BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Coles and Radio Pacific Ltd - 1997-083

Members
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • A Martin
Dated
Complainant
  • Kathrine Coles
Number
1997-083
Broadcaster
Radio Pacific Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio Pacific # 5


Summary

Violence in Bosnia, and in particular, extracts from the diary of a woman who had been

in a rape death camp, were read by a guest on the talkback session (host: Jenny

Anderson) broadcast between 10.00–11.00am on 24 January 1997 on Radio Pacific.

Ms Coles complained to Radio Pacific Ltd that she had found that the broadcast was

appalling and that it had severely infringed the rights of all children. She nominated

the broadcasting standards which she considered had been breached by the broadcast.

Explaining that it was a station which appealed to listeners aged 40 plus, Radio Pacific

said that the matter had been handled sensitively and the broadcast had included a

warning that children might be upset. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Dissatisfied with Radio Pacific's response, Ms Coles referred it to the Broadcasting

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

For the reasons below, the Authority upholds the complaint.


Decision

The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the item complained about

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

the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Extracts from the diary of a woman who had been a prisoner in a rape death camp in

Bosnia were read on the talkback session broadcast by Radio Pacific between

10.30am–12 noon on Friday 24 January 1997. The host had interviewed the journalist who

held the diary. The journalist explained that the prisoners in the death camps were

used by the soldiers for their violent and sadistic sexual gratification, and the extracts

broadcast included some horrifying details.

Referring to an extract broadcast between 10:30–11:00am which spoke about the

abuse inflicted on one woman prisoner's breasts, Ms Coles complained to Radio

Pacific that the broadcast infringed the rights of children. She alleged breaches of

standards R2, R3, R23, R24, R25, R28, R30, R31 and R32 of the Radio Code of

Broadcasting Practice. The first two 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.

R3   To be mindful of the effect any programme may have on children during

their generally accepted listening periods.


The others standards read:

R23  Care should be taken in broadcasting items which explain the technique of

crime in a manner which invites imitation.

R24  Ingenious and unfamiliar methods of inflicting pain or injury – particularly

if capable of imitation – should not be described without the most careful

consideration.

R25  Dramatic truth may occasionally require the portrayal of a sadistic

character, but there can be no defence of violence, included solely for its

own sake, or the gratuitous exploitation of sadistic or their perverted

practices.

R28  The time of transmission is an important consideration in the scheduling of

programmes which contain violence.

R30  Programming must not take advantage of the natural credulity of children.

R31  Where programme content is likely to disturb or encourage deviant

behaviour by people under the age of 15 years, broadcasters should use

reasonable endeavours to schedule the programme content outside of

normal listening hours for children.

R32  When programme content may contain material which may be sensitive to

children it shall be handled positively and responsibly by broadcasters.

Examples of such content include programmes relating to anger, sexuality,

violence, relationships, family conflict and alcohol and drug abuse to which

children may be sensitive.

In its response to the complaint, Radio Pacific made the following points. Radio

Pacific, it said, appealed primarily to listeners aged 40 plus, and the host broadcast a

warning that the content of the session complained about might upset children. As the

programme was not directed at children, and as the issue was covered carefully and

sensitively, Radio Pacific declined to uphold the complaint.

Radio Pacific supplied the Authority with a tape of the broadcast between 

10:30–11:00am. As it did not contain a warning, the Authority sought further information

on this matter from the broadcaster. It was advised that the host made the following

statement shortly after 11:00am:

Now just before we go to the ad break I would like to issue a warning if you are

a parent or grandparent listening to this broadcast and you have young children

in the same room. Please remove them to play outside or to go elsewhere

because some of the content in the upcoming half hour could be very disturbing

for young people to hear it. So you've got a few moments while we take a

commercial break to make sure that no children will be listening to the content

which you are about to hear from journalist Trisha Stratford reading from

Farsha's diary.


By way of introduction to its decision, the Authority commends Radio Pacific for

broadcasting the above warning.

The Authority notes Radio Pacific's comments about the age of the majority of its

listeners. However, it also notes that the broadcast complained about occurred during

school holidays when children may well have been at home listening to the station.

