PQ and The RadioWorks Ltd - 2002-093
- P Cartwright (Chair)
- J H McGregor
- R Bryant
BroadcasterThe RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/StationThe Edge # 3
Office Goss – The Edge – caller claimed that a school principal was a lesbian in relationship with another teacher – breach – good taste – privacy – fairness – accuracy
No tape available – decline to determine – s.11(b) – warning
Name of complainant and town of residence deleted to preserve privacy
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 To protect the privacy of the persons referred to in this complaint, the Authority makes an order deleting reference to the complainant other than by initials, and deleting reference to the town from which the complaint emanated.
 The programme Office Goss was broadcast by The Edge. In the programme broadcast between 7.30–8.15am on 17 October 2001, allegations were said to be made by a caller from a named city that a principal of a high school was a lesbian and that two teachers had been “having it off in a gym”.
 PQ complained to The Edge that the comments breached the broadcasting standards relating to the observance of good taste and decency, the maintenance of law and order, privacy, balance, fairness and accuracy.
 The RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster of The Edge, declined to accept the complaint as it argued that it had not been lodged, as required by the Broadcasting Act 1989, within 20 working days of the broadcast.
 Maintaining that the complaint was filed within the requisite time frame, PQ referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons below, the Authority finds that the complaint about the broadcast was lodged within the required time. However, because of insufficient information about the content of the broadcast, it is obliged to decline to determine the complaint.
 The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The correspondence included affidavits from three announcers working for The Edge on 17 October 2001, in which they recorded the transcript of an exchange between themselves and a listener. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 PQ complained to the offices in […] for The Edge radio station about a broadcast between 7.30–8.15am on 17 October 2001. The complaint stated that during a programme called Office Goss, a high school principal was said to be a lesbian, and claimed further that the same principal and another named teacher had been “having if off in a gym”.
 The complainant considered that the broadcast failed to meet the standards relating to the observance of good taste and decency, the maintenance of law and order, privacy, balance, fairness and accuracy.
The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant
 Arguing that the complaint had not been lodged with the broadcaster within 20 working days of the broadcast as required by s.6(2) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, The RadioWorks declined to accept the complaint. It wrote:
You faxed a complaint on day 20 to someone who at most is an independent advertising broker.
The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority
 The complaint was referred to the Authority as the complainant was dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response. PQ outlined the steps she had taken to ensure that the complaint was lodged correctly with the broadcaster.
The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority
 In its response to the Authority, The RadioWorks elaborated on the reasons why it considered that the offices in […] at which the complaint was filed did not amount to the lodgement of the complaint with the broadcaster as required by the Act.
 The Authority sought further information on the process followed by the complainant on a number of occasions. It also sought the broadcaster’s reply on each such occasion. The parties were given the opportunity to comment on the correspondence written by the other party. The Appendix lists the correspondence received and considered.
 Having obtained the information it required from both the complainant and the broadcaster on the procedural issues raised, the Authority made the following ruling. It decided that the complaint about the broadcast on the Edge on 17 October 2001 complied with the requirements of the Broadcasting Act 1989 for making a formal complaint. It also decided that another complaint it had received about a broadcast on The Edge on 5 October 2001 fell outside the time frame whereby a broadcaster must consider a complaint. It noted that The Edge had a discretion whether or not to accept that complaint, and the broadcaster chose not to.
 It sought a response from The RadioWorks about the complaint regarding the broadcast on 17 October, and a response about the 5 October broadcast if the broadcaster wished to provide one.
The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority
 The RadioWorks advised the Authority that there had been no broadcast on 5 October dealing with the matters raised in the complaint.
 Turning to the broadcast on 17 October, the broadcaster enclosed affidavits from three announcers who each said that the identical transcript, attached to the affidavit each one signed, was an accurate record of an on-air conversation which took place at about 7.50am on 17 October.
 On the basis that no names of the school or the staff had been broadcast, The Edge maintained that the standards had not been breached.
The Complainant’s Response to the Authority
 The complainant contended that the broadcast was probably a report of the broadcast first aired on 5 October. Moreover, she reported, the notes she had taken at the time indicated that the broadcast had included considerably more information. She enclosed her notes.
 Questioning the identical recollections of the announcers, and referring again to the information she had gathered, the complainant’s solicitor maintained that the complainant’s recollection was more accurate than that of the broadcaster.
The Authority’s Determination
 The Authority has made considerable efforts to gather information in order to be able to rule on the content of the broadcast on The Edge on 17 October 2001. Those efforts, it concludes, have been unsuccessful.
 The Authority notes that the transcript attached to each affidavit provided by the announcers on The Edge on 17 October stated that the caller to Office Goss named the town where the call was coming from. The transcript records that the gossip provided by the caller was that the headmistress and the PE teacher at the local school were lesbians. Everyone, it was said by the caller, knew about it as they had been seen kissing.
 The complainant refers to broadcasts on 5 October and 17 October, but is not able to be explicit as to what was said in regard to the school principal on each occasion. The complainant also said that there were references to another named school and allegations that the principal there acted inappropriately toward female students. The complainant also suggests that the broadcast on 17 October may well have been a repeat broadcast on the item first aired on 5 October.
 The Authority notes that the matter should have been capable of easy resolution had a tape recording of the broadcast been made and provided to the Authority.
 In a recent decision about another broadcast on the Edge, the broadcaster was unable to provide the Authority with a tape of the programmes complained about. The Authority stated in Decision No: 2002-060 (dated 23 May 2002):
The broadcaster’s failure to provide the Authority with a tape of the item complained about on this occasion is not an isolated incident. The Authority has recorded its concern in earlier decisions when it has been compromised by the lack of a tape. The Authority has been in discussion with the Radio Broadcasters Association (RBA) about the issue of tape retention, and it has indicated to the RBA that the continuing failure by broadcasters to provide tapes may lead the Authority to promulgate a rule under s.30 of the Broadcasting Act relating to the retention of tapes. Such a step would not be taken without further consultation with all radio broadcasters.
 In that decision, the Authority decided that, in the absence of a tape, it was unable to determine the complaint. It is obliged to reach a similar decision in this instance.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to determine the complaint in all the circumstances under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 July 2002
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
- PQ’s Solicitor’s Complaint to the Edge – 14 November 2001
- PQ’s Solicitor’s Elaboration on the Complaint to the Edge – 19 November 2001
- The RadioWorks Ltd’s Response to the Complainant – 7 December 2001
- PQ’s Solicitor’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 21 December 2001
- The RadioWorks’ Response to the Authority – 25 January 2002
- The Complainant’s Solicitor’s Further Letter to the Authority – 19 February 2002
- The Complainant’s Solicitor’s Further Letter to the Authority – 16 March 2002
- The RadioWorks’ Response to the Authority – 20 March 2002
- The RadioWorks’ Further Letter to the Authority – undated
- The Complainant’s Solicitor’s Response to the Authority – 18 April 2002
- The RadioWorks’ Reply to the Authority – 23 April 2002
- The RadioWorks’ Further Letter to the Authority – 26 April 2002
- The Complainant’s Solicitor’s Response to the Authority – 30 April 2002
- The RadioWorks’ Further Letter to the Authority (plus attachments) – 22 May 2002
- The Complainant’s Solicitor’s Reply to the Authority – 29 May 2002