BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Kerr and Radio One - 1997-029

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • D Steven Kerr
Number
1997-029
Programme
song
Broadcaster
Radio One
Channel/Station
Radio One 91FM

Summary

A song played on Radio One on 7 December 1996 at about 9.00am was entitled "Fuck

Shit up", and contained phrases such as "Take a stand, fuck the man", "Fuck the rule,

smash a car, Make it fuck up".

Dr Kerr complained to Radio One that the song, because it was profane and advocated

anarchy and violence, was unsuitable for broadcast during daytime hours when young

children were listening.

In its response, Radio One explained that the song was making a political statement, not

a sexual one, and that the station took a strong interest in politics and social policy. It

emphasised that its target audience of university students were mature adults, and

further, it did not believe that the song would have disturbed or encouraged deviant

behaviour in young people. It considered that its broadcast time was suitable.

Dissatisfied with Radio One's response, Dr Kerr referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority upholds the complaint.

Decision

The Authority has listened to a tape of the song complained about and has read the

correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the Authority

determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

"Fuck Shit up" was the title of a song played on Radio One, the student radio station at

Otago University on 7 December 1996 at about 9.00am. The words "make it fuck up"

and "fuck that shit" were repeated with variations for the entire duration of the song.

Dr Kerr complained that the language was unsuitable for broadcast, especially at that

hour of the day, and he did not consider it appropriate for a station to broadcast songs

which contained profanity and advocated anarchy and violence.

Radio One advised that it had assessed the complaint under standard R2 of the Radio

Code of Broadcasting Practice, which requires broadcasters:

            R2        To take into account currently accepted norms of decency and good

                        taste in language and behaviour, bearing in mind the context in which

                        any language or behaviour occurs.

Radio One explained that the song was making a political statement and that the

station's interest in politics and social policy was reflected in its choice of music and

programmes. As a campus station which broadcast to university students, it considered

that its target audience comprised mature adults. Further, it considered it unlikely that

the song would encourage deviant behaviour by people under the age of 15 years. On

the basis that it broadcast to an adult audience and that the words of the song would not

disturb young people, it considered the broadcast time was suitable.

This is not the first occasion upon which the Authority has had to deal with a student

radio station broadcasting material containing language which listeners have found

offensive. In a decision dated 15 November 1993 (No: 145/93), dealing with a

complaint about a broadcast by the station at Massey University, it wrote:

At the outset, the Authority accepted that student radio was a distinct genre of

radio and was largely managed by young people who were targeting other

young people. It acknowledged that the boundaries of what was acceptable

might well be wider for student radio than for mainstream stations, but noted

that the requirements of the Broadcasting Act 1989 and the standards set down

in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice still applied to student radio stations.

That decision was endorsed in Decision Nos: 66/95 (27 July 1995) and 1996-068 (27

June 1996) which were also complaints about offensive language in songs. In each

case, the complaints were upheld and the stations concerned were cautioned about the

broadcast of songs containing offensive language, particularly during hours when

children would be listening.

With regard to the current complaint, the Authority concludes that the song's

aggressive, anti-social lyrics are not consistent with the values held by most New

Zealanders and would generally be considered offensive. It is not persuaded by the

argument that the station attracts an adult student audience, and reminds Radio One that

radio stations are listened to by the public at large, and that the Broadcasting Act and the

Code of Broadcasting Practice apply equally to student radio. It upholds the complaint

that the language used in the song "Fuck Shit up" breached standard R2.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority upholds the complaint that

the broadcast of the song "Fuck Shit up" by Radio One on 7 December

1996 at about 9.00am breached standard R2 of the Radio Code of

Broadcasting Practice.

Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make an order under s.13 of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. The Authority appreciates the broadcaster's argument that it

has a distinct task as a student radio station, although it does not accept it. The

Authority believes, nevertheless, that as this is the first occasion that it has received a

complaint about Radio One, it is appropriate not to impose an order on this occasion.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
20 March 1997

Appendix

D. Steven Kerr's Complaint to Radio One – 20 December 1996

Dr Kerr of Dunedin complained to Radio One, the student radio station at the University

of Otago, that the lyrics of a song played on 7 December 1996 at about 9.00am were

offensive.

The song included phrases such as "Make it Fuck up" which, he said, were repeated

about 20 times. Dr Kerr stated that the phrase "Take a stand. Fuck the man" was also

heard among the lyrics.

Dr Kerr was of the view that the type of broadcast was inadmissible at that hour of the

day. Indeed, he asked, if such lyrics were admissible, how did one explain their

meaning to children?

He wrote:

In conversation with [the Station Manager] today, I mentioned that I am an

American who has been here in NZ for the past six years. He was quick to

point out that it was MY country that was generating most of this ultra-violent

and ultra-profane Gangsta Rap. I pointed out to him that it was this very reason

(amongst others) that I left my country. If you import music such as this and

proceed to spew it all around the city then you may be contributing to future

problems for us all. If you deny that what I suggest is possible, then just

consider the situation that now exists in my own former country.

In concluding, he wrote that he did not favour excessive censorship, but believed that

the line had to be drawn somewhere.

Radio One's Response to the Formal Complaint – 15 January 1997

Radio One pointed out that standard R2 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice

referred to language and behaviour and the context in which it occurred. It explained

that it regarded the song as making a political statement, not a sexual one. It added that

it was in the nature of the station to take a strong interest in politics and social policy

which was reflected in the music and current affairs programmes which it broadcast.

As a campus station, it considered its audience to be mature adults. Its programming

and promotions targeted that audience only, and did not target children. In its view, the

song would be unlikely to disturb or encourage deviant behaviour by people under the

age of 15. Considering this, and its adult audience, the station believed the broadcast

time was suitable.

Radio One considered that in today's times, the word "fuck" was commonplace in the

media. It acknowledged that parents still had to explain such things to children, adding

that the practice of parenting was not easy.

Dr Kerr's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 27 January

1997

Dissatisfied with Radio One's response, Dr Kerr referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Dr Kerr did not consider that the station had adequately addressed his complaint. He

asked whether it was appropriate for stations to broadcast during daylight hours, songs

which contained profanity and advocated anarchy and violence. He concluded:

            In short, I believe that songs such as "Fuck Shit Up" should be broadcast

            "after hours" only, (if at all!!!).

Radio One's Response to the Authority – 11 February 1997

Radio One provided a tape of the song, as requested by the Authority, but made no

further comment.