Credo Society Inc and Access Community Radio Inc - 1994-087
- I W Gallaway (Chair)
- R A Barraclough
- L M Loates
- J R Morris
- Credo Society Inc
ProgrammeThe G & T Show
BroadcasterAccess Community Radio Inc
Channel/StationAccess Radio # 2
An item claiming that 10% of secondary school students in America were homosexual and
dealing with the problems these students faced, was broadcast on Access Community Radio
in a programme called The G & T Show on 17 March 1994 and repeated two days later on
International Homosexual News.
The Credo Society Inc, through its secretary, Mrs Barbara Faithfull, complained to Access
Community Radio Inc, the broadcaster, that the item lacked authenticity and credibility and
was guilty of propagandising certain perverse ideas. It suggested the figures were
manipulated and claimed that the presentation of such blatantly misleading material was a
breach of broadcasting standards.
Accepting that the style of the item was different from conventional news items, Access
Radio explained that nevertheless the programme maker was entitled to broadcast from its
own point of view. It rejected the Credo Society's suggestion that the figures had been
manipulated. Dissatisfied with that decision, the Credo Society referred the complaint to the
Broadcasting Standards Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint.
The members of the Authority have listened to the 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.
An item on the G and T Show on 17 March 1994, broadcast by Access Community Radio in
Auckland, attributed to the US Department of Health and Human Services the statistic that
about one in 10 secondary school students is gay. It also reported on the result of a survey
by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in America that for homosexual students "going
to school is like walking into a lion's den every day". Incidents were then given of unpleasant
and frightening behaviour encountered by gay students. The item was repeated on
International Homosexual News broadcast by Access Radio on 19 March.
Mrs Barbara Faithfull, secretary of the Credo Society, complained to Access Radio that the
item presented as news breached the broadcasting standard requiring truth and accuracy.
Describing the one in 10 figure as "thoroughly discredited", Mrs Faithfull maintained that the
five minute broadcast amounted to propaganda – not factual information. She considered the
broadcast of such "blatantly" misleading and pernicious material to be an abuse of the
privilege to broadcast.
The G & T Show on 28 April 1994 reported that the complaint had been received about the
17 March broadcast and the item was introduced with the comment:
810AM under attack by faithful listener
Although not registering a formal complaint about that "sarcastic" comment, in a letter to
Access Radio dated 2 May Mrs Faithfull questioned the professionalism of the programme
Access Radio's Broadcasting Operations Sub-Committee declined to uphold the complaint
about the 17 March broadcast. Noting that the item had in fact been about 2½ minutes in
length, the Sub-Committee described both broadcasts as a "legitimate news item from the
point of view of the programme makers". The Sub-Committee considered offensive the
aspect of the complaint which alleged that the statistic had been falsely attributed to the
named government department. It also rejected the complaint that because the American
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force had an interest in the outcome, its survey was invalid.
It concluded by describing as offensive the implication in the complaint that homosexuality
was perverse in itself.
When she referred the Society's complaint to the Authority, Mrs Faithfull repeated her
concern that broadcasters, with a political agenda to advance homosexuality, presented
inaccurate and misleading material – ie propaganda – as legitimate news. It was impossible,
she argued, for an organisation which had an interest in the outcome of research to obtain valid
As neither the complainant nor the broadcaster specified the standard which the broadcast
was alleged to have contravened or the standard under which the complaint had been assessed,
it was necessary for the Authority to determine this matter initially.
It acknowledged that standards R1 or R16 were options. The first one requires broadcasters:
R1 To be truthful and accurate on points of fact in news and current affairs
Standard R16 states:
R16 News must be presented accurately, objectively and impartially.
However, taking into account the broadcaster's remark that the comment on the G & T Show,
although a "legitimate news item", was made from the programme makers' point of view, the
Authority decided that neither standards R1 nor R16 contained the appropriate criteria under
which the complaint should be assessed.
Because the different programme makers who prepare items for Access Radio seldom make
any pretence that the items presented are impartial but overtly advance the makers' point of
view, in March this year in consultation with Access Radio the Authority approved the
following standard which applies only to Access Radio: It reads:
R(A)9 Community access broadcasters provide facilities for members of the
community to make and broadcast their own programmes. When dealing with
political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature,
community access broadcasters will, if requested, provide equivalent time to
alternative points of view under the conditions and guidelines of the station.
