BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

O'Neill and The Radio Network Ltd - 2002-051

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainants
  • Shaun O’Neill
  • Shaun O'Neill
Number
2002-051
Programme
Doug Out
Channel/Station
Radio Sport

Complaint
Radio Sport talkback discussion of South Africa & New Zealand one day cricket match – callers’ questions about match-fixing and bonus point – host terminated one call apparently from an Asian with reference to match-fixing in the sub-continent – another call terminated with sarcasm – unfair – racist

Findings
Principle 5 – sports talkback is robust – no uphold

Principle 7 – opinion not racial slur – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] The result of the previous evening’s one day cricket match between New Zealand and South Africa was one of the topics on Doug Out, a talkback session broadcast on Radio Sport on Saturday morning 2 February 2002 hosted by Doug Golightly. One caller questioned whether the result was fixed, and another asked whether South Africa had earned a bonus point.

[2] Shaun O’Neill complained to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, that the host’s response to each of these two callers was rude, based on a misunderstanding of the history of match-fixing, and as the first caller was apparently an Asian, it involved a racial slur.

[3] In response, TRN maintained that the host’s comments reflected the history of match-fixing in one-day international cricket matches, and were not rude in the robust talkback environment.

[4] Dissatisfied with TRN’s reply, Mr O’Neill referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

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

The Programme

[6] Radio Sport is a network broadcast by TRN. It includes commentaries of sports events, interviews and talkback about sports issues. During the Doug Out segment on Saturday morning 2 February 2002, the host, Doug Golightly, suggested in response to one caller that cricket matches had been "fixed" in the sub-continent. In response to another call about the South African-New Zealand one day cricket match that had been played the previous evening, he terminated the call with a terse comment when a caller asked if South Africa had obtained a bonus point as part of its victory.

The Complaint

[7] Shaun O’Neill complained to TRN about these aspects of the broadcast. The first caller was called "Suresh" and, Mr O’Neill said, he questioned whether New Zealand had been involved in "match-fixing".

[8] The host’s response, Mr O’Neill wrote, was abusive and included the comment; "There is a lot of match-fixing and everything as you blokes know".

[9] The other caller had also been treated rudely, Mr O’Neill stated, when his question about a bonus point was met with the comment: "Where have you been buddy, well done", and the call was then terminated.

[10] Mr O’Neill complained that the host was consistently and gratuitously "a very rude person", to those he considered dumb, and the comment about match-fixing in the sub-continent contained racist overtones.

The Standards

[11] TRN considered the complaint under Principle 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Principle and Guideline 7a provide:

Principle 7

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.

Guideline

7a  Broadcasters will not portray people in a manner which encourages denigration of or discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender, race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation; or as the consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement does not extend to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual; or

ii) a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion, or

iii) is by of legitimate humour or satire.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[12] TRN maintained that the host had advised the first caller that the New Zealand cricket team had decided "to gift South Africa with a bonus point".

[13] The comment about match-fixing, TRN explained, was a retort in view of the caller’s assumption that New Zealand had participated in the practice. TRN added:

In the first instance the comment ‘as you blokes know’ was more a retort based on Suresh’s premise that the Kiwi’s were indulging in match-fixing. It is well known that India and Pakistan, in particular, have a history in this respect and Golightly was reminding the caller of this.

[14] In respect of the second caller, TRN argued that the host’s actions in terminating the call were appropriate as the issue had been discussed "for well over an hour".

[15] TRN declined to uphold the complaint.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[16] When he referred his complaint to the Authority, Mr O’Neill enclosed a copy of his letter to TRN which dealt with the issues raised in the complaint.

[17] First, Mr O’Neill wrote, he had made two complaints involving a racial insult by the host.

[18] In regard to the call about match-fixing, Mr O’Neill disputed TRN’s claim that the host had replied "politely". He also argued that South Africa and Australian cricket players had a history of match-fixing, which the host had overlooked.

[19] As for the second call, Mr O’Neill considered that the caller had asked a legitimate question, but the call was terminated rudely.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[20] In its response to the Authority, TRN maintained:

the host had responded politely to the first caller’s initial inquiry;

Indian and Pakistani cricket teams have a history of match-fixing and there was no basis for the caller’s implication that the New Zealand team was involved;

talkback is a robust environment; and

only South Africa is involved in match-fixing to the degree that it occurs in the sub continent.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[21] Mr O’Neill responded to TRN’s points:

While unable to remember precisely the exchange which was broadcast, Mr O’Neill considered that it was unlikely that the host had replied politely as he was an "outright rude and obnoxious" man;

It was incorrect to state that India and Pakistan had "a history of match-fixing". There had been some Indian and Pakistani people involved in match-fixing. There had been at least one South African involved and there had been allegations against some Australian players. The caller’s Asian name and accent did not merit the comment "as you blokes know".

The host had been rude when he "rapidly" terminated the second call, and had made an "obvious racial slur".

TRN’s response overlooked the fact that individuals – not countries – were involved in match-fixing, and the host’s comment was "factually wrong" and "substantively racist".

The Authority’s Determination

[22] Mr O’Neill complained that not only was the host on the sports talkback segment Doug Out rude to two callers, but also that his comments to one caller were based on a misunderstanding of the history of match-fixing in cricket and included a racial slur.

[23] The Authority has listened to a tape of the broadcast and considers that it is necessary to take into account the environment in which the exchanges took place.

[24] In past decisions, the Authority has stated that it regards talkback as a robust environment, and it accepts that this tends to be accentuated in the sports talkback environment. Callers and the host express strong opinions, and they often put their views forcibly.

[25] The broadcaster has assessed the complaint under guideline 7a of Principle 7. The Authority considers that the original complaint also involves an allegation that the host’s response was unnecessarily rude to each caller, and, accordingly, it intends to deal with this aspect under Principle 5 of the Radio Code. It reads:

Principle 5

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

[26] Dealing with the first call complained about which referred to match fixing, the Authority notes that the caller asked for the host’s opinion. That opinion was expressed robustly. The Authority finds that it did not include a racial slur which amounted to breach of Principle 7a, and was not unfair in contravention of Principle 5. The Authority has stated on a number of occasions that there is a high threshold to be attained before it finds a breach of Guideline 7a.

[27] The Authority agrees with Mr O’Neill that the second call was terminated abruptly. However, the host referred to the reasons for this action, and the Authority does not consider that this amounted to a breach of Principle 5 given the environment in which it occurred.

[28] In view of its conclusion in respect of each call, the Authority finds that neither aspect of the complaint breached the Radio Code.

[29] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards which it considers is consistent with, and gives full weight to, the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judy McGregor
Member
24 April 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Shaun O’Neill’s Complaint to The Radio Network Ltd – date 4 February 2002
  2. Shaun O’Neill’s Complaint to the Human Rights Commission – 7 February 2002
  3. TRN’s Response to the Complaint – 14 February 2002
  4. Mr O’Neill’s Response to TRN – 18 February 2002
  5. Mr O’Neill’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 18 February 2002
  6. TRN’s Response to the Authority – 25 February 2002
  7. Mr O’Neill’s Final Comment – 5 March 2002