[By: Radiobiz reporter]
The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) recently ruled on two complaints lodged against 94.7 Highveld Stereo and KFM.
The first complaint in opposition to Highveld Stereo had to do with sexualisation in the media and the protection of children from this. The complainants named Hill and Roux found fault with sexually suggestive sounds broadcast as part of a prank call shortly after 7am on Highveld. This formed part of a practical joke which was played on the partner of a woman who had initiated the hoax with the anchor. The complainants felt the material may be harmful to children.
“My seven year old son enjoys the Highveld Stereo music so we switched on to it. At approximately 7:12am, a prank playing DJ played material of an extremely dubious nature for public broadcast, especially given the station’s popularity with school going children. The audio footage was of a woman moaning in a sexually suggestive way. I quickly switched stations out of concern for my young son,” said Hill.
Roux added, “I was driving with my 14 year old son. For this joke, the woman in question recorded a fake orgasm which the presenter used. I felt embarrassed and immediately changed frequency. I found it totally inappropriate, if the presenter had saved the broadcast for after 8am, it would have been better. In my opinion and observation, most of the current problems are due to moral decay. Radio stations have a moral and public duty to refrain from this decay.”
BCCSA chairperson, Professor JCW Van Rooyen, referred the matter to a tribunal for a hearing and a decision.
In their evaluation they found that the defence of the respondent (Ms Pheladi Gwangwa, Station manager at Radio 702) was that the correct warning of 15PG was given numerous times before the prank was broadcast. This indicates that parental guidance was advised. But the tribunal pointed out to the respondent that age restrictions and advisories are only intended for television.
They went on to note the anxiety and concern of the parents understandable, and emphasized that greater care should be taken by broadcasters with regards to subjects such as sexuality, bad language, profanities and the like at a time of day when large numbers of children are likely to be in the audience.
The judgment is as follows: “ We have come to the conclusion that although, this is not the kind of material which should be broadcast at that time of the morning, the repeated warnings and the absence of sexually explicit language, saved the broadcast. We do not believe that a substantial number of children under the age of 12 would have understood what the sounds implied. The embarrassment experienced is of course, on the part of the parents, understandable in the circumstances. The complaint is not upheld.”
The second complaint was directed at KFM about an unbalanced news item which the complainant, Peter Allderman, felt was one sided. The Eye Witness News (EWN) report which was broadcast on December 12 around 7:30am related to the Western Cape Provincial Education Department’s plan to close down approximately 20 schools.
Mr Allderman’s complaint was that the report’s contents which stated that “the teachers would possibly lose their jobs”, were simply not true. He said every teacher would be offered alternative employment and it is up to them. He went on to say that the report was deceptive and it was wrong not to permit the Education Department to comment.
KFM and EWN responded to the allegations by saying they had not breached the provisions of the BCCSA Code of Conduct and that their reporting was truthful, accurate and fair. What was complained on was simply one instalment on a story that had been covered on over a long period of time, which had featured both sides of the story.
“The story broke out in or about mid year in 2012. EWN covered it from beginning and broadcast several reports on it, prior to the one complained about. Although the Education department’s response may not have been broadcast on this particular occasion, it had been given a right of reply throughout KFM and EWN reporting on this story when it broke out,” they said.
In their evaluation, Professor JCW Van Rooyen and his Tribunal stated that, “As long as balance is gained within a reasonable period, the Code is not transgressed. The respondent argued that the matter was balanced in news reports that covered the story as it developed. Ultimately balance was achieved and it was made clear that the teachers’ grievances were eventually addressed and their jobs protected. We considered the relevant broadcasts, which were made available to us, and we were satisfied that balance was indeed achieved.”
The complaint was not upheld based on the fact that balance was achieved in prior and later newscasts which dealt with the subject as it developed.