BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Smits and Primedia (Radio Hauraki) - 1994-092

Members
  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • R A Barraclough
  • L M Loates
  • J R Morris
Dated
Complainant
  • Phillip Smits
Number
1994-092
Channel/Station
Radio Hauraki


Summary

A "nude" interview with strippers who were touring New Zealand with their show

was broadcast by Radio Hauraki on the afternoon of 2 June 1994 about 4.10pm.

Mr Smits complained to Primedia, the broadcaster, that the interview was mindlessly

vulgar, offensive and demeaning to women and breached standards of good taste and

decency. He maintained that the broadcaster was involved in the promotion of live

pornography.

In response, Primedia explained that although the interview was called a "nude"

interview, because it was promoting a show which involved stripping, in fact the

dancers did not take off their clothes while being interviewed. It denied that there was

anything in the interview which was in breach of the standard of good taste and

decency. It also denied that Radio Hauraki was in the business of promoting live

pornography and it declined to uphold that aspect of the complaint. Dissatisfied with

that decision, Mr Smits referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards

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

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

item breached standard G2 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Authority

declined to uphold any other aspect of the complaint.

Decision

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

about and have read a transcript of the interview (both supplied by Mr Smits) and

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

Authority has determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

The upcoming Auckland performance of a strip show touring New Zealand was the

subject of a "nude" interview with some of the strippers featured broadcast on Radio

Hauraki on 2 June 1994 about 4.10pm.

Mr Smits complained to Primedia that the interview was vulgar, offensive and

demeaning of women. He argued that the appearance of the women nude for the

interview was in itself a breach of broadcasting standards, regardless of what was said.

Moreover, he argued that everything that was said in the interview was a breach,

including one particularly offensive allusion made by one of the women which was the

more offensive because she was nude In addition, Mr Smits accused Primedia of

promoting live pornography not only by accepting the paid advertisements for the

show but by broadcasting the interview with the strippers.

In its initial response to the complaint, Primedia reported that a thorough investigation

had not revealed any breach of broadcasting standards, although it acknowledged that

it had neither a tape nor a transcript of the interview. While it agreed that the

interview was described as a "nude" interview, it pointed out that was a reference to

the fact that the show which was being promoted involved nude dancing and that in

the studio the women were fully clothed. Primedia denied that the term nude in itself

was offensive and suggested that what people's imaginations conjured up was a matter

beyond its control. It also denied that the women were demeaned or disadvantaged by

the interview, noting that they were there to promote their show and were in control

of the interview at all times. Primedia suggested that since Mr Smits was the sole

complainant about a broadcast that reached thousands of listeners, it did not believe

that there was a breach of good taste and decency. Finally, Primedia emphatically

denied that it was in the business of promoting live pornography, describing such a

suggestion as both abhorrent and defamatory.

In his referral to the Authority, Mr Smits provided both a tape and a transcript of the

broadcast which, on being sent a copy of the transcript, elicited a more comprehensive

response from Primedia. First, it reiterated that the women were not nude during the

interview, and repeated that the reason it was described as a nude interview was

because the women were promoting their nude dance show. Having seen the

transcript of the interview, Primedia admitted that it did have some concerns about the

implied actions of the interviewees and believed that a breach of standards might have

occurred. However, it argued that any potential breach had to be considered in the

context of the audience at which it was directed. It also reported that it was hampered

in its initial investigation of the complaint by the fact that it did not have a record of

the broadcast and Mr Smits' formal complaint gave no indication of what it contained.

Commenting that it was not sufficiently informed on the content of the interview,

Primedia noted that nevertheless, action had been taken in response to the complaint.

It reported that in a memo to the media consultant who arranged the interview, the

announcer and the Operations Manager, it had been stressed that care must be taken in

such interviews and that they would be strictly controlled in the future. Primedia also

advised the Authority that the announcer was no longer on-air for Radio Hauraki and

repeated that it had taken steps to ensure the situation did not happen again.

