BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Clayton and Triangle Television Ltd - 2004-001

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • R Bryant
  • Diane Musgrave
Dated
Complainant
  • Doug Clayton
Number
2004-001
Channel/Station
Triangle Television

Complaint
Voice of Islam – comments about homosexuality and AIDS – discrimination/denigration – incited hatred, intolerance and violence toward homosexuals

Findings
Standard 6 and Guideline 6g – hate speech – encouraged discrimination and denigration – upheld

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the Decision


Summary

[1] A lecture titled “Challenges Facing Muslims in the New Millennium” was broadcast on Voice of Islam on Triangle Television between 3.00pm and 4.00pm on Monday 29 September 2003.

[2] Mr Clayton complained to Triangle Television Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme included comments which incited hatred and intolerance toward homosexuals.

[3] Triangle Television maintained that broadcasting standards were not breached, as Standard 6 of the Television Code allowed for the broadcast of “genuinely held opinion”.

[4] Dissatisfied with Triangle Television's decision, Mr Clayton referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Programme

[6] Voice of Islam was broadcast on 29 September 2003 at 3.00pm on Triangle Television. During the programme, Brother Abdullah Hakim Quick addressed viewers about “Challenges Facing Muslims in the New Millennium”. Toward the conclusion of the lecture, Brother Quick expressed views about homosexuality. In summary, he said:

AIDS is caused by the “filthy practices” of homosexuals

  • Homosexuals are dropping dead from AIDS and “they want to take us all down with them”
  • The Islamic position on homosexuality is “death”
  • Homosexuals are “sick” and “not natural”
  • “Muslims are going to have to take a stand [against homosexuals] and it's not enough to call names”.

Complaint

[7] Mr Clayton complained that the comments were “deeply disturbing” and described the dialogue as “a hateful and bitter diatribe against homosexuals”. He wrote:

When a Muslim Cleric is being broadcast, inciting hatred and intolerance to an audience that may be 40–50,000 strong, you need to take notice! You are a public access channel, and that means you have a public responsibility to be alert to the nature of the material you allow to be broadcast…

…This kind of thing is insidious, and if allowed to proceed unchallenged, could in time develop unstoppable momentum, and ultimately sweep away the quality and freedom of life that you and I take for granted…

Standards

[8] Triangle Television assessed the complaint under Standard 6 and Guideline 6g of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standard and relevant Guideline read:

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guideline

6g  Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9] Triangle Television did not uphold Mr Clayton's complaint. It explained that:

…the programme in question was a religious address by a Mullah of the Islamic faith, predominantly to viewers who are followers of that belief. The Mullah in question was addressing issues raised by the Koran as part of the Islamic faith.

[10] Triangle Television acknowledged that some of the comments made could be viewed as “rather extreme” to some viewers. However, it said that “to others, we have reason to believe they are a genuinely held belief of followers of Islam”. It maintained that the comments made were “genuinely held beliefs” to which paragraph (ii) of Guideline 6g applied.

[11] Triangle Television submitted that it had taken a “very proactive stance on all issues regarding HIV, AIDS and issues affecting the gay community and other minorities” and would continue to do so. It also noted that, as part of its “access” philosophy, its policy was to offer airtime to those with opposing points of view to programming that screens on the station, on the same terms and conditions as those of the programme complained about. It made that offer to the complainant.

[12] The broadcaster advised that it had reinforced with the programme's provider the need to be aware of, and comply with, broadcasting standards. It also apologised to the complainant for any distress or discomfort the programme may have caused him, but maintained that it endeavoured to provide “an open forum for broad discussion, discourse and argument for all sectors of the community”.

Referral to the Authority

[13] In his referral, Mr Clayton said that although he appreciated that Triangle Television had taken a “very proactive stance” on gay issues in the past, he did not believe that this excused it for screening a programme which clearly incited “hatred, intolerance and violence towards gay and lesbian people”. He considered that Standard 6 had been breached and that the comments made were nothing short of a lengthy tirade which had little to do with religion.

[14] Mr Clayton argued that paragraph (ii) to Guideline 6g did not apply to excuse the broadcast, as it only applied to “news, current affairs and other factual programmes”. The programme he complained about was “clearly not a critical examination of Islamic beliefs, it was a religious broadcast”, he wrote. He continued:

Triangle seems to feel its hands are tied by needing to give religious people freedom of expression, but surely a broadcast of this nature and severity has crossed the line as it encourages hate and violence against another group in society.

