Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration), Standard 8 (responsible programming) – use of “Jesus” and “God” to compliment rugby players would not have offended or distressed most listeners in context – comments did not carry any invective and did not encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, Christians as a section of the community – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  During D’Arcy Waldegrave Drive on Radio Sport, the host and producer discussed the selection of the All Blacks training squad, including a rookie, Steven Luatua, who played for the Auckland Blues. They noted that Steven Luatua had previously been described as “Jesus in a blue and white jersey” by a Radio Sport commentator, and they jokingly referred to him as the “Son of God”, while All Black Richie McCaw was referred to as “God”. The programme was broadcast between 3pm and 6pm on 14 May 2013.

[2]  Roy Ouwerkerk made a formal complaint to The Radio Network (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the likening of “God” and “Jesus” to men who played rugby was “irreverent, blasphemous, insensitive and offensive”.

[3]  The issue is whether the programme breached standards relating to good taste and decency (Standard 1), discrimination and denigration (Standard 7), and responsible programming (Standard 8), as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Did the programme breach broadcasting standards?

[5]  TRN said that the item was a satirical piece and the commentary was not intended to offend or ridicule Christians. It described the comments as “tame”, and said that radio hosts and comedians “regularly poke fun at religion and this is seen as a legitimate form of comedy”. TRN noted that Radio Sport was targeted at males aged 35 years and above, describing it as an “irreverent, cheeky radio station” which contained discussions in a “locker-room style about issues in the sporting world”. It did not consider that the references to “Jesus” and “God” would have surprised most listeners in this context.

[6]  The Authority has found on a number of occasions that the use of religious words such as “Jesus” and “God” as colloquial expressions does not amount to a breach of the good taste and decency, or discrimination and denigration standards.1  In this case, the commentary formed part of a light-hearted exchange between the programme producer and the host when talking about, and complimenting the abilities of, two of New Zealand’s top rugby players. We have previously declined to uphold a similar complaint in which a comparison was allegedly made between “Christ” and Richie McCaw.2

[7]  While we acknowledge that some people would consider a comparison between a Christian deity and a sportsperson to be blasphemous, here it was clearly not intended as a comment on Christians or Christian beliefs. We do not think that the casual use of “God” or “Jesus” would have surprised or offended most listeners in context, especially taking into account the target audience and the expectations of regular listeners. The comments did not carry any invective and did not blacken the reputation of Christians, or encourage the different treatment of them, to their detriment.

[8]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
25 July 2013

Appendix

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

1           Roy Ouwerkerk’s formal complaint – 14 May 2013

2          TRN’s response to the formal complaint – 16 May 2013

3          Mr Ouwerkerk’s referral to the Authority – 21 May 2013

4          TRN’s response to the Authority – 23 May 2013


1See, for example, Busse and Milner Busse and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2012-038, van der Merwe and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2011-141, McArthur and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2002-187.

2van der Merwe and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2011-141