The point has also to be made that the warning was broadcast after 11:00am, and Ms

Coles complained about an extract from the diary broadcast between 10:30 and

11:00am. Because the broadcast occurred before the warning was broadcast, and

because the broadcast took place during a period of school holidays, the Authority

considers that the complaint should be upheld.

In her complaint, Ms Coles has listed all the standards which could possibly be

applicable. However, her concern appeared to focus on the issue which the Authority

considers is encapsulated in standard R32. The Authority is of the view, because of

the sensitive nature of the material, that the broadcaster should have broadcast a

warning immediately the horrific nature of the diaries became apparent. Indeed, it

would have expected the station to have some advance knowledge of the upcoming

material on which to base such a judgment.

Standard R24 was included among the standards listed by Ms Coles. Although not

applicable on this occasion in view of its reference to methods of inflicting pain,

particularly "if capable of imitation", the Authority observes that a warning before the

broadcast of such material would most likely be essential to reduce the possibility of

breaching the standard.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast

of the talkback session by Radio Pacific Ltd between 10:30–11:00am on 24

January 1997 breached standard R32 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting

Practice.


It declines to uphold any other aspect of the complaint.


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

Broadcasting Act 1989. Although Radio Pacific did not broadcast a warning as soon

as the nature of the diary extracts became apparent, it did so part way through the

session and, accordingly, the Authority concludes, an order is not appropriate.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

L M Loates
Member
26 June 1997

Appendix


Ms Coles' Complaint to Radio Pacific Ltd – 13 February 1997

Kathrine Coles of Greytown complained to Radio Pacific Ltd about some comments

broadcast on the talkback session between 10.00–11.00am on 24 January 1997

hosted by Jenny Anderson. The broadcast, she wrote, in detailing abuse of a woman's

breasts infringed the rights of all children and breached standards R2, R3, R23, R24,

R25, R28, R30, R31 and R32 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

In conclusion, she expressed her willingness to discuss the issues further with the

broadcaster in the hope that New Zealand would improve its attitudes towards, and

the treatment, of children.


Radio Pacific's Response to the Formal Complaint – 17 March 1997

Acknowledging that the content of the broadcast might be upsetting, Radio Pacific

maintained that the programme nevertheless had significant current affairs values.

Rather than responding to the individual standards cited, Radio Pacific made the

following points.

1. Radio Pacific was an adult radio station with its primary appeal being to

listeners aged 40 plus. Listenership by school children to morning talkback was

low.

2. The host broadcast a warning that the content might upset children.

3. Although the broadcast referred to violence, the matter was handled with care

and sensitivity.

4. The 9.00am–noon session on talkback radio usually dealt with the issues of

current affairs.

5. The programme was not directed at children, and the content was handled

responsibly by the host.

Radio Pacific accepted that the programme, because of the content, was an exception

to the normal material broadcast but only one complaint was received. As the matter

was handled correctly, Radio Pacific declined to uphold the complaint.

Ms Coles' Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 28 March 1997

Dissatisfied with Radio Pacific's response, Ms Coles referred the complaint to the

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

investigation and review.

Radio Pacific's Report to the Authority – 29 April 1997

Radio Pacific advised that it did not wish to put any further information before the

Authority.

Further Correspondence

As the tape of the programme sent to the Authority did not contain a warning, in a

letter dated 29 May 1997 the Authority sought from Radio Pacific more information

on this point.

In its reply dated 13 June 1997, Radio Pacific advised that the following warning was

broadcast shortly after 11:00am. The time of the warning was confirmed by telephone

when, Radio Pacific advised, that the discussion on the diary continued until 12 noon.

Now just before we go to the ad break I would like to issue a warning if you are

a parent or grandparent listening to this broadcast and you have young children

in the same room. Please remove them to play outside or to go elsewhere

because some of the content in the upcoming half hour could be very disturbing

for young people to hear it. So you've got a few moments while we take a

commercial break to make sure that no children will be listening to the content

which you are about to hear from journalist Trisha Stratford reading from

Farsha's diary.