While no standards from the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice were cited by either

the complainant or the broadcaster, the Authority considered the complaint under

standards R2 and R14 which 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

b the expression of serious opinion, or

c in the legitimate use of humour or satire.


The Authority records that it not only read the transcript provided by Mr Smits, but

also listened to a tape of the interview. While it was difficult to hear some of the

comments made in the interview, with both the announcer and the interviewees

interjecting and talking over each other, a majority of the Authority considered that it

did contain a number of remarks which contained sexual innuendo and were open to

the kind of interpretation given by Mr Smits. The majority believed that some of the

remarks were unsuitable to be broadcast because they were so risque and upheld the

complaint that the item breached standard R2 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting

Practice.

The minority disagreed. It considered that in the jumble of comments contained in the

broadcast, it required an effort of the imagination to interpret them as being in breach

of standards of good taste and decency. In the context of a promotion about a strip

show, it believed that listeners would not have been offended by the comments from

either the announcer or the interviewees.

With respect to Mr Smits' assertion that the interview was conducted with the

interviewees nude, the Authority accepted Primedia's contention that that was not

correct. It considered that the allusion to the cool temperatures was a reference to the

change in climate from the Gold Coast, where the show originated, and not to the fact

that the strippers were being interviewed nude.

Turning to Mr Smits' argument that Primedia was in the business of promoting live

pornography and that was denigratory to women, the Authority notes that it cannot

adjudicate on advertisements since this is no longer a matter within its jurisdiction.

Further, it did not consider that the interview on its own was a breach of standard

R14. Accordingly it declined to uphold the standard R14 aspect of the complaint.

 

For the reasons set forth above, a majority of the Authority upholds the

complaint that the broadcast by Primedia of an interview on Radio Hauraki on 2

June 1994 was in breach of standard R2 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting

Practice.


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) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not intend to do so on this occasion because the

complaint was upheld by a majority only. Further, it believed the broadcaster had

taken appropriate action when it realised that the remarks might have been in breach of

broadcasting standards.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Iain Gallaway
Chairperson
6 October 1994

Appendix


Mr Smits' Complaint to Primedia - 2 June 1994

Mr Phillip Smits of Auckland complained to Primedia about an item broadcast on

Radio Hauraki at 4.10pm on 2 June 1994.

The item, he said, involved a "nude interview" with strippers and he described the

interviewing style as "mindlessly vulgar, offensive and demeaning of women" which

breached the broadcasting standard requiring good taste and decency. The

broadcaster's motive, he continued, was the promotion of live pornography which, he

said, involved reinforcing the rape culture and the objectification of women.

Primedia's Response to the Formal Complaint - 30 June 1994

Mr Dan Boyle, on Primedia's behalf, responded by explaining that after a thorough

investigation, he believed that the broadcast had not breached the standards. The

interview, of which he had no record, had involved the promotion of dancers who

undressed although the interviewees had been fully clad. He added that the interview

had involved no graphic language or descriptions, no bad language and no "putting

down" of women. He maintained that the use of the word "nude" did not amount to a

contravention of the standards.

As the complaint had not cited the allegedly offensive words used, Mr Boyle said he

had little specific to add. The aspect of the complaint which seemed to focus on the

promotion of the legal show called "Erotica", he observed, was not a matter of

broadcasting standards.

In summary, he wrote:

As far as the complaint is concerned, I have seriously considered it; I have

talked to all parties involved, and believe that no breach of the Broadcasting

Standards occurred. No further action will be taken at this stage.

Mr Smits' Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 19 July 1994

Dissatisfied with Primedia's reply Mr Smits referred the complaint to the

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

Expressing his amazement that Mr Boyle had investigated the complaint without

listening to the interview, Mr Smits maintained that the broadcasting standards were

breached with the interview of the nude women regardless of the actual content. He

argued that it was irrelevant whether the interviewees were or were not nude as it was

implied to listeners that they were. He also considered it irrelevant that he was the

only complainant or, he argued, perhaps only one of a few.

