30 October 2017
BSA recognises diverse New Zealand culture in latest decision
The Broadcasting Standards Authority has upheld aspects of a complaint about four broadcasts 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 Authority 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.
In reaching its decision, the Authority 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 the Authority 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 offered an apology to those impacted and the BSA has ordered that a
broadcast statement reflecting the BSA’s decision be made. In addition, BSA has signalled its commitment to work with
Radio Virsa to assist it to better understand the New Zealand broadcasting context, and to provide guidance to Radio
Virsa staff on the application of broadcasting standards in New Zealand.