[15] Mr Clayton considered that screening the programme set a dangerous precedent, and that:

The language was so strong and hateful (particularly in regards to the comment about homosexuals deserving death) that I feel nothing short of a severe reprimand, a cancellation of the show, and a public apology from Triangle is needed to prevent television channels from ever screening anything that so blatantly ignores the codes again.

Authority's Determination

[16] Standard 6 requires broadcasters to deal justly and fairly with any person referred to in a programme and Guideline 6g requires broadcasters to avoid portraying persons in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of (among other things) sexual orientation.

[17] The Authority has ruled, on a number of occasions, that a high threshold applies before a broadcast contravenes Guideline 6g. For a breach to occur, the Authority has required that a broadcast actually encourage denigration or discrimination. In the Authority's view, the threshold was clearly crossed on this occasion. The comments made in the programme were extreme and the Authority considers that they are aptly described as “hate speech”. They went far beyond mere criticism of those with a homosexual orientation. Of particular concern, the speaker advocated death for homosexuals and suggested that Muslims should take an active stand against them, which a viewer might have interpreted as an incitement to violence. The Authority considers that these comments were particularly odious and were in stark contrast with the reasonable and moderate tone which had characterised the rest of the lecture.

[18] The Authority notes that Guideline 6g to Standard 6 states that the Guideline is not intended to prevent the broadcast of “genuinely held opinion in factual programmes”. On this occasion, the Authority does not consider that the exception applies. Having considered the content of the programme, the Authority concludes that this particular broadcast of Voice of Islam was not a “factual programme”. This programme was a sermon which expressed the speaker's opinions and was based on his religious ideology.

[19] The distinction between factual programmes and opinion programmes is explained in Decision Nos. 2003-141/158, at paragraphs [45] to [48]. This ruling can be distinguished from the Voice of Islam programme which was the subject of Decision Nos. 2003-104/105. On that occasion, the Authority did not uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 6, as the comments made in that programme were factual in nature, inasmuch as they were clearly the personal accounts by two men of their conversion to Islam. On this occasion, the programme complained about was a religious lecture or sermon and, in the Authority's view, the comments complained about amounted to an unacceptable tirade against homosexuals and homosexuality.

[20] For the reasons set out above, the Authority upholds this complaint.

[21] The social objective of regulating broadcasting standards is to guard against broadcasters behaving unfairly, offensively, or otherwise excessively. The Broadcasting Act clearly limits freedom of expression. Section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 provides that the right to freedom of expression may be limited by “such reasonable limits which are prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”. For the reasons given in Decision Nos. 2002-071/072, the Authority is firmly of the opinion that the limits in the Broadcasting Act are reasonable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. The Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, including in particular section 14 (freedom of expression) and section 19 (freedom from discrimination) when exercising its powers under the Broadcasting Act on this occasion. For the reasons given in this decision, the Authority considers that the exercise of its powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. In reaching this conclusion, the Authority has taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint.

 

For the reasons given above, Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by Triangle Television Ltd of Voice of Islam on 29 September 2003 breached Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[22] Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose orders under ss.13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It invited submissions from the parties.

[23] The broadcaster suggested the following action would be appropriate:

  • a full retraction and an apology by the programme's producer
  • a statement that the views expressed “were and are not representative of the programme or the Islamic community”
  • a commitment in future programmes to stronger editorial judgment
  • a more balanced line up of speakers in future programmes.

[24] The complainant suggested that if Triangle was:

… unable to absolutely guarantee that future broadcasts of Islamic material will be thoroughly vetted for such content, then these programmes should be withdrawn completely.

[25] The Authority has no power to make orders which would give effect to the specific suggestions made by the parties. However, it commends the suggestions made by Triangle Television and encourages the broadcaster to take the action it suggested.

[26] Due to the serious nature of the breach of standards, the Authority considers an order is also warranted, and that the appropriate order is to require Triangle Television to broadcast a statement under s.13(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Order

The Authority orders Triangle Television Ltd to broadcast a statement, within one month of the date of this decision. The statement must:

  • include an apology
  • explain why the complaint was upheld
  • be approved by the Authority and
  • be broadcast on a day and at a time approved by the Authority.

The Authority reminds Triangle Television that s.13(3)(b) of the Act requires the broadcaster to notify the Authority and the complainant of the manner in which it has complied with the order.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
26 February 2004

Appendix

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

1.    Mr Clayton's Complaint to Triangle Television Ltd – 2 October 2003

2.    Triangle Television's Response to the Formal Complaint – 3 October 2003

3.    Mr Clayton's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 20 October 2003

4.    Triangle Television's Response to the Authority – 23 October 2003

5.    Mr Clayton's Submission on Orders – 12 January 2004

6.    Triangle Television's Submission on Orders – 13 January 2004