The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that 2UE did not respond substantively and within the required timeframe to a complaint made by the founder of an Islamic organisation, MyPeace, when he was interviewed on the now defunct Afternoons with Michael Smith show in June last year. The complaint itself, that Smith incited hatred against Muslims, was dismissed.
In a statement to ACMA, 2UE apologised for not responding to the complainant, saying, “We made a genuine error and we sincerely apologise for this.”
Smith invited the MyPeace spokesperson into the studio to discuss the then recently erected billboards around Sydney with the message: “Jesus, a prophet of Islam.” The interview covered the reasons for the erection of the billboards, the controversy that they had created, the role of Jesus Christ and other Biblical figures in the Islamic religion, the fact that the Advertising Standards Bureau had determined that the billboards had not breached any advertising regulations or codes, and the MyPeace organisation itself.
The interview lasted approximately 10 minutes.
TRANSCRIPT OF RELEVANT EXTRACT FROM INTERVIEW
Caller (Founder of MyPeace): In Islam, Jesus Christ is a prophet. It’s a fact of Islam.
Michael Smith (MS): What if someone wacked up billboard and said, well, I think it’s a fact that because Muhammad was married to an eleven, or, you know, was consummating a marriage with an eleven year old, by these standards he’s a paedophile.
Caller: No, no, no, that’s a completely different topic.
MS: Well, how’s it different?
Caller: It’s very different. I’m stating a fact that in Islam …
MS: Now hang on a sec, isn’t it a fact that Muhammad was married to, and consummated a marriage with, an eleven year old?
Caller: Yes it is.
MS: So by today’s standards, well by any standards, that’s …
Caller: No, no … (inaudible) … people say that Islam was spread by the sword, but I say in the Bible Jesus says, whoever doesn’t follow me, bring them here and chop their heads off.
The complainant alleged that comments made by Michael Smith incited hatred against Muslims.
ACMA dismissed the complaint, stating in its findings:
For the following reasons the ACMA is of the view that the comments by Michael Smith regarding Muhammad and the age of his wife when his marriage to her was consummated was not so sustained or extreme as to be likely to incite hatred against Muslims because of their religion:
- The relevant comments were brief in terms of the interview as a whole (which lasted for approximately 10 minutes), were not dwelt upon by either the program’s presenter or the interviewee, and were not the main focus of the interview, which was the issues surrounding the MyPeace billboards.
- The relevant comments did not contain any element of incitement and listeners were not ‘urged on, stimulated or prompted to action’.
- The interview, which involved the program’s presenter, Michael Smith, and the founder of the Islamic organisation MyPeace, was conducted in a reasonable and amicable fashion. Mr Smith allowed the interviewee to fully express his views and to provide information regarding MyPeace and the role of Jesus Christ and other Biblical figures in the Islamic religion.
- The nature and overall tone of the interview was not consistent with program material that would be likely, in all of the circumstances, to incite hatred against Muslims because of their religion.
The ACMA appreciates the complainant was personally offended by the broadcast and that the relevant comments may also have caused offence to members of the public, including members of the Muslim community.
However, applying the threshold test outlined above, including the requirement to consider ‘all the circumstances’ of the broadcast, it is unlikely the comments made during the segment were so harsh or extreme that they would have incited hatred against the Muslim community on the grounds of religion.
The ACMA is therefore of the view that, in all of the circumstances, the comments complained about have not breached clause 1.1(e) of the Code.
The complainant also alleged that he did not receive a response from the licensee to his complaint. On that ACMA made the following
Accordingly, as the licensee did not respond substantively and within the required timeframe to the complaint made to it on 19 July 2011, the licensee has breached clause 5.5 of the Code.
ACMA has, so far, made no determination in regards to a penalty.