BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Clarkson and Canterbury Television Ltd - 1994-054


"Still Craving For Love" was the title of the 30 minute Canterbury Upfront programme

broadcast by CTV at 11.00pm on 1 December 1993. Produced by the Christian Resource

Centre, the programme examined sexual development and, particularly, the development

of homosexuality. It argued that religious faith was one way of changing that


Mr Clarkson complained to Canterbury Television Ltd that the programme breached the

broadcasting standards as it presented an unbalanced and extreme viewpoint and one in

which a homosexual orientation was considered to be an addiction similar to alcoholism.

Arguing that the programme approached homosexuality in a sincere and compassionate

manner, CTV noted that although there were other views relating to the issues raised, the

programme was not unbalanced. Dissatisfied with CTV's response, Mr Clarkson 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 upheld the aspect of the complaint that the

programme was unbalanced.


The members of the Authority have viewed the item complained about and have read the

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

determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

"Still Craving for Love", the Canterbury Upfront programme broadcast by CTV at

11.00pm on 1 December 1993, dealt with the development of sexuality, particularly

homosexuality. The expert opinion was given by Neil and Briar Whitehead, described

respectively as doctor and author, and the item included extracts from interviews with

four young men who talked about their earlier homosexual lifestyle. The four said that

through their religious faith, they were now attempting to change. The Whiteheads

stressed the importance of a faith to those who wished to change and were critical of the

churches which were either too conservative or too liberal. The conservative churches

condemned homosexuality as a sin and lacked understanding while the liberal churches

were too accepting of homosexuality.

Mr Clarkson complained to CTV that the programme was unbalanced in that it presented

an "extreme" viewpoint and that those who were discussed or criticised – members of the

homosexual community and the liberal and conservative churches – were not given an

opportunity to present their point of view. He was particularly critical of the perspective

advanced by the Whiteheads that the reasons for homosexuality were social – rather than

biological – and that it could be equated to an addiction such as alcoholism.

The programme, he wrote, breached the following standards in the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice. They require broadcasters:

G1  To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in

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

language or behaviour occurs.

G5  To respect the principles of law which sustain our society.

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters,

current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

G7  To avoid the use of any deceptive programme practice which takes

advantage of the confidence viewers have in the integrity of broadcasting.

G13 To avoid portraying people in a way which represents as inherently inferior

or is likely to encourage discrimination against, any section of the

community on account of sex, race, age, disability, occupational status,

sexual orientation or the holding of any religious, cultural or political belief.

This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material

which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely-held opinion in a news or current

affairs programme, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a humorous, satirical or dramatic


Moreover, he said that CTV had failed to correct significant errors of fact as required by

standard G21.

CTV denied that the programme was a "hate session", describing the views expressed as

sincere and the approach adopted as compassionate. It accepted that there were other

views about homosexuality not included in the broadcast but denied that the programme

was unbalanced for that reason.

The Authority considered that its first task in assessing the complaint was to decide the

appropriate standards to apply to its review of the programme. Mr Clarkson alleged that

the broadcast breached the standards when it maintained that homosexuality was a

matter of socialisation rather than a matter of genetics. He also alleged a breach when the

broadcast discussed homosexuality as an addiction – similar to alcoholism – and,

furthermore, he alleged that the standards had been contravened by categorising and

criticising the viewpoints of some religious denominations without giving them an

opportunity to respond. As a consequence of these approaches, Mr Clarkson averred that

the broadcast also transgressed the nominated standards when it implied that people could

be "cured" from homosexuality.

The Authority accepted that it did not have the knowledge (nor indeed that a widely

accepted position had been reached), to decide whether or not the broadcast breached the

standards requiring accuracy when advancing these perspectives. It would note that the

matters canvassed are controversial issues on which the alternative perspectives tend to be

adamantly advanced by their proponents as incontrovertible and established fact.

In view of these factual disputes, the Authority has decided not to determine the complaint

that the item contravened the requirement for factual accuracy in standard G1 nor, as a

consequence, the complaint under standard G21 that CTV did not correct significant

errors of fact. Rather, the Authority considered that the central issue raised by this

complaint was whether or not it had complied with the requirement for balance,

impartiality and fairness in standard G6.

