Friday, February 15, 2019

Radio newsreader fired for ‘great big black b**tard’ on-air gaffe wins $30,000 payout

But gets compensation for being fired -- because he really didn't mean it!

A radio newsreader’s on-air use of the words “great big black b**tard” to describe pop singer Michael Jackson’s father were inappropriate but “did not amount to a racial slur” worthy of sacking, a tribunal has ruled.

Peter Hand, a journalist with Campbelltown’s C91.3FM in Sydney’s southwest, was let go from the local radio station last year after he accidentally used the phrase during a discussion with afternoon presenters Christian McEwan and Annabella Leone.

The Fair Work Commission heard that the newsreader would sometimes interject with lighthearted “fact checking” outside of the periodic news bulletins.

On the day in question, the hosts were discussing news that Joe Jackson had been hospitalised, when McEwan asked whether they were talking about Michael Jackson’s father Joe or the British musician with the same name.

“Hold on, wait,” McEwan said to Leone. “Is Joe Jackson his dad, or is he that guy that sings Is She Really Going Out with Him? You know that song?”

During the brief back-forth, Hand cut in, “Joe Jackson is a pale little … fellow … and Jackson, the father of Michael, is a great big black b**tard.”

“But they’re both called Joe, right?” McEwan asked.

Immediately realising his mistake, Hand said, “I don’t know, but, ah, you don’t want to be confused. And when I say b**tard I mean he’s a b**tard, it’s on the record. He treated his kids badly and … that’s what caused Michael’s problems.”

The King of Pop’s father Joe died of pancreatic cancer aged 89 at a Las Vegas hospice on June 27, 2018.

The trio quickly moved on from the comments but Hand later asked to come back and make an on-air apology stating, “Anyone who knows me would know that I did not mean it the way it could be taken”.

“He was, and it’s fully on the record, that he was a terrible man to his children and in many ways,” Hand said. “So what I said was to … to highlight that, not to highlight anything else. I am personally upset about what came out but, ah, I apologise.”

Hand was sacked for breaching sections of the Commercial Radio Code of Practice relating to racial discrimination and offensive language, and for failing to “promptly” report the incident to management.

He filed an application for unfair dismissal, with Fair Work senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger this week ruling in his favour and ordering compensation.

“I am not satisfied that, when viewed in its proper context, it is accurate to describe what the applicant said as a ‘racial slur’,” Mr Hamberger said in his decision.

“The term ‘black b**tard’ is deeply objectionable because it implies either that the person in question is reprehensible because he or she is black, or that black people are generally reprehensible.” But it was “quite clear” from listening to the audio, Mr Hamberger said, that Hand was “not using the phrase in this way at all”.

“It was, in effect, not in dispute that the person in question was reprehensible, but there was some doubt about his identity,” he said.

Hand had “tried to point out” that the singer was white “while the reprehensible person in question is black”. “It is completely clear that no racist slur was intended,” he said.

“Michael Jackson’s father was reprehensible because of the way he had (allegedly) treated his children — it had nothing at all to do with his colour.”

Mr Hamberger said that while the conduct “did not amount to a valid reason for dismissal, it was nevertheless misconduct”.

“He should not have used the words he did, and he should have reported the incident more promptly,” he said. “Accordingly, I have decided to reduce the amount of compensation payable by $15,000, leaving a figure of $29,084 plus superannuation.”


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He was careless in his use of words; the Politically Correct are outraged again.