BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Gibson and RadioWorks Ltd - 2010-020

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Damien Gibson
Number
2010-020
Broadcaster
RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
The Edge

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Edge Morning Madhouse – host referred to George Michael as a “homo” – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration

Findings
Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – standard applies to sections of the community – host’s comment did not encourage denigration or discrimination – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   During The Edge Morning Madhouse programme, broadcast on The Edge on the morning of Friday 5 February 2010, one of the hosts, Dom, had to guess which celebrity his co-host and wife, JJ, would leave him for. Dom’s guess was incorrect, but JJ’s best friend guessed correctly that JJ was thinking of singer George Michael. Dom remarked, “But he’s a homo!” and JJ responded, “I know he’s gay, but if he went straight I’d so be there”.

Complaint

[2]   Damien Gibson made a formal complaint to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the host’s reference to George Michael being a “homo” breached standards relating to discrimination and denigration. He considered that the term was used “in a pejorative sense to denigrate George Michael on the basis of his sexuality”.

Standards

[3]   RadioWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 7 Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   RadioWorks considered that the hosts of The Edge Morning Madhouse programme were “renowned for their wit and quirky senses of humour, their light-hearted banter, and for regularly engineering mischievous but innocuous pranks and jokes”. It noted that the show was aimed at adults aged 18 to 35 and was intended purely to entertain.

[5]   RadioWorks considered whether the host’s comment blackened the reputation of homosexuals as a class of people. It was of the view that the host’s use of the word “homo” fell within the expectations of The Edge’s regular listeners and that it was used as a colloquialism. The central element of the segment, it said, was whether “a boyfriend or a best friend” knew a person better, in this case JJ’s husband and her best friend.

[6]   The broadcaster stated that it understood Mr Gibson’s concern that The Edge was promoting disrespect for homosexual people. However, it said that while the discussion did single them out as a group, “no discrimination occurred as a result of the use of the word [‘homo’]”. It concluded that no disparaging remarks were made about the gay community in breach of Standard 7.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Gibson referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the host’s reference to George Michael being a “homo” denigrated and discriminated against George Michael as an individual and homosexuals as a group. Mr Gibson disagreed that the comment was excused by the expectations of the programme’s target audience, and noted that he was listening with his 10-year-old son. He contended that “homo” was considered to be a pejorative term, while “gay” was acceptable.

Authority's Determination

[8]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[9]   Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[10]   The term "denigration" has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people (see, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1). “Discrimination” has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment (see for example Teoh and TVNZ2).

[11]   It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration in contravention of the standard (see, for example, McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network3).

[12]   We note that Standard 7 applies only to sections of the community, and therefore that it does not apply to George Michael as an individual. With regard to homosexuals in general, we consider that the host’s comment lacked any invective, and that a single light-hearted use of the term “homo” could not in itself be said to have encouraged denigration of, or discrimination against, homosexuals.

[13]   Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the comment breached Standard 7.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
27 April 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Damien Gibson’s formal complaint – 8 February 2010
2.          RadioWorks’ response to the complaint – 10 February 2010
3.          Mr Gibson’s referral to the Authority – 11 February 2010
4.          RadioWorks’ response to the Authority – 11 March 2010


1Decision No. 2006-030

2Decision No. 2008-091

3Decision No. 2002-152