Highveld Stereo gets a slap on the wrist for ‘coolie’ insert

2010-11-18 14:11

The Broadcasting Complaints Commission reprimanded 94.7 Highveld Stereo for broadcasting a comedy insert that repeatedly used the word “coolie”.

“Stand-up comedians are known to test the waters and this is a risk that audiences take. In the case of a broadcast, however, one deals with the airwaves, which are public property, and where a listener has no warning of the impending calumnious language, whatever the context,” the BCCSA said in its judgment.

Radio jock Alex Jay played the insert by comedian Riyad Moosa at 10.15am on August 16.

The BCCSA received a complaint from S Naidoo, who said that the use of the word belittled Indian people.

He argued that such incidents caused “considerable (and sometimes irreparable) damage to reconciliation and acceptance”.

The ‘K’ word
Naidoo asked if Jay would have played the insert if it had used the word “kaffir”.

“I doubt it, since the word is always alluded to as ‘the K word’ by black and white alike on 94.7 especially.

“I feel that the inherent conservative, docile nature of Indians makes them ripe for the picking for the likes of Mr Jay & Co,” said Naidoo.

“I can only imagine people, particularly Indians, sitting in open-plan offices (such as my wife) and having to listen to this publicly offensive material with work colleagues sniggering and laughing around the corner or in the next cubicle.”

The BCCSA agreed with him, saying even though the intent was not to be hurtful, the broadcast still infringed people’s dignity.

In the insert, Moosa starts off by referring to people from Pakistan as “Pakis” and then compared that to the use of “coolie” and said that, although the word was no longer used in South Africa, where he comes from, people might still be referring to him as a “coolie” when he leaves their company.

He said, in fact, the audience might, afterwards, be referring to him as a funny “coolie” comedian – drawing loud laughter from the audience.

Moosa also quotes a fictional character with a typical sophisticated English accent, saying: “These bloody coolies. They have so many wives ... completely unacceptable by Western standards, as I was saying to my mistress!”

The BCCSA said: “There is also no doubt that Riyad Moosa is a very successful comedian and is prepared to laugh at himself. The context also indicates that the jokes were intended to draw laughter and not to denigrate.

“The present satire, although quite splendid, cannot trump these core values of dignity and respect, even within the context of satire. There will probably be exceptions, even in broadcasts, but the facts before us do not justify such an exception.”

The broadcaster was reprimanded, but not fined.

“If this kind of broadcast takes place again and a contravention is found to have taken place, the present finding against the broadcaster will be taken into consideration when it gets to sanction.

“A reprimand would, however, suffice in the present matter,” said the BCCSA.

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