BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Campbell and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2016-069 (2 December 2016)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Don Campbell
Number
2016-069
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio New Zealand National

Summary

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

During the All Night Programme on Radio New Zealand, the presenter used the expression ‘Thank Christ’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this was a ‘blasphemous expression’ which was highly offensive. The Authority followed its findings in previous decisions that expressions such as ‘Thank Christ’ are often used as exclamations and are not intended to be offensive. It was satisfied that in the context it was used by the presenter, the expression would not generally be considered to threaten current norms of good taste and decency.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


Introduction

[1]  During a segment on the All Night Programme, the presenter stated:

I love trains, don’t you? I think it’s a shame what’s happened to some of the trains in New Zealand. Thank Christ we’ve got some left.

[2]  Don Campbell complained that ‘Thank Christ’ was a ‘blasphemous expression’ which was highly offensive.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National between 1am and 3am on 8 August 2016. 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 threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. In a radio context, this standard is usually considered in relation to offensive language, sexual references or references to violence, but may also apply to other material presented in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.

The parties’ submissions

[6]  Mr Campbell argued that the expression ‘Thank Christ’ breached general standards of good taste and decency and was of particular offence to Christians. He considered that ‘to have [Christ’s] name casually used to apparently intensify [the presenter’s] expression of gratitude that we still have some remaining train services seemed both unnecessary and offensive’.

[7]  RNZ acknowledged the complainant’s concerns about the presenter’s choice of expression, and advised that the presenter was spoken to by senior management about what is expected in terms of presentation style and language. However, RNZ submitted that the expression was used as an exclamation rather than carrying any ill will against Jesus Christ or Christians. It maintained there was no breach of standards in this instance.

Our analysis

[8]  We acknowledge that some people may find the use of variations of ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ unnecessary and offensive.1 However, the Authority has previously found that expressions of this nature are commonly used as exclamations, without any intention to be offensive. We have recognised that in many cases, use of these expressions will not breach broadcasting standards.2

[9]  We consider that the same reasoning applies in this case. The presenter appeared to be merely expressing gratitude that some train services were still running in New Zealand. His comment was an off-the-cuff remark that was not dwelt on or repeated. It was made in the context of a genteel, middle-of-the-night presentation by an experienced broadcaster. We see this as nowhere near being a threat to current norms of good taste and decency.

[10]  Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich

Chair

2 December 2016

 

 

Appendix

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

1      Don Campbell’s formal complaint – 8 August 2016
2      RNZ’s response to the complaint – 30 August 2016
3      Mr Campbell’s referral to the Authority – 9 September 2016
4      Mr Campbell’s further comments on referral – 15 September 2016
5      RNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 October 2016

 


1 For example, see Braddon-Parsons and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2007-035; Campbell and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2000-054.

2 As above.