This standard acknowledges that the programme makers for items on Access Radio explicitly
advance material favourable to their interest. To meet the requirements for balance and what
might be described as the alternative view of reality and accuracy, this standard requires that
proponents of differing perspectives be given the opportunity to broadcast their
countervailing material. Credo's complaint on this occasion appeared to raise the very issues
for which standard R(A)9 had been promulgated.
Accordingly, the Authority then proceeded to determine the complaint on the basis that it
involved an allegation that standard R(A)9 has been contravened by the broadcast of a "news"
On the basis that the broadcast on Access Radio in Auckland (repeated on 19 March) gave
the sources for its report and thus allowed listeners to appraise their validity, and as the
complaint did not allege that an opportunity to broadcast a response had been denied, the
Authority declined to uphold the Credo Society's complaint.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
The Authority would point out that although standard R(A)9 accepts that each individual
Access Radio programme might not be balanced and although the standards requiring factual
accuracy (R1 and R16) are confined to news and current affairs, programmes must not
advance substantial factual inaccuracies in view of standard R12. It requires broadcasters:
R12 To correct factual errors speedily and with similar prominence to the offending
broadcast or broadcasts.
The broadcast complained about on this occasion has not been assessed against standard R12
as the factual material reported was based on attributed sources. However, when factual
comments are not sourced, standard R12 requires that significant points made on Access
Radio programmes, and indeed other broadcasters' programmes, to be factually correct.
With regard to the factually attributed material contained in the current broadcast, the
Authority began by noting that the one in 10 figure for homosexuality has been based on an
aspect of the Kinsey Report which has been extensively criticised. However, that Report
was not the source given in the broadcast complained about. The figure was specifically
attributed to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Authority
accepted that the listener was entitled to decide what degree of credibility to ascribe to the
source – but, as the figure was attributed, the Authority did not accept that it could be
dismissed as propaganda.
The complaint also questioned the credibility of the findings of the American Gay and
Lesbian Task Force. It was argued that any organisation which has an interest in the outcome
of research could not be relied on to present the results in an unbiased manner.
The Authority did not accept this argument for two reasons. First, most research is
commissioned by interested parties and the credibility of the results, depends first on the
competence of the organisation actually doing the research and secondly on the manner in
which the results are published. In this instance, the report suggested that the research
quoted could well have been undertaken - not just commissioned – by the Task Force.
Nevertheless, there was a second reason why the Authority did not accept that the research
was therefore unreliable. The research quoted was qualitative – reporting on the impact of
school life on some gay students – rather than quantitative – reporting on numbers of gay
students. Because of this difference, the Authority considered that the evidence provided by
the Task Force was presented in the item as material from one - openly acknowledged - point
of view. It was a situation where Access Radio, if requested, must provide proponents of an
alternative perspective the opportunity to produce a programme carrying a different
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
29 September 1994
Credo Society Inc's Complaint to Access Community Radio Auckland Inc
In a letter dated 12 April 1994, Mrs Barbara Faithfull on behalf of Credo Society Inc
complained to Access Community Radio Auckland Inc about an item presented as
"news" on the G & T Show on 17 March and repeated on International Homosexual
News on 19 March. The Society claimed that the item contravened the Codes of
Broadcasting Practice which require broadcasters to be truthful and accurate on points
of fact in news and current affairs programmes. It wrote:
... given the evidence, we strongly suspect that the very intention of the
programmers in presenting this item had very little to do with informing their
listeners but much to do with propagandising certain perverse ideas.
The item claimed that 10% of secondary school students in America were homosexual
and, the Society wrote, dealt with the supposed travails of such students. It stated
that "no source whatsoever was given for this supposed news item".
The five minute long item, it said, began with a quote of what it described as the now
thoroughly discredited 1 in 10 figure which was attributed to the US Department of
Health and Human Services, presumably, the complainant wrote, in order to attach to
it a ring of authority. This supposed "news" item, it continued, then "generalised
hugely" and appealed to the pity of listeners by informing them that for homosexuals
"going to school is like walking into a lion's den every day".
The Society maintained that further "manipulation of figures then ensued, along with
emotive, inflammatory, utterly unsubstantiated assertions and survey results". One
such survey result was from the (American) National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce
which, it said, would have been without scientific validity due to the organisation's
special interest in the outcome.
