Ragoonanan and Base FM - 2013-055
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Simon Ragoonanan
Channel/StationBase FM 107.3
Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]
A song titled ‘I’m Not Real’ was broadcast on Base Breakfast at about 9.25am, and contained the lyrics ‘bitches’, ‘ass’, ‘hoes’ and variants of ‘fuck’. The Authority upheld the complaint that the broadcast of these expletives in this timeslot breached standards of good taste and decency. The Authority did not make any order, noting that the broadcaster had acknowledged the broadcast was unacceptable, and that the decision would provide sufficient guidance going forward.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
 A song titled ‘I’m Not Real’ by Mac Miller featuring Earl Sweatshirt & Vinny Radio was broadcast on Base Breakfast at about 9.25am on Tuesday 25 June 2013. The song contained the lyrics ‘bitches’, ‘ass’, ‘hoes’ and variants of ‘fuck’.
 Simon Ragoonanan made a formal complaint to Base FM, the broadcaster, alleging that the broadcast of expletives during the breakfast show, when his child was listening, breached the good taste and decency standard.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard, as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast online and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Did the broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?
 The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts that contain sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2
 Base FM accepted the song ‘was a bad choice… for the time of day’ and apologised for causing offence. It noted that between 7am and midnight, radio DJs had responsibility for selecting content, as opposed to pre-programmed automation, and it said this made it difficult to control what was broadcast. It noted that DJs were provided with guidelines for what was acceptable, as well as a ‘language warning linker’ that could be manually activated to introduce tracks that contained swearing. All DJs had been reminded to use the ‘warning linker’ and to be more aware of lyrical content, it said.
 The broadcaster said the complaint had been sent to the host concerned who wrote to the complainant apologising and explaining the song choice was unintentional, but this was sent to the wrong address.
 When we consider an alleged breach of Standard 1, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:
- the song was broadcast at 9.25am
- it was broadcast on an access radio station
- the broadcaster and the host accepted the language was offensive
- the radio station’s target audience of people aged between 18-45
- audience expectations for content broadcast on this station at this time of day.
 The broadcast of a song containing expletives, including variants of ‘fuck’ and ‘bitches’, was unacceptable for broadcast at 9.25am. Broadcasters are required to be mindful of the effect any programme content may have on children during their normally accepted listening times.3 While we acknowledge that the Radio Code does not divide the day into classified time-bands as occurs in the Free-to-Air Television Code, radio stations cannot exclude non-targeted listeners, especially at times when they could reasonably be expected to be listening.
 Research conducted by the Authority indicates that 68 percent of people surveyed considered ‘fuck’ fairly or totally unacceptable in the context of a song played on the radio, while the corresponding figure for the word ‘bitch’ was 40 percent.4 We consider that the broadcast of these words, in addition to ‘hoes’ and ‘ass’, would have been unexpected and offensive to many listeners, especially when broadcast in this timeslot.
 Accordingly, we find that the content was inconsistent with current norms of good taste and decency, and we uphold the Standard 1 complaint.
 It is apparent from the way this complaint was handled in the first instance that the broadcaster was not fully aware of its obligations as to how to deal with complaints under the Broadcasting Act 1989, even though it recognised that the content was offensive. On receiving the complaint, Base FM forwarded it to the host concerned rather than responding to the complainant directly. In addition, it did not retain a recording of the audio for 35 days after the broadcast, as required by the Code, which meant we were unable to hear an exact recording of the broadcast complained about.
 It is important that these types of access radio stations are aware of, and comply with, their obligations to deal with formal complaints about broadcast content, and we intend to raise these matters with the broadcaster separately.
For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by Base FM of the song ‘I’m Not Real’ on 25 July 2013 breached Standard 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 Having upheld the complaint, we may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. We do not intend to do so on this occasion. Our decision makes our expectations clear surrounding the broadcast of potentially offensive language during times when children could be listening, and provides sufficient guidance in this respect. This is the first complaint against Base FM that we have upheld, and the broadcaster has recognised that the content was inappropriate and spoken to the host concerned, reinforcing its obligations as a responsible broadcaster. As noted above, we will also follow up with Base FM to ensure that proper processes are put in place for dealing with formal complaints in future.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
19 December 2013
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Simon Ragoonanan’s formal complaint – 26 June 2013
2 Mr Ragoonanan’s referral to the Authority – 1 August 2013
3 Base FM’s response to the complaint and the Authority – 4 October 2013
1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd,
Decision No. 2008-112
3See guideline 8a of the Radio Code.
4What Not to Swear: The Acceptability of Words in Broadcasting (Broadcasting Standards Authority, 2013) at page 18