LQ and New Zealand Media and Entertainment - 2016-059 (14 October 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
BroadcasterNew Zealand Media and Entertainment
Channel/StationNewstalk ZB # 2
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
During Overnight Talk on Newstalk ZB, the complainant had a conversation with the host about greyhound racing in which he defended the activity and the use of live bait. The host responded that the complainant was ‘pathetic’ and ‘a very sick person’, among other things. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the host had offended the complainant on the basis of his Australian Aboriginal culture. The host’s comments to the complainant had no relation to his culture, and were not otherwise unfair. The comments were typical of the robust and opinionated nature of talkback radio, where callers can reasonably expect hosts to disagree with their views, sometimes in a strong and confrontational manner. They were made in response to the complainant’s views on the use of live bait in greyhound racing, which he was given a fair opportunity to express during the conversation.
Not Upheld: Fairness
 During Overnight Talk on Newstalk ZB, the complainant, LQ, had a conversation with the host about greyhound racing. LQ defended greyhound racing and the use of live bait. In particular, he suggested that foxes should be used as live bait and that the host should read his Bible. The host responded to LQ as follows:
- ‘Oh for god’s sake, [name]. You are pathetic.’
- ‘You need to read your Bible. You’re willing to sacrifice a fox because it’s a pest and it can be tortured. You’re a very sick person.’
- ‘You have no understanding of what that greyhound inquiry and the banning in New South Wales is all about.’
- ‘Don’t tell me to read the Bible – you’re the one that desperately needs to read the Bible. Have a bit of compassion for dumb animals – except you’re the dumb one.’
 LQ complained that the host offended him on the basis of his Australian Aboriginal culture.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the fairness standard as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.1
 The item was broadcast at 3.30am on 8 July 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.
Was any individual or organisation taking part or referred to in the broadcast treated unfairly?
 The fairness standard (Standard 11) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.
The parties’ submissions
 LQ considered that ‘all peoples of all races should be treated fair and equal’ and that the host’s statements to him amounted to abuse.
 NZME noted that the Authority has noted repeatedly that talkback radio is a ‘robust, opinionated’ environment. It argued that in this case, the host ‘called [name] names because he thought [his] suggestion was “out there”’ and ‘did not appreciate being told to “read his bible”’. It considered that if LQ had chosen to call and participate in a talkback radio show, he should expect a forceful response when challenging the host.
 Guideline 11a to the fairness standard states that a consideration of what is fair will depend on the nature of the programme. The Authority has consistently recognised that talkback radio is a ‘robust and opinionated environment, in which the host and callers often engage in heated conversations and express strong or provocative views, and in which the threshold for a finding of unfairness may be higher’.2 It is common for talkback radio hosts to disagree with callers, sometimes in a forceful manner. Callers should reasonably expect that by choosing to enter and participate in this forum they may receive an adversarial response if the host does not share their views.
 We do not consider that in this instance the conversation between the host and the complainant went beyond what is typical in this environment or strayed into unfair treatment.
 We acknowledge that the complainant’s concerns are based on what he considered was the host’s unfair treatment of him due to his Australian Aboriginal culture. If an individual was subject to criticism, abuse or degrading treatment on the basis of his or her culture, this may well result in a breach of broadcasting standards.
 However, we do not think this is such a case. We have not seen any evidence to suggest that the host was aware of LQ’s aboriginal heritage or that his comments were related to the complainant’s heritage. The host did not make any comments which either explicitly or implicitly referred to LQ’s aboriginal heritage.
 We also do not consider that, in the context of the conversation, the host’s comments amounted to abuse or resulted in the complainant being treated unfairly. The comments were made after the host had allowed LQ substantial time (approximately four minutes) to give his views on greyhound racing, largely uninterrupted. The host’s comments were clearly in response to LQ’s support for using live bait, namely foxes, in greyhound racing, and the suggestion he should read the Bible. While the host’s response may have been perceived as rude by some listeners, it was, in our view, an attempt to moderate the views expressed by LQ, which could be considered to be extreme views. The host was entitled to express his disagreement, which he did in a calm, yet forceful, manner.
 For these reasons, we do not uphold the fairness complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
14 October 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 LQ’s formal complaint – 8 July 2016
2 NZME’s response to the complaint – 19 July 2016
3 LQ’s referral to the Authority – 28 July 2016
4 NZME’s response to the Authority – 9 August 2016
5 LQ’s final comment – 5 September 2016
1 This complaint was determined under the new Radio Code, which took effect on 1 April 2016 and applies to any programmes broadcast on or after that date: http://bsa.govt.nz/standards/radio-code
2 For example, see O’Halloran and RadioWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2011-021