BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Credo Society Inc and Access Community Radio Inc - 1994-078

Members
  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • R A Barraclough
  • L M Loates
  • J R Morris
Dated
Complainant
  • Credo Society Inc
Number
1994-078
Channel/Station
Radio Gala


Summary

In a programme broadcast on Radio Gala on 29 March 1994 between 8.15–9.10pm,

shortly before Easter, the presenters stated that since Jesus was gay, Easter was a

very important time for gay people. They also played a song which made critical

comments about the Catholic church.

Mrs Faithfull, on behalf of the Credo Society Inc, complained to Access Community

Radio Inc, the broadcaster, that the suggestion that Jesus was gay was offensive to

many Christian people and grossly blasphemous. It described the comments made

when introducing the song and the song itself as deliberately provocative and

maintained that the programme breached the broadcasting standards.

Access Community Radio advised that it had considered the complaint in two parts

and had upheld the complaint that the comment that Jesus was gay breached the good

taste and decency standard. However, a majority of its Committee had declined to

uphold the complaint that the comments or the song discriminated against sections of

the community as it decided that the programme was either opinion or legitimate

satire. Dissatisfied with that response, the Credo Society 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

references to bigots made when introducing the song and after it had played were in

bad taste. It declined to uphold the complaint that the song itself was in bad taste and

also declined to uphold the complaint that neither the comments nor the song

encouraged discrimination against Christians generally or Catholics specifically.


Decision

The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the programme 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.

Radio Gala, a programme of nearly one hour's length broadcast by Access Radio in

Auckland, stated in its broadcast on 29 March 1994 that Jesus was gay. In view of

the proximity of Easter, it broadcast a "hymn" which accused the Catholic Church and

the Pope of advancing out-dated and obsolete ideas. The presenters dedicated the

song to "our nice bigoty friends" and, at its conclusion, stated:

And we played that for all our bigot friends who listen to Radio Gala.


On behalf of the Credo Society, Mrs Barbara Faithfull complained to Access Radio

that the broadcast breached the standard requiring good taste and the standard

prohibiting the denigration of community groups – in this case Christians. She also

expressed concern that the programme makers, who seemed very sensitive about

discrimination against homosexuals, could use publicly funded radio to abuse their

Christian adversaries.

Access Radio's Management Committee upheld the complaint that the remark that

Jesus was gay breached the broadcasting standard requiring good taste and decency. It

advised the producer of Radio Gala of that decision, observing that the manner in

which the remark was made "was in very bad taste". Its letter to the producer

continued:

It is possible to express a belief without causing distress to anyone who has a

deeply held, opposing belief. The Committee believes that not nearly enough

consideration was given to the people who have an opposing belief to your

own.


A majority of the Management Committee declined to uphold the complaint that the

broadcast denigrated Christians on the basis that it was both "legitimate opinion" and

"legitimate satire".

The Credo Society did not refer the upheld aspect of the complaint nor the action

taken to the Authority. Nevertheless, the Authority would observe in passing that it

agreed with both the broadcaster's decision and action about the aspect of the

programme which referred to Jesus being gay.

Although neither the complainant nor the broadcaster specified the broadcasting

standards under which the complaint was made or had been assessed, the Authority

had little difficulty in deciding that the complaint amounted to an allegation that the

broadcast breached standards R2 and R14 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

They require broadcasters:

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

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

language or behaviour occurs.


R14 To avoid portraying people in a manner that encourages denigration of or

discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender,

race, age, disability, occupation status, sexual orientation or as the

consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political

beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of

material which is:

(a) factual, or

(b) the expression of serious opinion, or

(c) in the legitimate use of humour or satire


Although the comment that Jesus was gay was upheld by the broadcaster apparently

as a breach of standard R2, the Authority's assessment of the complaint involved in

addition considering whether the presenters' remarks or the song contravened either

the good taste requirement in standard R2 or the prohibition on discrimination and

denigration in standard R14.

In considering the song or "hymn", the Authority examined the script supplied by

Access Radio. It also believed that it was important in reaching its conclusion to note

the method by which it had been presented to listeners – it had been sung as a hymn.

Taking the words – which while critical did not contain extreme or vicious remarks –

and the method of presentation into account, the Authority was of the view that the

song did not encourage discrimination or denigration. Moreover, the Authority

decided that the third exception to standard R14 was applicable and that standard was

not contravened as the broadcast of the song involved – to use the wording of the third

exemption – "the legitimate use of ... satire". Indeed, the Authority decided that the

song was a type of satire which the exemption was designed to allow.


The next matter the Authority considered was the reference to "bigoty friends" to

whom the song was dedicated and the concluding remark that the song had been

played for "our bigot friends". The Authority examined this aspect of the complaint

under standard R2.

In view of the context and tone of the broadcast, the Authority decided that the

comments did not refer to bigots generally but to a specific group – the alleged "bigot

friends". Moreover, as the term was used both before and after the song, it had been

used deliberately to ridicule some specific listeners with the intention of being

provocative. Accordingly, the Authority concluded the remarks were offensive and in

breach of standard R2 of the Code.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority upholds the complaint that part of the

broadcast by Access Community Radio Auckland on 29 March 1994 breached

standard R2 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.


It declines to uphold the complaint under standard R14.


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

Broadcasting Act 1989. It has decided not to do so.

