Hitler as a meal guest? – no way says the ADC

January 30, 2013 by Geoffrey Zygier
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The Melbourne-based B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission has had a positive outcome to its complaint to local radio Nova 100 FM following a recent breakfast show segment in which Hitler was suggested as a suitable person to join in a mealtime conversation.

Dvir Abramovich

Dvir Abramovich

According to Chairman Dr Dvir Abramovich, a number of listeners contacted ADC Executive Director Geoffrey Zygier to express their concerns about a conversation about celebrities whom the presenters would consider inviting to a meal, one suggesting Adolf Hitler. Apparently jocular comments were made that table conversation might include asking why he killed so many people.
Zygier immediately wrote to Nova’s General Manager Helen Davies noting, amongst other things, “The ADC is not suggesting that these comments were necessarily made with ill intent. However more than fifty million people perished in World War Two, a conflict started by Hitler. Many of these people are Australians whose descendants do not find this a matter to joke about, but rather offensive and hurtful. I kindly request that this perspective be brought to the presenters’ attention and that they be advised to be more careful in regard to listeners’ sensibilities.”

Following a lengthy follow-up conversation between Ms Davies, Nova Program Director Mike Cass and Zygier, Nova provided a formal response to the ADC. While denying any breach of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice, Ms Davies acknowledged that presenting Adolf Hitler as an option in the segment was “ill-considered and the resulting comments lacked finesse and in hindsight different dinner guest options could have been used”. Accordingly Nova brought the ADC’s concerns to the attention of both to the announcers involved and the programming team who were counselled to be more sensitive to listeners’ views in future. Finally, Davies noted Nova’s appreciation of the ADC’s comments, seeing them as instructive in regard to its broadcasting.

Dr Abramovich described Nova’s response as thoughtful and constructive. “While Nova’s ‘misdemeanour’ was at the low scale of offensiveness, Nova recognised the complaint as having merit, gave considerable thought to the potential effects on customer relations and used this situation as an educational opportunity for its staff. I believe this is a win-win result that demonstrates the importance of making our voice heard.”

A spokesman for the The Jewish Community council of Victoria added: “The Hitler meal guest incident on Nova was highly inappropriate and showed poor judgement, and the ADC’s confronting Nova over the incident showed that community action is important in helping to teach members of the media community, and others, where lines of common sense and decency should be drawn.  Nova management, their programming team and the announcers should now be better placed to make better decisions about the line between acceptable humour and offensive material, especially when we are in the week of commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz.”

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