It concluded its letter of complaint by stating:
This Society is most concerned that homosexual programmers are able to abuse
their privilege of broadcasting by using such blatantly misleading and
pernicious material as this and, to compound matters, by presenting it
masquerading as "news".
On 2 May the Society wrote again to Access Community Radio stating that it was
disturbed to note that on 28 April the G & T Show had reported as "news" the lodging
of the Society's complaint and had even promised to keep their listeners "posted".
Moreover, the Society continued, while presenting this information in the guise of
objective news reporting, it had sarcastically prefaced it with: "810AM under attack
by faithful listener". The Society went on to question whether the people responsible
for the programme were well enough informed about matters relating to TV and radio
complaints in general stating:
Clearly, they need to be made aware that a complaint about TV or radio
standards is just that, and in no way to be construed or interpreted as an
"attack" upon the medium concerned, let alone to be publicly labelled as such.
The Society was interested to know whether the G & T Show's raising of this matter
on air – and its method of doing so – met with the Station's approval and, if it did not,
whether steps would be taken to prevent a repeat of the situation
Access Community Radio's Response to the Formal Complaint
Access Community Radio's Broadcasting Operations Sub-Committee advised the
Society, in a letter dated 14 June, that it had considered and declined to uphold the
complaint about the 17 March broadcast (repeated on the 19 March). It had treated
the letter about the 28 April broadcast as a formal complaint declined to uphold it too.
The Sub-Committee informed the Credo Society that it had found no basis for the
complaints as both items were legitimate news items from the point of view of the
programme makers. It said that although the style and duration of the items might not
have been compatible with what was conventionally accepted as "news items", the
Sub-Committee had adhered to its policy of facilitating programme makers to
broadcast from their own point of view. The Committee members also rejected the
claim by the Credo Society that the news item was 5 minutes long when, in reality,
both the items complained about had a duration of considerably less than 5 minutes.
The complainant's assertion that the broadcaster had falsely and deliberately
attributed statistics to the United States Department of Health and Human Services in
order to support its claims was an aspect of the complaint which the Committee
found offensive as it suggested that the attribution was a downright lie. Similarly, it
objected to and rejected the suggestion that the American Gay and Lesbian Task Force
statistics could not be valid because the group had an interest in the outcome implied
that the group had deliberately skewed the results to their advantage.
The Committee was also offended by the suggestion in the complaint that
homosexuality in itself was perverse.
Credo Society's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority
Dissatisfied with the broadcaster's response, in a letter dated 19 July 1994, the Credo
Society referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under
s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
Referring to its letter of 2 May which expressed concern at the G & T Show reporting
as "news", albeit sarcastically, the lodging of the Society's formal complaint, it
explained that this letter was never intended as a formal complaint and was not
identified as such in any way.
The Credo Society's concerns, it continued, had been set out in both letters which had
been then dismissed by the broadcaster as being without basis. The main areas of
concern were fully set out in its 12 April letter and, the Society said, the essence of
these concerns was:
... that homosexual broadcasters who clearly demonstrate the pursuit of
political ends through their broadcasting, seem able to abuse the privilege of
broadcasting with impunity, even to the extent of using inaccurate, misleading
and propaganda material under the guise of legitimate news.
Commenting on Access Radio's response to the complaints, the Society said that it
considered the overall response was simply a whitewash which suggested a curious set
of priorities. It went on to say that the Sub-Committee – the members of which had
not even been identified – dismissed out of hand all the carefully documented and
detailed April 12 and 2 May concerns and yet devoted ten lines to mere hair-splitting
about the duration of the item.
Furthermore, the Society continued, matters relating to accuracy which seemed to
concern the broadcaster greatly were the issues of no importance (the question of the
duration of the March item) and yet when the question of accuracy was critically
important to the whole complaint - ie in order to gauge the authenticity, truthfulness
and credibility of the news item in question - it was fatuously passed off as simply
being "from the point of view of the programme makers". The Society considered that
the Sub-Committee had no grasp of the deep factors involved.
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. It 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.
The Society also questioned the "make-up" and impartiality of the Committee asking:
Yet how can those opinions be fairly evaluated without knowing who
proffered them, let alone what vested interests they may have been serving by
so making 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 reply, dated 4 August, advised that it did not want to
comment further on the complaint but enclosed a copy of the letter of advice of the
Broadcasting Operations Committee's decision to the G & T Radio Club and Gay