The majority of the Authority has not upheld a privacy complaint about an item on Asliyat responding to petitions made in opposition to Radio Virsa staff, in relation to Gurdwara management and the sale of a Gurdwara property. The host called into question the righteousness of the petitioners as Sikhs, including the complainant’s son, who the host identified as someone at the centre of a family scandal (which included issues of drug addiction and allegations of theft and other ‘bad things’). The complainant submitted the broadcast identified his son and disclosed private information in a way that was highly offensive and damaging to the reputation of his son and son’s family. Based on the information disclosed, the majority of the Authority found the complainant’s son was not identifiable beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about the matter dealt with in the broadcast. The minority view was that the information disclosed enabled listeners, beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about the issues discussed, to identify the complainant’s son, and this information had the quality of private information whether or not all of it was true, such that the disclosure breached the privacy standard.
Not Upheld by Majority: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Dasam Granth Da Sach. During the programme the host made comments about a well-known female Sikh preacher, including that she should marry a Taksali (traditionally trained Sikh) rather than a Jāgaruka (enlightened Sikh), because she supports the ideology of the former, and because husbands ‘in our society’ resort to beating when offended by their wives. The host also used words that can carry sexual connotations but, in the specific context of the broadcast, were unlikely to do so. The Authority acknowledged the potentially offensive nature of the comments to some people, but found overall the potential harm arising was not at a level justifying regulatory intervention or restriction of the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration, Violence, Privacy, Fairness
The Authority declined to determine two complaints as they did not raise any issues of broadcasting standards that warrant a determination.
Decline to determine (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 – in all the circumstances): Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that an episode of the talkback programme Dasam Granth Da Sach breached the accuracy standard. The host, while engaged in discussion with a caller, had made statements that the complainant alleged were unsubstantiated comments about a historical event that had the potential for disrupting harmony between the Sikh and the Hindu communities. The Authority found that the accuracy standard did not apply in this instance as the programme was not a news, current affairs or factual programme and the relevant statements were clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than statements of fact.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority upheld a complaint that a segment of Punjabi talkback programme, Dasam Granth Da Sach breached the good taste and decency, violence and law and order standards. During the segment, the host made threatening comments, directed at members of a Sikh sect in response to recent violent incidents in India. The Authority found the comments undermined widely shared community standards, considering their seriousness, specificity and other contextual factors. The Authority also found the comments actively incited violence and promoted disrespect for the law within the specific community of listeners. The Authority recognised the value of the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression but found the potential for harm justified a restriction of this right.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence, Law and Order
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme, Bhakhde Masley. During the programme, the host engaged in a heated argument with a caller, calling him a ‘dog’ and saying ‘someone should beat you with a shoe.’ The Authority acknowledged that the comments were in poor taste, but found they were unlikely to undermine widely shared community standards because, amongst other reasons, talkback is a robust environment and the host’s comments were not explicit or graphic. For the same reasons, the Authority also found the comments did not amount to unduly disturbing violent content and that they were unlikely to incite or encourage violence.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a broadcast of Punjabi talkback programme, Dasam Granth Da Sach, in which the hosts identified the complainant and broadcast audio clips of him speaking about various religious topics. While the complainant was clearly identified, the Authority found no private information or material was disclosed during the broadcast over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The information disclosed during the broadcast was available in the public domain, and in these circumstances, the Authority found that its intervention in upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression. The Authority noted, however, that there were steps available to the broadcaster to mitigate the potential for harm, particularly in its use of social media content, and encouraged the broadcaster to consider the Authority’s guidance on these issues before broadcasting such content in the future.
Not Upheld: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a broadcast of Punjabi talkback programme, Sikh Patshahi, in which a caller to the programme referred to the complainant by name and attempted to speak to the host about them. While the complainant was clearly identified, the Authority found no private information or material was disclosed during the broadcast, by either the caller or the host to the programme, over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The host took proportionate steps during the segment to steer the conversation away from the complainant’s specific circumstances and towards the general topic of discussion, which was Sikh marriage and divorce, and emphasised throughout the segment that the caller could not speak about named individuals without allowing them an opportunity to respond. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the potential harm was mitigated and its intervention in upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld complaints from 20 complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme, Bhakhde Masley. During the programme, the host questioned the teachings of a deceased Sikh religious figure by posing hypothetical questions about how he and his widow, now also deceased, had children. The host implied that, given the leader’s teachings about celibacy, his widow and other family members must have had sex with animals. The complainants alleged that this discussion breached the privacy of the individuals referred to, and was degrading and humiliating. The Authority acknowledged that the segment was in poor taste, but found that the broadcast was not in breach of the standards raised by the complainants. The individuals referred to were either deceased (so the privacy standard could not apply) or lived overseas, making it difficult to assess the harm that could have been caused. The discussion was ultimately hypothetical and was not intended to be taken literally. The Authority noted that the right to freedom of expression comes with responsibilities by those who exercise it, and it is clear that this broadcast caused offence and significant division within the Sikh community in New Zealand. On this occasion, however, the Authority could not uphold the complaints based on the particular standards raised.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
In June, October and November 2016, Sikh radio station Radio Virsa broadcast four programmes in Punjabi on 107FM. The programmes included host and talkback commentary about a wide range of issues. The Authority received a complaint that these broadcasts contained threatening and coarse language and themes, and offensive statements were made in relation to a number of named individuals in the Sikh community, including the complainant. The Authority found that aspects of these broadcasts were in breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority was particularly concerned that offensive comments were made about named individuals in the local community, which resulted in the individuals’ unfair treatment and, in one instance, a breach of privacy. The Authority also found aspects of the broadcasts, which contained comments about women, were unacceptable in New Zealand society and in breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the remaining broadcasting standards.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
The complainant made a formal complaint about a programme broadcast on Radio Virsa. He also sent a second ‘updated complaint’ which referred to repeat broadcasts of the programme the following day. Radio Virsa declined to accept and consider the complaints on the basis the initial complaint was made outside of the 20-working-day timeframe for making a formal complaint, and the ‘updated complaint’ did not sufficiently convey that it related to repeat broadcasts the following day. The Authority found that a valid formal complaint was not made. Radio Virsa was therefore not required to accept and consider either complaint, and the Authority does not have jurisdiction to now accept and consider the matter.
The Supreme Sikh Council, its individual members and the Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand submitted a complaint to Radio Virsa alleging that a range of broadcasts were offensive and defamatory, but were not able to give precise times, dates or comments. The complainants requested recordings of the broadcasts. The question for the Authority was whether this amounted to a valid formal complaint, and therefore whether the Authority had jurisdiction to order Radio Virsa to provide the recordings. The Authority found that a valid formal complaint had not been made due to lack of sufficient particulars, and therefore it did not have the power to order Radio Virsa to provide the recordings.