The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) has brought down its first ruling of religious vilification against an Australian radio station.
Melbourne's Radio 3RRR-FM has been found in breach of the act after a September 3, 1995, program of The Liars' Club on the Church of Scientology.
The Liars' Club has subsequently been banned from the station by Triple R management. Management denies this is due to the ruling.
It is a well documented tactic of the Scientologists to constantly attack and intimidate critics, particularly media. Liars' Club hosts, Adam Joseph and Vanda Hamilton, believe Triple R management has caved into this pressure and opened the door for any group to use the vilification section of the Broadcasting Services Act to silence critics.
The ABA found the presenters were in breach of the act by agreeing with a critic of the church in regard to human rights abuse and exploitation of thehurch's members.
In four years The Liars' Club has rarely mentioned the group, but when it did, complaints flooded into the station. The amount and intensity of the complaints have always been out of all proportion to the amount of attention paid by the program to Scientology. Scientologists have been given right of reply on the show many times. The church at one point sent a delegation to the station demanding action against the program.
The Liars' Club has had a Sunday morning slot on Triple R for four years. It is one of the most highly regarded programs on the station and has a large and faithful following. The program takes a sceptical look at pseudo-science and the paranormal and has constantly exposed exploitative groups which prey on vulnerable members of the community.
Triple R devotes many airtime hours to New Age philosophies and practices. The Liars' Club was the station's only program presenting a critical and educational balance, despite the fact that two of the station's in financial backers are Melbourne University and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).
Despite repeated requests, Adam and Vanda have at no time been given access to Triple R management to discuss this issue and were given no warnings their show would be taken off the air permanently.
It seems there is a thin line between criticism and the potential abuse of the vilification laws by groups seeking to silence critics. All media should be concerned by this development, both for the wider issue of the ABA vilification ruling and its flow on effect to all media and the impetus this will give Scientologists to keep on intimidating anyone who dares to criticise their organisation.
Details - Adam Joseph (03 9877-2943) Vanda Hamilton (03 9417-3480)