BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Ram and Apna Networks Ltd - 2008-135

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Amrit Ram
Number
2008-135
Programme
Bhajan Sanghra
Broadcaster
Apna Networks Ltd
Channel/Station
Apna 990

Complaint under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Bhajan Sanghra – host started a discussion about the National Party taking over from the previous Labour-led government – host believed that New Zealand's Indian community had been well supported under Labour – voiced concerns regarding what the National-led government would do to assist and support the New Zealand Indian community – encouraged listeners to text him with their concerns, which he would forward to the National Party – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and controversial issues standards

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – standard not relevant – not upheld

Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints) – did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – standard not applicable – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] During an Indian language programme called Bhajan Sanghra, broadcast on APNA 990 between 8.20am and 9.30am on Sunday 9 November 2008, the host began talking about the change from a Labour-led to a National-led government, and the impact it could have on New Zealand’s Indian community.

[2] The host said that the Labour-led government had a good understanding of New Zealand’s Indian community and had provided it with a lot of assistance and support. He was concerned that the new National-led government may not understand the Indian community as well as Labour, and raised several issues relating to immigration and work visas, unemployment benefits, Indian festivals and the general wellbeing of the Indian community.

[3] The host encouraged listeners to text message him with their concerns, which he said he would forward to the National Party.

[4] The host's comments during various parts of the programme included the following:

However, I want to find out what the [government] might mean to do for us here, in particular for the people who are receiving the dole. Friends, it will become very difficult for you. Take my word...if you are thinking that you will be receiving this dole evenly and leading the kind of luxurious life you have lived for the nine years you have spent with the Labour Government, with National you will not be spending it like this...Everyone will have to work. You will have to work in this country.

This is why I am requesting people to write in about our wants in this country. The more people who send me their text messages the better it will be, so we can take these three-to-four thousand text messages and take this with us to the [government’s] door... Do take the time, whenever you have free time in a day, even if you can send twenty messages, so that each Member of Parliament can read and understand what the Indians want from him or her...

This is my duty, to promote our rights in this country...remember friends, the new government is a National Party government. They may have very little knowledge of our Indian community. In their nine years, the Labour Party had not forgotten about the Indian community. To the point, they used to celebrate Diwali. ...The previous government knew about these events...

And what do you think the new government will do for us Indians? Text 299 to give us your view...

However, with the victory of the new government, my friends, it is important to express our wants to them, because it is with our votes that these people have won and now they have to listen to our needs.

[5] The host also read out some of the text messages that he received during the programme.

Complaint

[6] Amrit Ram made a formal complaint to APNA Networks Ltd (APNA), the broadcaster, alleging the host’s comments breached standards relating to good taste and decency and controversial issues.

[7] The complainant stated that the host had used the programme to express his personal views on the recent elections and the change in government. He said, "what initially started as paranoia and a poor understanding of how the state functions by the DJ, soon snow-balled into him blindly leading the audience into believing that some catastrophic event was about to unfold as a result of the National Party winning the elections".

[8] Mr Ram stated that the broadcast was meant to be a devotional programme that was generally enjoyed by the older members of the Indo-Fijian community. He said, "at no point while I was listening were any of the listeners invited to call and express their views on the matter".

[9] The complainant contended the host had told listeners that "the immigration of people of Indian descent into the country would now be harder with National governing" and that "Helen Clark had a fondness for Indians". He also stated that the host had told listeners several times that those on benefits would no longer receive them.

[10] Mr Ram argued the host’s comments had no factual basis and that "at no time did [the host] mention that those were his personal views". He believed the item "sounded like a Labour Party promotion", and contended that the host should not have forced his political views upon listeners.

Standards

[11] The complainant nominated Standards 1 and 4 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide:

Standard 1 Good taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 4 Controversial Issues – Viewpoints

When discussing controversial issues of public importance in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or reasonable give opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Referral to the Authority

[12] Having received no response from the broadcaster within the statutory timeframe, Mr Ram referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[13] APNA supplied a recording of the broadcast, which the Authority had translated into English. The broadcaster made no submissions with respect to the complaint.

Authority's Determination

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

Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints)

[15] Standard 4 states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

[16] In the Authority's view, a discussion about how the change in government may affect New Zealand's Indian community could amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance. However, this programme did not purport to make a detailed examination of that issue. The main purpose of the programme was to obtain feedback from community members which the host could communicate to the National Party. While the host did make some comments speculating that the Indian community may be treated differently under the new National-led government, they did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance as envisaged by Standard 4.

[17] Accordingly, the Authority finds that Standard 4 did not apply to the programme and it declines to uphold this part of the complaint.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[18] The Authority has previously stated that standards relating to good taste and decency are primarily aimed at broadcasts that contain sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language (e.g. Decision No. 2008-087). The item subject to complaint contained no such material and, as a result, Standard 1 is not relevant in the circumstances.

[19] Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the good taste and decency complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
6 May 2009

Appendix

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

1.  Amrit Ram’s formal complaint – 9 November 2008
2. Mr Ram's referral to the Authority – 10 December 2008
3. APNA's response to the Authority – 16 February 2009