BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Raven and Pirate FM - 1994-089

Members
  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • R A Barraclough
  • L M Loates
  • J R Morris
Dated
Complainant
  • Jeffrey Raven
Number
1994-089
Programme
Pirate FM
Broadcaster
Pirate FM
Channel/Station
Pirate FM


Summary

Comments about the edibility of hair around pumpkin pie and the temptations of girls

growing up were broadcast by Pirate FM between 7.30–8.30pm on Friday 3 June.

Mr Raven complained to Pirate FM that as the pumpkin pie comment referred to oral

sex, it breached the standard requiring good taste. The second statement, he said, in

addition to being in bad taste encouraged the denigration of women.

Describing the format of the station as refreshingly open and adult, Pirate FM

maintained neither comment was offensive. It explained that the second comment

referred to one of the announcer's two young daughters and it expressed the opinion

that people such as the complainant should be prevented from listening to Pirate FM.

Dissatisfied with Pirate FM's decision, Mr Raven referred the complaint to the

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

For the reasons below, a majority of the Authority upheld the complaint that the

broadcast breached the standard requiring good taste and decency.


Decision

The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of some of the comments

complained about (supplied by the complainant) and have read the correspondence

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

the complaint without a formal hearing.

Comments made on Pirate FM on Friday evening 3 June between 7.30–8.00pm

included a reference to hair around pumpkin pie and that some of the songs had been

played for Jeff's "girlies". One announcer then asked the age of the girls, remarking,

"Ah well, you know, as soon as they are old enough ... ha ha".

On the basis that the first comment referred to oral sex and the second was "blatantly

sexual", Mr Raven complained to the broadcaster that they breached standard R2 of

the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. It requires 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.


Mr Raven also alleged that that second comment encouraged the denigration of women

in contravention of standard R14. It requires broadcasters:

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


Pirate FM declined to uphold the complaint as, it argued, the broadcast contained

nothing offensive. Describing the station's format as "refreshingly open and adult", it

argued that the first comment could refer to hare pie while the second referred to Jeff's

daughters aged 3 and 4 who were living with his former wife. Pirate added:

So again ... "Get a broader sense of Humour or a Life – we could possibly

arrange a benefit to raise funds to buy you one.


Seriously though, we would rather you and "Nit-picking" individuals like you

were restricted from listening to Pirate FM it really is a waste of our time

replying to what is pure common sense and free speech. If you don't like either

move to another country.


When he referred his complaint to the Authority, Mr Raven enclosed a tape which

recorded most of the comments which had been broadcast. In its response to the

Authority, Pirate said it could not recall the comments precisely and argued that a

voice analysis would be necessary to decide which of several people in the room had

made the comments complained about.

In relation to the last point, the Authority would observe that such a step is

unnecessary. It deals with the broadcaster, Pirate FM in this instance, and it is the

broadcaster – not individual staff – which is responsible for the material which is

broadcast. Likewise it is the broadcaster, not named or unnamed announcers, which

must comply with the Authority's orders when imposed.

With reference to the complaint about pumpkin pie surrounded by hair, the Authority

acknowledged that it was a coarse expression – an oblique reference to oral sex – which

a majority of the Authority decided contravened standard R2. It concluded that the

context of the broadcast – the hour in the evening on a station focussing on music – did

not excuse the comment.


On the basis that the hair pie reference was obscure, a minority of the Authority

disagreed and declined to uphold the standard R2 complaint. It accepted that the

reference to Jeff's girlies could, indeed, refer to his daughters. However, given the

tone of the broadcast which clearly conveyed an unpleasant innuendo as to their

physical attraction when older, a majority again concluded that the broadcast of the

remark at that time breached standard R2.

Mr Raven also alleged that the second comment encouraged the denigration of women

in breach of standard R14. In earlier decisions, the Authority has ruled that

denigration requires a "blackening" of the reputation of the group referred to. It

decided that the comments on this occasion were sexist and, indeed, gratuitously

abusive. However, the Authority concluded that they did not amount to denigration

as it has interpreted that term. Accordingly, it concluded that the broadcast did not

contravene standard R14.

 

For the reasons given above, a majority of the Authority upholds the complaint

that the comments made on Pirate FM between 7.30pm–8.00pm on Friday 3

June breached standard R2 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.


It unanimously declines to uphold the complaint under standard R14.


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

Broadcasting Act 1989. On the basis that the comments complained amounted to a

marginal breach of the standards, the Authority has decided not to do so on this

occasion.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Iain Gallaway
Chairperson
29 September 199

Appendix


Mr Raven's Complaint to Pirate FM

In a letter dated 22 June 1994, Mr Jeffrey Raven of Wellington complained to Pirate

FM about some comments broadcast between 7.30 - 8.30pm on Friday 3 June.

The offensive remarks were:

Ah, Peter Pumpkinhead. I'm not sure about pumpkin pie, but if you put some

hair around it, I'll probably eat it.

and

Jeff's just played some songs for his girlies - for the girls. How are the girls, by

the way, mate? Getting bigger every day. Ah well, you know, as soon as they

are old enough ... ha, ha.

The first comment, Mr Raven wrote, was only used to allude to oral sex and

contravened the requirement for good taste in standard R2 of the Radio Code of

Broadcasting Practice.

Describing the second comment as blatantly sexual, Mr Raven said it treated women

as sexual objects. Not only did it breach the good taste requirement in standard R2, he

maintained that it encouraged the denigration of women in contravention of standard

R14.

Pirate FM's Response to the Formal Complaint

Pirate FM advised Mr Raven of its decision on his complaint in a letter dated 24 June

1994.

Beginning by maintaining that the broadcast contained nothing offensive by its

standards, the station described its format as refreshingly open and adult.

It argued that the first comment could refer to hare pie and, asking whether Mr Raven

had a sense of culinary humour, commented:

Tricky little devil the English language isn't it?

As for the second comment, it said that "Jeff's girlies", aged 3 and 4, were living with

his ex-wife which it said was "a very disturbing situation for a future father of teenage

girls". The letter writer added that his own children, aged 5 and 8, were already a

handful.

Pirate FM concluded:

So again .. "Get a broader sense of Humour or a Life - we could possibly arrange

a benefit to raise funds to buy you one.

Seriously though, we would rather you and "Nit-picking" individuals like you

were restricted from listening to Pirate FM it really is a waste of our time

replying to what is pure common sense and free speech. If you don't like either

move to another country.

Mr Raven's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

Dissatisfied with Pirate FM's reply, in a letter dated 27 June 1994 Mr Raven referred

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

Broadcasting Act 1989.

Mr Raven repeated his opinion that he found the comments offensive and he enclosed

a tape on which he had recorded most of the comments when they were broadcast.

Pirate FM's Response to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

As is its practice, the Authority sought the broadcaster's response to the complaint.

In a letter to the Authority dated 5 August 1994 expressing disdain about the

Authority and its work and signed by the Management and Staff of Pirate FM, the

complaint was described as "petty". The broadcaster insisted that as there were

several people in the room at the time the comments were made, it would be necessary

to undertake a voice analysis to identify which individuals made the comments

complained about.

Mr Raven's Final Comment to the Authority

Mr Raven declined the Authority's request to comment on Pirate FM's reply.