The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has not upheld a complaint that the term “thank Christ” on RNZ was a blasphemous expression.
The Authority followed its findings in previous decisions that such expressions are often used as exclamations and are not intended to be offensive.
The term was uttered during the All Night Programme, between 1am and 3am, on 8 August 2016. The presenter said “I love trains, don’t you? I think it’s a shame what’s happened to some of the trains in New Zealand. Thank Christ we’ve got some left.”
A listener, Don Campbell, complained that “thank Christ” was a blasphemous expression that breached general standards of good taste and decency and was of particular offence to Christians.
RNZ submitted that the expression was used as an exclamation rather than carrying any ill will against Christians.
The BSA acknowledged that some people may find the use of variations of ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ unnecessary and offensive. However, it has previously found that expressions of this nature are commonly used as exclamations, without any intention to be offensive.
It says the presenter appeared to be merely expressing gratitude that some train services were still running and his comment was an off-the-cuff remark.
Meanwhile, the BSA has reported that the number of complaints received in the last financial year was 124, a drop of about 18% compared to the previous year when there were 151 complaints. It says that complaint numbers ebb and flow, often for no clear reason, so it is difficult to identify the drivers for the reduction.
In total, 23 out of 101 decisions released were upheld in full or in part. This is an increase from the two previous financial years – with 12% of decisions upheld in 2013/14 (12 out of 99 decisions) and only 10% in 2014/15 (14 out of 143 decisions).
The data reveals that viewers and listeners remain most likely to complain about news and current affairs programmes and the core values underpinning the role and functions of news media – fair, balanced and accurate reporting.