However, before dealing with the questions raised by standard G6, the Authority

considered the other standards nominated by Mr Clarkson.

Standard G2 requires broadcasters to maintain standards of decency and taste in context

and, the Authority believed, that nothing in the broadcast of Canterbury Upfront at

11.00pm put that standard in jeopardy. Similarly, it considered nothing in the broadcast

has contravened the requirements in standard G5 – to respect principles of law – or

standard G7 – not to use a deceptive programme practice.

Standard G13 requires broadcasters not to encourage the denigration of or discrimination

against a section of the community on account, among other things, of sexual orientation.

In view of the nature of the programme during which the comments were made

(discussed below), the Authority decided that whether or not it encouraged discrimination

or denigration was irrelevant in view of the exemptions contained in the standard. The

Authority has already recorded its unwillingness to adjudicate on the accuracy of the facts

advanced in the programme and, therefore, the factual exemption to standard G13

cannot be relied upon. However, standard G13 allows an exemption for the expression of

a genuinely-held opinion and the Authority was in no doubt that the material would

qualify as genuinely-held opinion regardless of its basis, or lack of it, in fact.

The genuinely-held opinion exemption applies only to news or current affairs programmes

and the requirements in standard G6 are particularly important in such broadcasts. The

Authority then considered whether the programme complained about was a current

affairs one.

As the Authority was unaware of the type of classification which applied to Canterbury

Upfront, it asked CTV for an explanation. It was advised that the Christian Resource

Centre supplied CTV with a completed 30 minute programme which was screened as

Canterbury Upfront on Wednesday evenings at approximately 11.15pm and repeated the

following Tuesday at 1.00pm. Each week, CTV added, a different subject was dealt with

and it provided a list of four recent programmes which were concerned with, respectively,

money problems, international aid, stress and grief. The listing in the "Listener" for 1

December 1993, the Authority found, recorded that Canterbury Upfront (without

elaboration) would be broadcast by CTV at 11.00pm.

Taking into account this information and combining it with the edition of Canterbury

Upfront about which Mr Clarkson has complained, the Authority accepted that it was not

in question that a Christian perspective would be introduced into each programme. That

perspective was not stated explicitly in the programme complained about until the credit

for the Christian Resource Centre at the item's conclusion. However, the Authority

accepted that regular viewers would be aware of the programme's expected stance.

Indeed, the broadcast was comparable to access radio where the group presenting a

programme is responsible for the programme's contents.

Canterbury Upfront on 1 December 1993 was broadcast as a current affairs

documentary dealing with current issues and the Authority determined the complaint on

that basis. If the broadcast had been introduced in a way which explained explicitly to the

casual viewer that the programme, in dealing with current issues, would be principally

presenting one perspective only, then it might be possible to conclude that standard G6

was not contravened as viewers would be aware that there were alternative perspectives.

To ensure that a breach did not occur, that item would have to at least acknowledge that

there were other points of view.

However, that did not occur. The commentators were not impartial in dealing with a

controversial issue. Their views were presented with clarity but they were also presented as

absolutes. Accordingly, the Authority concluded, the broadcast did not meet the

requirement in standard G6 for balance and impartiality.


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

Canterbury Upfront broadcast at 11.00pm on 1 December 1993 breached

standard G6 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The Authority declines to determine the complaints under standards G1 and

G21 of the same Code.

The Authority declines to uphold any other aspect of the complaint.

Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose an order under s.13(1)(a) of the

Act. It does not intend to do so for three reasons.

