BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Syron and The RadioWorks Ltd - 2002-092

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Bob Syron
Number
2002-092
Broadcaster
The RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio Pacific # 3

Complaint
Radio Pacific – host Bill Ralston – offensive references to Australian “brown nosing” and “bending over” for the Americans – gutter language

Findings
Principle 1 and Guideline 1a – context – colloquial language – robust environment – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] 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.

[2] Bob Syron complained to The RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the expressions referred to sexual activities and were extremely offensive.

[3] On the basis that the phrases were part of everyday language, The RadioWorks declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] 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.

Decision

[5] 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.

The Programme

[6] 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.

The Complaint

[7] 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 Standards

[8] The RadioWorks assessed the complaint under Principle 1, Guideline 1a, of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice . It provides:

Principle 1

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Guideline

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

[9] 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

[10] 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

[11] 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

[12] 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

[13] 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.

[14] 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.

[15] Taking these contextual matters into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Principle 1 of the Radio Code.

[16] 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

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
25 July 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Bob Syron’s Complaint to The RadioWorks Ltd – 18 March 2002
  2. The RadioWorks’ Response to Mr Syron – undated
  3. Mr Syron’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 20 April 2002
  4. The RadioWorks’ Response to The Authority – 30 April 2002
  5. Mr Syron’s Final Comment – 18 May 2002