Mr Smits provided a transcript of the interview which, he argued, suggested that the

interviewees were naked. Furthermore, he stated, the interview contained allusions to

masturbation and prostitution and included the "promotion of live pornography".

Reporting that he had seen one performance and had laid a complaint with the police

(and a subsequent complaint about police inaction), he said that the Women Against

Pornography had also laid complaints with the Police.

As Radio Hauraki had interviewed some nude strippers who among other comments,

he insisted, had told the announcer about displaying the vaginal area, Mr Smits

persisted with his complaint that the broadcaster had promoted live pornography

which was a breach of the broadcasting standards.

In the accompanying Complaint Referral Form, Mr Smits said the interview was

offensive and demeaning of women and he recorded that he had referred the complaint

to the Authority as the broadcaster had tried both to minimise the interview's content

and to justify interviewing strippers.

Primedia's response to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 10 August 1994

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

On Primedia's behalf, Mr Boyle explained that he had not listened to a tape of the

interview as one was not available but now, having read the transcript supplied by Mr

Smits, he had some concerns.

Recalling that Mr Smits did not cite the aspects of the interview he found offensive in

the initial complaint, Mr Boyle referred to Mr Smits' previously expressed

dissatisfaction with Radio Hauraki and commented:

I believe this history has significantly affected the way Mr Smits approached

this complaint, giving me little chance of exploring the matter fully. ... Clearly,

Mr Smits was prepared to be dissatisfied prior to the complaint being

investigated, and chose not to give me the information that would assist me in

finding out what really happened.

Repeating that the interviewees - strippers who were promoting a nude dance show -

were fully clothed during the interview, Mr Boyle said the only other complaint

received was one from Women Against Pornography.

With regard to the broadcast, he expressed some concern about the implied actions of

the interviewees and reported that he had advised the media consultant who arranged

the interview, the announcer and the Operations Manager of the need for care to be

taken with such interviews in the future.

Emphasising that the company took its responsibilities seriously, Mr Boyle summed

up:

- Erotica Live is a legal show; the police have not acted upon Mr Smits

complaint to them. The commercials supplied to you for this show have not

been the subject of a complaint themselves and are therefore irrelevant.

- The transcript of the interview gives no indication as to the tone and context

of the spoken words and implied actions, which I believe have some relevance

especially to the Radio Hauraki audience.

- The original complaint did not give details, which made investigation difficult

- a transcript or copy of the interview at this stage would have aided this

immeasurably.

- Although I can now see there is a possible breach, I do not believe we were

given a fair chance to take action and resolve the complaint before the

Broadcasting Standards Authority was involved.

Mr Smits' Final Comment to the Authority - 21 August 1994

When asked whether he wished to comment briefly on Primedia's reply, Mr Smits

noted that he was not a member of Women Against Pornography and had not

prompted its complaint. Observing that the performance was now a matter for the

Police, Mr Smits said his complaint consisted of the following:

This is what happened: a Ônude interview' (of strippers) was devised and

arranged and heavily promoted in the preceding days - with the full knowledge

(opinion) of the management at Hauraki. That interview was duly conducted

and was duly as dubious and offensive (opinion) as it was meant to be. There

was no Ôsupervision' of it - Mr Boyle never even recorded it (just in case

complaints arose). When the women made their move ("can we show you now

what our pink item is ... ") Hauraki didn't Ôpull the plug' on it. The DJ was

perceivably Ôexcited' - he actually lead them into it. Maybe the whole (pink

thing was orchestrated - whose to know.

He deplored Primedia's conclusion that it was not responsible as it blamed some staff

members and the interviewees for the contents of the interview. He concluded by

persisting in his allegation that Radio Hauraki's role was to promote live pornography.

He attached a copy of Primedia's reply to Women Against Pornography.