First, the regular viewer of Canterbury Upfront would be aware that each programme

advanced a Christian perspective. The casual viewer who might suspect that the

programme was not even-handed, would have had that suspicion confirmed by the credits

at the end. Secondly, although the broadcast did not deal with the issue of homosexuality

in a fair and impartial manner, it did so in a way which would not encourage antipathy

towards homosexuals. Thirdly, the Authority accepted that viewers would be familiar

with many of the arguments advanced. Homosexuality, unlike some other controversial

issues, touches the lives of many New Zealanders and has generated lengthy political

attention. Viewers do not watch a programme such as the present one in an

informational vacuum. They bring their own opinions and, the Authority believed, few if

any viewers would be unaware that there were alternative perspectives to those expressed

in the programme.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Iain Gallaway
7 July 1994


Mr Clarkson's Complaint to Canterbury Television Ltd

In a letter dated 24 December 1993, Mr Lewis Clarkson of Christchurch complained to

Canterbury Television Ltd about the Canterbury Upfront programme broadcast at

11.00pm on Wednesday 1 December 1993. The programme which dealt with

homosexuality, he wrote, breached standards G1, G2, G5, G6, G7, G13 and G21 of the

Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The programme, he began, was unbalanced as it presented an "extreme viewpoint" which

was not supported by the medical profession. Moreover, while claiming to represent a

viewpoint compatible with Christianity, it dismissed the perspective of a number of

churches and, he continued, no representatives of the groups whose views were dismissed

were given the opportunity to respond. He added:

The programme amounted to a hate session of the homosexual orientation and

gays and lesbians with false medical claims being made, such as homosexuality is

the same as alcoholism and other addictions.

Noting that homosexuality was no longer classified as a disease, he said that medical

research now indicated that homosexuality might be genetically encoded in individuals.

He described the programme as "emotionalist persecution" which discussed homosexuality

inaccurately and which had breached the standards.

CTV's Response to the Formal Complaint

CTV advised Mr Clarkson of its decision to decline to uphold the complaint in a letter dated

29 March 1993.

After apologising for the delay in responding to the complaint, CTV stated that the views

expressed were sincere, the approach compassionate and that it did not amount to a "hate

session". It recorded:

Whereas we can accept that there may be other views relating to issues arising

from homosexuality than those expressed in the programme, we do not consider

that for that reason the programme can be considered unbalanced.

Mr Clarkson's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

Dissatisfied with CTV's reply, in a fax dated 27 April 1993, Mr Clarkson referred his

complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting

Act 1989.

Beginning by recalling that his initial complaint to CTV by telephone had been refused and

that he had inferred at the time that a formal complaint would be "a waste of time", Mr

Clarkson expressed his concern about the length of time taken by CTV to deal with his


Discussing the programme, Mr Clarkson said the present sexual orientation of the four

young men interviewed was unclear. He added that he had no difficulty with these people

recalling their life experiences but he objected to the contemptuous attitude and the

medical judgments made by the presenters. Furthermore, the programme had been set up

to deny representation of the population group under study. He objected to what he

described as the out-dated view presented that homosexuality was a disease like alcoholism.

He described the medical evidence used on the programme about identical twins as "highly

biased" and "simplistic", remarking:

The programme did not point out that one could also argue that all persons could

or should be homosexual using the same example. The genetic position is more

complex that the programme presents.

He also objected to the comment in the programme that homosexual people were rare,


There was no urgency to screen this programme and there was no reason why the

population group being slated was not given redress. I would have thought it was

a basic principle of journalism to fairly present both sides of any story and not leave

significant issues out especially on a controversial subject.

Whereas he believed that the large number of programmes on the network channels

about gays and lesbians were reasonably balanced, he said that the Canterbury Upfront

programme encouraged denigration of and discrimination against homosexuals, it

withheld medical information and was unbalanced. In addition, it dealt with

homosexuality in a hateful and negative manner and, he insisted, the broadcast breached

standards G1, G2, G5, G6, G7, G13 and G21 of the Television Code.

CTV's Response to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

As is its practice, the Authority sought CTV's response to the complaint. Its letter is dated

28 April 1994 and CTV, in its response of 16 May, stated that it did not wish to comment


Mr Clarkson's Final Comment to the Authority

When asked whether he wanted the Authority to consider any further material, in a fax

dated 7 June 1994 Mr Clarkson continued to express his disapproval of the broadcast,


The programme was full of false medical claims, misleading claims, was

condescending and belittled homosexual citizens.

In a second fax dated the same day, he argued that the item encouraged denigration and

discrimination through misrepresentation.