The broadcaster upheld part of the complaint under standard R2 and reported its

decision to Radio Gala's producer in a straight-forward and serious manner. As the

aspect upheld by the Authority deals with the same broadcast and covers comments

of a similar nature, the Authority believes that any further action on the broadcaster's

part is unnecessary. It does so on the understanding that Access Radio communicates

the content of this decision to Radio Gala.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Iain Gallaway
Chairperson
8 September 1994


Appendix

Credo Society Inc's Complaint to Access Community Radio Auckland Inc

In a letter dated 23 April 1994, Credo Society Inc complained to Access Community

Radio Inc about a Radio Gala programme broadcast on Tuesday 29 March 1994

between 8.15pm and 9.10pm.

The Society claimed that programme breached the broadcasting standards pertaining to

the observance of good taste and decency and the observance of "safeguards against

the portrayal of people in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination

against, sections of the community ... as a consequence of legitimate expression of

religious, cultural or political beliefs".

The complainant outlined which parts of the programme related to the complaint and

quoted the programme presenters. It reported that after mentioning that the coming

weekend was Easter, the time Christians celebrate, a presenter announced:

There's the celebration that Jesus was gay. Keith explained that there is

conflicting evidence of this.

Later, just before 9.00pm the second presenter, Keith, allegedly said:

This week we celebrate the resurrection of our gay friend Jesus.

The first presenter said in response:

Here's a song to celebrate Easter, which is very important for gay people, of

course, since Jesus was gay, as you know. We're going to dedicate it to all our

nice bigoty friends who are listening.

What ensued, the Society maintained, was a lengthy, blasphemous, mock-hymn

singing, with the subject matter comprising rabid homosexual political propaganda and

jibes directed at the Catholic Church and the Pope himself. The following example

was cited:

... The latest word from Rome is not a loving one at all; if Jesus walked on

Earth today I think He'd be appalled. The Priesthood's quickly shrinking but

you won't let women in; and instead of teaching 'safer sex' you condemn it as

a sin. ...

When the song finished, the Society stated that the first presenter commented:

And we played that for all our bigot friends who listen to Radio Gala.

The Society considered that overall the broadcast was in extremely poor taste, as well

as being highly provocative, and calculated to offend the sensitivities of many

Christian people if they had been listening. It seemed very evident, it continued, that

the offending of certain listeners was the intention of the exercise. Furthermore, the

attempts to portray Jesus as being homosexual were grossly blasphemous and would

be no less so should the show's presenters now plead that it was all "just tongue-in-

cheek" and not intended to be taken seriously. It would seem, the complainant added,

that the sensitivities of many Christians were of no account.

Referring to the standard regarding the observance of safeguards against the portrayal

of people in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against sections

of the community, the Society stated that it found it most disturbing that certain

homosexuals, so voluble in their supposed concerns for "rights", and "non-

discrimination", should go to such lengths to trample the rights and sensitivities of

their Christian adversaries especially on publicly funded radio. It contended that to

target deliberately and denigrate publicly these adversaries simply for holding views at

variance with their own was definitely a breach of broadcasting standard.

In conclusion, the Society wrote:

... we also contend that there was inherent dishonesty and therefore a

misleading of listeners in the other statements already referred to above.

Firstly, the vicious fallacy that "Jesus is gay". Secondly, the monstrously

false assumption that anyone who does not agree with the homosexual

lifestyle, or with homosexual politics, is automatically a bigot. This is but

cheap political sloganeering and point scoring. Nor can such irresponsible

broadcasters as these offer their usual inept argument: that the programme is

really only intended for homosexuals. In this case they made it very clear that

they knew at least some of their adversaries would be listening and deliberately

provoked and smeared them accordingly.

Access Community Radio's Response to the Formal Complaint

In a letter dated 14 June 1994, Access Community Radio advised the complainant that

the Broadcasting Operations Sub-Committee and subsequently its Committee of

Management had considered and upheld the good taste and decency aspect of the

complaint in respect to the comment that Jesus was gay. It advised that a letter to

that effect would be sent to the producer of the programme with a warning to be more

tolerant of other people's views.

With regard to the part of the complaint relating to "denigration and discrimination

against sections of the community", the Sub-Committee reported that it was not

upheld on a majority vote. The majority of members believed that the programme

content complained about was, in the first place, a legitimate opinion and in the

second, legitimate satire.

It also informed the complainant that the members of the Sub-Committee found

offensive the implication in the complaint that being homosexual was, in itself,

offensive.

Credo Society's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

Dissatisfied with the broadcaster's response to the second aspect of its complaint, the

Society referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under

s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 in a letter dated 19 July 1994.

The Society wrote that its concerns on this aspect of the complaint were fully set out

in its letter of April 23 to Access Radio. In essence, these concerns were:

That the rights and sensibilities of Christians should be trampled, and by some

of the very people who most angrily protest about such treatment themselves,

viz homosexuals. Also, that they do this by abusing the privilege of publicly

funded broadcasting.

Under the Heading "General Conclusion" the complainant made several points

regarding the manner in which it perceived its complaint had been dealt with by the

broadcaster and wrote:

The overall impression gained by this Society to the handling of these

complaints is that nobody seems to have been called to account. At least on

past occasions when lodging complaints with Access Radio the Station

Manager has written to the programmers concerned and called upon them to

explain, with the Manager then reporting back to us. This time it seems to

have been quite a different situation: no mention of any such procedure, let

alone mention of any explanation from them.

Access Community Radio's Response to the Authority

In a letter dated 22 July 1994, the Authority sought Access Community Radio's

response to the referral. Its response, dated 4 August, advised that it did not want to

comment further on the complaint but enclosed the following additional material:

i a transcript of the song "Hymn" broadcast on 29/3/93; and

ii a copy of a letter to the producer of Radio Gala, advising of the

Committee of Management's decision that, while it supported the

programme makers' right to speak from their own point of view, it

believed that some content of the programme broadcast on 29 June

breached the good taste and decency standard of the Radio Codes.