BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Chand and Apna Networks Ltd - 2006-005

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Rakesh Chand
Number
2006-005
Programme
Apna 990
Broadcaster
Apna Networks Ltd
Channel/Station
Apna 990

Complaints under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Caller to talkback on 6 November 2005 used word “Muslim” – disconnected – allegedly unbalanced

News broadcast on 7 November – four matters allegedly inaccurate

News broadcast on 20 November referred to Rugby World Cup – broadcaster acknowledged that it had been inaccurate to say that South Africa had withdrawn its bid – apology to complainant and correction broadcast a week later – action taken insufficient

Findings
Principle 4 (balance) – did not give rise to issue of balance in talkback radio environment – not upheld

Principle 6 (accuracy) – unable to determine three complaints – decline to determine

No inaccuracy in respect of fourth complaint – not upheld

Action taken – action taken sufficient – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcasts and Complaints

[1] Rakesh Chand complained to Apna Networks Ltd, the broadcaster, about three different broadcasts on Apna 990AM.

[2] A caller to the talkback programme broadcast on 6 November 2005 used the word “Muslim” and was disconnected. Mr Chand considered that the talkback caller had been treated unfairly as the word “Muslim” had been used neither aggressively nor abusively. He contended that the broadcast was unbalanced.

[3] News items broadcast on 7 November included references to the Police Commissioner in Fiji and to the capital of Denmark. Mr Chand complained that the Fiji Police Commissioner’s name was given incorrectly as Andrew “Hugh”, not “Hughes”; that the reference to the capital of Denmark was not comprehensible; and that the broadcast had contained the phrase “tho wahin” (in Hindi) suggesting that items which had nothing to do with each other were somehow related.

[4] The same news broadcast on 7 November included an item of sports news which reported that a soccer team which lost 1–0 had been “thumped”. Mr Chand complained that describing a 1–0 victory in a soccer match as a “thumping” was inaccurate.

[5] The third complaint referred to a news item broadcast on Apna 990AM on 20 November 2005 which advised that New Zealand was successful in its bid to stage the Rugby World Cup in 2011. It was also reported that South Africa had withdrawn its bid. Mr Chand complained that the item was inaccurate as South Africa had not withdrawn its bid, but had been defeated in the ballot. Mr Chand said that he had telephoned the announcer at the time, who had acknowledged the error.

Principles

[6] Apna assessed the complaints under the following Principles and Guidelines in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

Principle 4

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Principle 6

In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

Guideline 6b

In the event of an allegation of inaccuracy, broadcasters will act promptly to check the allegation against the original broadcast, and will broadcast with similar prominence a suitable and appropriately scheduled correction if that is found to be justified.

Broadcaster's Responses to the Complainant

[7] In its response to the complaint about disconnecting the caller to talkback on 6 November, Apna said the caller’s comments contained “strong racial undertones”. As it did not tolerate “racial discontent”, Apna considered that, in terminating the call, it had acted within the policies contained in the broadcasting standards. Apna said callers from across society, including Muslims, expressed their views freely on controversial issues.

[8] In its response to the complaint about the alleged inaccuracies broadcast on 7 November, Apna said all its news items were verified as factually correct before being aired. It noted that as an ethnic station using Hindi, certain words were sometimes pronounced with an accent owing to the diverse ethnic background of the presenters. As for the complaint about the word “thumped”, Apna cited a dictionary definition, and noting that the meaning of the word depended on the context and the tone in which it was used, declined to uphold the complaint.

[9] With regard to the news item on 20 November, Apna stated that the script said, correctly, that “South Africa was voted out” of its bid for the rugby world cup, but the presenter, through “a slip of the tongue”, used the word “withdrew”. The error, Apna stated, was corrected in the programme broadcast the following week. Apna acknowledged both the error and Mr Chand’s telephone call and apologised if the error had caused any harm.

