Syron and The RadioWorks Ltd - 2002-092
- P Cartwright (Chair)
- B Hayward
- R Bryant
- J H McGregor
- Bob Syron
ProgrammeRadio Pacific talkback
BroadcasterThe RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/StationRadio Pacific # 3
Radio Pacific – host Bill Ralston – offensive references to Australian “brown nosing” and “bending over” for the Americans – gutter language
Principle 1 and Guideline 1a – context – colloquial language – robust environment – no uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 The attitude of one senior Australian politician to New Zealand’s approach to ANZUS was commented upon by the talkback host (Bill Ralston) on Radio Pacific at about 10.00am on 18 March 2002. The host used the terms “brown nosing” and “bending over for the Americans” in describing the attitude of the Australian Government to ANZUS and to the United States.
 Bob Syron complained to The RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the expressions referred to sexual activities and were extremely offensive.
 On the basis that the phrases were part of everyday language, The RadioWorks declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with The RadioWorks’ response, Mr Syron 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.
 The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 Radio Pacific is a talkback radio station and the host (Bill Ralston) referred to issues involving ANZUS shortly after 10.00am on 18 March 2002. He used the terms “brown nosing” and “bending over for the Americans” in describing the attitude of the Australian Government to the United States, as the other parties in ANZUS.
 Maintaining that the terms used by the host referred to sexual activities, Bob Syron complained to The RadioWorks that the phrases were “offensive in the extreme”.
 The RadioWorks assessed the complaint under Principle 1, Guideline 1a, of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice . It provides:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
1a Broadcasters will take into consideration current norms of decency and good taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast eg time of day, target audience.
The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complaint
 On the basis that the terms used were acceptable and “part of everyday language”, The RadioWorks did not accept they were offensive. It declined to uphold the complaint.
The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority
 When he referred his complaint to the Authority, Mr Syron maintained that the comments were offensive, and unacceptable when broadcast.
The Broadcaster’s Response the Authority
 The RadioWorks persisted in its view that the terms were acceptable in everyday language, and that it regarded the complaint as trivial.
The Complainant’s Final Comment
 As he regarded the host’s comments as degrading and offensive, Mr Syron stated that he wanted the Authority to determine his complaint.
The Authority’s Determination
 When it determines a complaint about whether a broadcast contravenes Principle 1 of the Radio Code, the Authority is required to determine whether the material complained about breached currently accepted standards of good taste and decency, taking into account the context of the broadcast. The context is relevant to but not determinative of whether the programme breached the principle. Accordingly, the Authority has considered the context of the comments complained about.
 The Authority does not accept the broadcaster’s submission that the complaint is trivial. It accepts that the phrases used by the host contain allusions which some people find offensive. Nevertheless, it also considers that it is colloquial language which is used increasingly on a daily basis. The Authority has acknowledged on a number of occasions that talkback is a robust environment, and the broadcast complained about occurred at a time when children would have been at school.
 Taking these contextual matters into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Principle 1 of the Radio Code.
 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 reasons above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 July 2002
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
- Bob Syron’s Complaint to The RadioWorks Ltd – 18 March 2002
- The RadioWorks’ Response to Mr Syron – undated
- Mr Syron’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 20 April 2002
- The RadioWorks’ Response to The Authority – 30 April 2002
- Mr Syron’s Final Comment – 18 May 2002