The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) has ruled that it’s okay to use the word ‘gay’ in connection with negative perceptions.

This was in response to a complaint by Cecil Janse van Rensburg about a regular feature on the University of Pretoria’s radio station, TUKS FM, hosted by DJ Konstant de Vos, in which listeners are asked to call or sms about whether a person’s behaviour is “gay” or “ok”.

“If you listen to the broadcast, you would hear that positive things were seen as not gay. Negative things were branded gay,” said van Rensburg.

The BCCSA refused to uphold the complaint, saying that “the word gay was not used to refer to homosexuality, but according to widespread current usage of the word amongst young people, to a carefree attitude and unjustifiable statements.”

It added that it was of the opinion that “although the word ‘gay’ was used (and even if it carried a negative connotation), there was nothing that could be described as the advocacy of hatred or incitement to cause harm to homosexuals in the programme.”

The BCCSA further stated that “the broadcast was not intended to injure, that it was not malicious or mala fide” and that “the right to freedom of expression includes the right to offend within reasonable limits.”

There is considerable debate on the issue of using the word gay to reference something as being “stupid” or “uncool” in contemporary youth culture.

In 2006, the BBC ruled that although its use in this context “need not be offensive… or homophobic” it urged “caution” as it “could cause offence in some listeners.”

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