BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Nixon and RadioWorks Ltd - 2013-065

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Dennis Nixon
Number
2013-065
Broadcaster
RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio Live # 2

Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

During a late night talkback programme with a fill-in host, a caller expressed her attitude to the Royal family by reference to what she described as ‘Charles raping Diana’. The host challenged this and asked her what she meant. She spoke about how the Queen ‘devised the “three in the bed” scenario’ and how she felt sorry for Diana. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the reference to rape was unacceptable and the host should have terminated the call. It appeared the caller did not mean ‘rape’ in the literal sense, the conversation was not unduly offensive in the context of a late night talkback programme, and the host acted responsibly by asking the caller to clarify her point.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


Introduction

[1]  During a late night talkback programme with a fill-in host, at approximately 11.50pm, a caller phoned in and expressed her attitude to the Royal family by reference to what she described as ‘Charles raping Diana’. The programme was broadcast on Tuesday 23 July 2013 on Radio Live. 

[2]  Dennis Nixon made a formal complaint to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, saying the broadcast was offensive because the host allowed the caller to ‘carry on’ about rape and then invited her to call back another time, when he should have cut her off.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard, as set out in 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 threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  The good taste and decency standard is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[6]  The comments subject to complaint occurred in the context of a discussion about the role of the Queen and the Royal family in New Zealand. The caller spoke about how her attitude to the Royal family had changed over time, and especially so when ‘the old Queen devised the “three in the bed” scenario’, which she described as ‘Charles raping Diana’. The host expressed surprise, saying ‘Diana went willingly to the bed’, and asked the caller to clarify. The caller said:

[Diana] was blinded. The poor girl, I’ve never felt so sorry for her… the old Queen had called Charles in on several occasions to talk to him about taking a wife. Well, of course what we didn’t know at this stage is that he had Camilla on the side… that was the end of it for me…

[7]  The host ended the conversation by thanking the caller and telling her, ‘I look forward to learning more about your life and thoughts on another evening.’

[8]  RadioWorks referred to the robust nature of talkback radio and the programme’s adult target audience. It said the caller was expressing her opinion which was questioned and clarified by the host, indicating to listeners that she was talking about ‘a deceit rather than a physical rape’. The broadcaster said the host acted responsibly by asking the caller to clarify her point so there was no need for him to terminate the call.

[9]  We agree. While we acknowledge that some listeners would have been surprised by the suggestion that Charles ‘raped’ Diana, it appeared from the caller’s subsequent comments, after the host asked her to clarify, that she was using the term ‘rape’ to denote her view Diana was tricked into the relationship not knowing that Charles ‘had Camilla on the side’. We are satisfied that the programme’s adult target audience would have interpreted the caller’s comments in this light, understanding that the term ‘rape’ was not being used literally. Talkback is a robust and opinionated environment, and free speech is valued in this context; the caller was entitled to convey her opinion in her own words, even if her choice of expression may have offended some listeners. The conversation was permissible at 11.50pm in the context of a late night talkback programme aimed at adults.

[10]  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
19 November 2013

Appendix

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

1                 Dennis Nixon’s formal complaint  – 2 August 2013  

2                 RadioWorks’ response to the complaint – 3 September 2013

3                 Mr Nixon’s referral to the Authority – 20 September 2013

4                 RadioWorks’ response to the Authority – 24 September 2013


1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd

, Decision No. 2008-112

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)