New Zealand Law Society - ‘Unfair’ radio broadcasts contained derogatory statements and breached privacy

‘Unfair’ radio broadcasts contained derogatory statements and breached privacy

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has upheld aspects of a complaint about four broadcasts in 2016 by Radio Virsa, a small Sikh radio station based in Auckland.

The broadcast programmes were in Punjabi and contained host and talkback commentary about a wide range of issues and people in the local Sikh community.

The BSA found that three of the broadcasts contained divisive and derogatory language, treated named individuals in the Sikh community (including the complainant) unfairly and, in one instance, breached an individual’s privacy. The Authority found that the comments made about individuals were degrading and offensive, and devalued the reputation of some individuals in breach of the good taste and decency, and fairness standards.  

The BSA noted that, while some broadcasts may be directed to a specific ethnic community, when determining complaints about whether broadcasting standards have been breached it needed to look to the diverse New Zealand community as a whole:

“When we consider a complaint of this nature, we are conscious that we must apply New Zealand standards, and the expectations and values of the New Zealand community. We also recognise that our New Zealand community comprises a wide range of cultures, ethnicities and beliefs. New Zealand values these different cultures. However, these different views and cultures also need to co-exist compatibly together.”

The Authority recognised that the particular expectations of the target audience, here a sector of the New Zealand Sikh community, was an important cultural contextual factor for it to consider. The Authority acknowledged these expectations may differ from the expectations of a wider, and potentially non-religious, audience and are relevant to the assessment of whether the broadcast went beyond audience expectations.

However, in this case, the Authority concluded that aspects of the broadcasts were unacceptable in New Zealand society and caused harm to both individuals and to the intended audience.

In response to the findings, Radio Virsa has apologised to those impacted and the BSA has ordered that a broadcast statement reflecting the BSA’s decision be made.

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