BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Williams and RadioWorks Ltd - 2010-067

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Johnny Williams
Number
2010-067
Programme
More FM Breakfast
Broadcaster
RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
More FM

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
More FM Breakfast – host and caller used the term “poofter” – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration standard

Findings
Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – comment did not contain sufficient invective to reach the threshold for encouraging discrimination or denigration – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   Between 8am and 9am during the More FM Breakfast programme, broadcast on More FM on 21 May 2010, the hosts discussed how they would be participating in a winter pool jump. A female host said, “So you’ve got to grin and bear it, suck it up. Don’t be a wuss.” A male host said he had been talking to his dad about it, because he had done a winter swim before. He said:

And he was going, “oh yeah no what you do is you draw your legs up there and you wrap your arms around you”. I’m going, “Dad, I’m not a poofter mate, come on”.

[2]   Another man was on the phone and the male host said, “Come to my defence”. The man said, “How can I come to your defence when you’re talking about pulling your knees up and acting like a poofter?” The host replied, “well you’re a blimmin’ great help, aren’t you.”

Complaint

[3]   Johnny Williams made a formal complaint to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the broadcast breached standards relating to discrimination and denigration because the presenter and a caller referred to homosexuals using a derogatory term. He considered that it was “appalling” that such terms would be used during a conversation that was meant to be humorous, and that it showed “a lack of respect for those that some may consider being not the norm and that ignorance is accepted when presenting radio shows”.

Standards

[4]   Standard 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:

Standard 7 Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Guideline

7a This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:

• factual

• a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or

• legitimate humour, drama or satire.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   RadioWorks maintained that the term “poofter” was not used in a discriminatory or denigratory way. It argued that the word was used to describe being a “wuss” or a “wimp” while discussing the winter pool jump.

[6]   The broadcaster said that, in accordance with the Authority’s definition of denigration, it must consider whether the comments blackened the reputation of a class of people. It said that it was confident that “the word was used in context within the discussion regarding jumping into freezing water”. RadioWorks concluded that the broadcast had not breached Standard 7 and it declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Williams referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that “poofter” was a derogatory label for homosexual men. He argued that using the term to describe a “wuss” or “wimp” demonstrated that it was discriminatory. Mr Williams said that he was “appalled” that RadioWorks considered “poofter” to be an acceptable term.

Authority's Determination

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

[9]   Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[10]   The term “denigration” has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people (e.g. Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1). “Discrimination” has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment (e.g. Teoh and TVNZ2).

[11]   It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (e.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network3).

[12]   We accept the complainant’s assertion that “poofter” is generally considered to be a derogatory term for homosexual men. We also accept, given the context in which the term was used, that it was intended in this instance to mean "wuss" or "wimp" rather than a term of abuse directed at homosexuals. While we are of the view that broadcasters need to be aware of the negative connotations of terms such as this, and take appropriate care in their usage, we consider that it was part of a brief, light-hearted exchange, and was clearly not uttered in an abusive or vitriolic manner. Accordingly, we do not consider that its use on this occasion reached the high threshold for a breach of this standard.

[13]   We therefore decline to uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
5 August 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Johnny Williams’ formal complaint – 21 May 2010

2.          RadioWorks’ response to the complaint – 27 May 2010

3.          Mr Williams’ referral to the Authority – 27 May 2010

4.          RadioWorks’ responses to the Authority – 4 and 9 June 2010


1Decision No. 2006-030

2Decision No. 2008-091

3Decision No. 2002-152