Referral to the Authority

[10] Dissatisfied with Apna’s replies, Mr Chand referred his complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[11] Regarding the complaint that the item on 6 November lacked balance, Mr Chand maintained that the caller was disconnected “on the mere mention of the word ‘Muslim’ ”. He supported Apna’s approach to the issue of racial denigration. However in this case, there had been no racial undertones, and he questioned the broadcaster’s reasoning.

[12] Mr Chand reiterated that the news broadcast on 7 November contained several inaccuracies, and that the use of the word “thumped” to describe a 1-0 win by a soccer team was inappropriate.

Authority's Determination

[13] The members of the Authority have read an independently prepared translation of each of the broadcasts complained about, and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Talkback 6 November – Balance

[14] The complainant has based his allegation of a lack of balance solely on the fact that the talkback host disconnected a single call after a caller used the word “Muslim”. In his referral, the complainant alleged that the broadcaster’s actions amounted to racial discrimination against, and illegal censorship of, non-Muslims.

[15] The Authority points out that the balance standard is intended to ensure that a range of significant perspectives is presented when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. In the present case, there is no evidence to suggest – and indeed the complainant has not suggested – that Apna’s coverage of any specific issue failed, over a period of time, to include a range of significant perspectives. The complaint focuses instead on a single call, and alleges that as a result of a perceived racial bias, the caller was unfairly disconnected and not allowed to offer his view. That, in the view of the Authority, is an issue of fairness to that caller, rather than an issue of balance.

[16] For this reason, the Authority does not uphold the balance complaint.

Factual errors 7 November – Accuracy

[17] The translation obtained by the Authority of the programme broadcast on 7 November does not assist it in determining whether the broadcaster incorrectly pronounced the name of the Police Commissioner in Fiji as Hugh or Hughes, nor whether there was an incorrect reference to the capital of Denmark. The Authority accordingly declines to determine these complaints. In any event, the Authority notes that the accuracy standard is intended to address statements of fact in factual programmes, rather than the minor mispronunciations or misplaced words alleged in the present case.

[18] The Authority does not uphold the complaint that it was inaccurate to use the term “thumped” to describe a 1-0 win in a soccer game. Listeners were clearly told the score of the game, and the use of the subjective word “thumped” did not affect the accuracy of the report.

[19] The Authority declines to determine the complaint that the broadcast was inaccurate because unrelated items were connected through the use of the Hindi phrase “tho wahin”. The Authority’s translator advised that it had listened to the audio many times but had not heard the expression, although some of the audio was unclear.

Factual Error 20 November – Action Taken

[20] The broadcaster upheld the complaint that the news item was inaccurate when it reported that South Africa had withdrawn its bid for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Apna said that the script stated that South Africa was voted out but the presenter, through a slip of the tongue, had said that South Africa withdrew.

[21] Apna also acknowledged that the complainant had telephoned the presenter after the show to complain. The broadcaster said that the error was corrected on air the following week on the Newsbeat show at about the same time In its letter to Mr Chand, it wrote:

We would like to apologize if this presentation error caused you any harm.

[22] The Authority has dealt with this matter as a complaint that Mr Chand was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster after it had upheld the complaint. The Authority does not regard the mistake as substantial and considers that the apology to Mr Chand and on-air correction were appropriate and sufficient.

[23] The Authority observes that the complaints addressed in this decision were minor and that it would be open to the Authority to decline to determine further similar complaints as trivial, under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 October 2006

Appendix

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

  1. Mr Chand’s complaints to Apna 990FM – 7 November 2005
  2. Apna’s response to Mr Chand – 17 November 2005
  3. Mr Chand’s response to Apna – 20 November 2005
  4. Apna’s response to Mr Chand – 31 January 2006
  5. Apna’s further response to Mr Chand – 31 January 2006
  6. Mr Chand’s referral to the Authority – 1 February 2006
  7. Mr Chand’s referral to the Authority – 16 February 2006
  8. Apna’s response to the Authority – 1 June 2006