Evans and Campus Radio bFM Limited - 2021-039 (24 August 2021)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- JEREMY EVANS
BroadcasterCampus Radio bFM Ltd
Warning: This decision contains language that some readers may find offensive
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a segment on 95bFM breached the good taste and decency standard. The segment included a broadcaster publicity notice, about the broadcasting standards complaints process, followed by a list of swear words, ‘fuck-knuckles, cock and piss, balls’. The complainant acknowledged this was intended to be ‘irreverently humorous’, but said it ‘conjured unpleasant images of a sexual nature’ in breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found, in the context, and particularly in light of 95bFM’s target and intended audience and its expectations of the radio station, the segment was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
 A segment on 95bFM included a broadcaster publicity notice followed by a list of swear words:
At this radio station we do our utmost to abide by the Broadcasting Standards Authority and their rules and guidelines.
If you seriously think we’ve crossed the line on air, give us a call on 309 4831 and tell us about it. We’ll be able to help you out and tell you the procedure if you wish to make a formal complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
Fuck-knuckles, cock and piss, balls.
 Jeremy Evans complained this segment breached the good taste and decency standard:
- ‘I wish to complain about a regular announcement played on 95bFM radio for the past few years… after three years, I can take no more and will make a formal complaint in the hope that a) you might stop playing it and b) you might learn something helpful in broadcasting to a wide spectrum of listeners.’
- ‘The announcement (ironically) informs listeners about the BSA standards and the complaints process. What I find offensive are the words “fuck-knuckles, cock and piss—balls”, spoken at the end of the announcement.’
- ‘These are not just naughty words…they create unpleasant mental images of a sexual nature. Also, I find the word “fuck” offensive when it is used without any context, and especially in combination with ”knuckles”…’
- ‘Further to this, I am of the opinion that your announcement is antagonistic to the BSA and its purpose. It seems to “raise the finger” at the BSA in what I see as a juvenile attempt at humour.’
 In his referral to the Authority, Mr Evans acknowledged ‘I think this is intended to be irreverently humorous’ but reiterated, ‘it conjures unpleasant images of a sexual nature.’
The broadcaster’s response
 95bFM did not uphold the complaint:
- ‘While I [95bFM’s Programme Director] accept tenure doesn't undo the offense caused, and I personally apologise for this, I don't accept that the spot is in any way “raising the finger” to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.’
- ‘The reason our BSA ad contains a somewhat cheeky coda, is far from a disrespect to the institution - it's a knowing wink to our listeners. A wink that says: we know you're a discerning listenership - a listenership that's informed, caring, pushes the envelope, and is far more likely to complain about political or social injustices, rather than “cuss words”.’
- ‘The original intent of the promo spot is far from being sexual, most listeners find the words semi-ridiculous, silly even.’
- ‘The promo spot you mention has been part of the fabric of the station for, as mentioned, over 25 years. It's so popular with our listenership, in fact, that we were asked to turn it into a limited edition t-shirt - it then became one of our best selling merchandise items.’
- ‘While I understand it's not possible to please all of the people all of the time, I do however, understand my responsibility as 95bFM's Programme Director is to its listeners. Sadly, in this respect, you appear to be outnumbered. We will not be removing the spot from rotate at this time.’
 The good taste and decency standard1 states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme. It is intended to protect audiences from content likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2
 We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 We have also considered the right to freedom of expression, which is our starting point. This includes the broadcaster’s right to offer a range of ideas, information and content, and the audience’s right to receive those. Our task is to weigh the value of, and public interest in, the broadcast against the level of actual or potential harm that may have been caused, with reference to the objectives of the good taste and decency standard, described above.
 We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the level of harm justifies placing a reasonable limit on the right to freedom of expression. For the reasons below, we have not found harm at such a level in this case.
Good Taste and Decency
 Attitudes towards taste and decency differ widely and continue to evolve in our diverse society. This standard ensures broadcasts fall within the broad limit of not seriously violating community norms of taste and decency.3 Context is key to the consideration of whether a broadcast is likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.4
 We have considered the relevant contextual factors, including:5
- 95bFM is an alternative independent radio station, located at Auckland University city campus and owned by the Auckland University Students’ Association Media Trust.
- 95bFM’s target and likely audience is young adults who are university students.
- The segment complained about has been part of 95bFM’s brand and broadcast media for 25 years. It is also featured on its popular clothing merchandise. Therefore, the continued broadcast of this segment is expected and possibly supported by its listeners.
- The swear words used in the segment are not used in an aggressive or sexually graphic manner, and do not carry any discernible meaning as a combination of words, but are being used satirically.
 In light of these contextual factors, and particularly 95bFM’s target and intended audience and its expectations of the radio station, we consider the segment was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
24 August 2021
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Jeremy Evans’ formal complaint – 18 March 2021
2 95bFM’s response to the complaint – 12 April 2021
3 Mr Evans’ referral to the Authority – 16 April 2021
4 95bFM’s final comments on the referral – 19 May 2021
1 Standard 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
4 As above
5 Guideline 1a