BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Kirk and The Radio Network Ltd - 2012-134

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Alistair Kirk
Number
2012-134
Channel/Station
ZM

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Jay, Flynny & Jacqui – during live broadcast from Riccarton Park Racecourse one host said to her co-hosts, “I know you haven’t put any bets on because you’re both Jews” – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration standard

Findings
Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – comment was ignorant and perpetuated stereotypes but did not reach the high threshold necessary for encouraging the denigration of, or discrimination against, Jewish people as a section of the community – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  During the ZM drive show, Jay, Flynny & Jacqui, broadcast live from Cup Day at Riccarton Park Racecourse in Christchurch, one of the hosts said to her co-hosts, “You’ve obviously watched the race. I know you haven’t put any bets on because you’re both Jews”. The show was broadcast on ZM on 13 November 2012.

[2]  Alistair Kirk made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the host’s comment normalised “racial intolerance” and encouraged discrimination against Jewish people on account of religious belief.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast, and specifically the host’s comment, breached the discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  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 encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, Jewish people as a section of the community?

[5]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[6]  The Authority has consistently defined “denigration” as blackening the reputation of a class of people,1 and “discrimination” as encouraging the different treatment of members of a particular group, to their detriment.2 It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages discrimination in contravention of the standard.3

[7]  Mr Kirk argued that the host intended the comment as a criticism of her co-hosts, which normalised “Jew” as a term of abuse. He considered that a broadcast apology was warranted.

[8]  TRN noted that, having received an informal complaint from Mr Kirk, the station manager apologised to him and advised that the host concerned had been counselled on the matter. It said that the comment was inadvertent as the host did not realise the term “Jew” was a “slur” when connected with money, but genuinely believed the connection was “positive”.

[9]  Here, the host’s reference to “Jews” perpetuated stereotypes about Jewish frugality, and we understand that this would have been offensive to some people. However, comments will not breach the standard simply because they are critical of a particular group, because they offend people, or because they are rude; the Authority recognises that allowing the free and frank expression of a wide range of views is a necessary part of living in a democracy.

[10]  The comment displayed a lack of respect for a group of people based on religious belief, though we do not think that this was intentional. Rather, the host’s remark was made in the context of her co-hosts’ decision not to place bets at the races, and was intended as a light-hearted dig at them, as opposed to an attack against Jewish people. Listeners were likely to have interpreted the comment as a silly joke, and would not have taken it as a serious endorsement of hatred or abuse against that group. Overall, we think that while the comment was ignorant and obtuse, it did not reach the high threshold required to find a breach of the standard.

[11]  Furthermore, the broadcaster took appropriate action by advising staff, including the host concerned, that such comments are not acceptable for broadcast, and the station manager apologised to the complainant.

[12]  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
27 February 2013

Appendix

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

1           Alistair Kirk’s formal complaint – 26 November 2012

2          TRN’s response to the complaint – 4 December 2012

3          Mr Kirk’s referral to the Authority – 10 December 2012

4          TRN’s response to the Authority – 12 December 2012


1See, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks, Decision No. 2006-030.

2
E.g. Teoh and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-091

3See, for example, McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network, Decision No. 2002-152.