BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Young and The RadioWorks Ltd - 2002-211

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • J H McGregor
  • R Bryant
Dated
Complainant
  • Roderick John Young
Number
2002-211
Programme
Morning Grill
Broadcaster
The RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio Pacific # 3

Complaint
Radio Pacific – Morning Grill – reference to an Authority decision ordering complainant to pay costs to the broadcaster as complaint to broadcaster about use of the word "bugger" was vexatious – "bugger" – offensive language – no tape

Findings
Principle 1 and Guideline 1a – absence of tape – unable to assess tone – decline to determine

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] A decision from the Broadcasting Standards Authority was referred to by the presenters of Morning Grill on Radio Pacific between 6.00–9.00am on 31 July 2002. The decision involved the Authority ordering a complainant to pay a broadcaster costs of $150 as the Authority found the complaint about a broadcast which contained the word "bugger" was vexatious. The broadcast on Radio Pacific also used the word "bugger".

[2] Referring to the meaning of "bugger" as anal intercourse, Mr Young complained to The RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the broadcast was offensive.

[3] In response, The RadioWorks said it was unable to locate the broadcast complained about at the time referred to. Nevertheless, it acknowledged that the broadcast had used the word "bugger". Because the word had been used in what The RadioWorks described as a "light-hearted and jocular manner", it declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with The RadioWorks’ decision, Mr Young 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 determine the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority 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 station and the hosts on weekdays between 6.00-9.00am, The Morning Grill, are Pam Corkery and Paul Henry. On the morning of 31 July 2002, the broadcast included a reference to the decision from the Broadcasting Standards Authority in which a complainant had been ordered to pay costs to a broadcaster for a vexatious complaint about the use of the word "bugger".

The Complaint

[7] Mr Young complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about the use of the word "bugger" at about 7.40am on Radio Pacific. He acknowledged that the use of the word had increased since its inclusion in a car advertisement, and he accepted that it could be used in a way which was not offensive. However, in view of its meaning as anal intercourse, he argued that it should be used with restraint.

Further Correspondence

[8] In accordance with the procedure in the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority forwarded the letter to The RadioWorks as the broadcaster of Radio Pacific. Arguing that the letter of complaint was both offensive and "complete nonsense", The RadioWorks advised the Authority that it did not intend to respond to the complaint.

[9] The Authority reminded The RadioWorks of its statutory responsibility in regard to complaints. In response, The RadioWorks said it was unable to locate the broadcast of the word "bugger" on Radio Pacific between 7.30–8.00am on 31 July. The broadcaster provided the Authority with a tape of the broadcast from 7.30–8.00am which confirmed that the word "bugger" was not used during that time.

[10] Mr Young’s response was sought and he advised the Authority that a presenter on Radio Pacific had used the word when commenting on a decision from the Authority that a complainant had been ordered to pay costs to a broadcaster for complaining about a broadcast which had used the word "bugger". Mr Young recalled that he had sent a fax to Radio Pacific at the time in which he supported the broadcasting complaints process. He maintained that the word has been used on Radio Pacific between 6.00–10.00am. Mr Young argued that the use of the use of the word "bugger" by a broadcaster was objectionable.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11] Radio Pacific agreed that the word "bugger" had been used on Radio Pacific on the morning of 31 July. Its use, it added, was similar in context to the car advertisements which used the word.

[12] Acknowledging that Mr Young believed that the word had some "undesirable overtones", The RadioWorks said that it was used infrequently on Radio Pacific, and then in a "light-hearted and jocular manner".

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[13] Mr Young said that the context of its use on Radio Pacific on 31 July was that one of the presenters "was laughing at the fine that a man who persistently complained about the word ‘bugger’ had been given by the broadcasting complaints authority to discourage him from doing so…".

[14] Mr Young maintained his view that the word was offensive, and contended that The RadioWorks had not taken his complaint about its use seriously. He urged the imposition of financial penalties on the broadcaster to ensure that it appreciated just how offensive the word was.

The Standard

[15] As neither the broadcaster nor the complainant has referred to a standard, the Authority considers that the complaint alleges a breach of Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. Principle 1 and Guideline 1a provide:

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 Authority’s Determination

[16] Mr Young complained about the use of the word "bugger" on Radio Pacific between 7.30–8.00am on Wednesday 31 July. The RadioWorks, the broadcaster of Radio Pacific, denied that the word was used during that time and the tape provided confirmed that contention. Mr Young then complained that the word had been used sometime during that morning on Radio Pacific, and referred to the circumstances in which it was used. The RadioWorks accepted that Mr Young was correct about the use of the word "bugger".

[17] While it accepts that The RadioWorks provided a tape of the broadcast covering the time referred to in the initial complaint, the Authority is a little surprised that The RadioWorks was not able to provide the Authority with a tape which covered the time of broadcast.

[18] The RadioWorks maintained that the broadcast of the word did not breach Principle 1 of the Radio Code in view of its use in a "light-hearted and jocular manner". However, it has not provided the Authority with a tape to confirm the tone in which the word was used. As the Authority has been unable to listen to the item to assess the tone for itself, it is of the view that it is unable to determine the complaint.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority declines to determine the complaint under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 December 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Roderick John Young’s Complaint The RadioWorks Ltd (through the Broadcasting Standards Authority) – 31 July 2002
  2. The RadioWorks’ Response to the Authority – 16 August 2002
  3. The RadioWorks’ Second Response to the Authority – 23 August 2002
  4. Mr Young’s Referral to the Authority – 29 October 2002
  5. Mr Young’s Final Comment – 4 November 2002