Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Newstalk ZB – talkback discussion on the Queen’s refusal to attend the civil wedding ceremony for the Prince of Wales – host said “she’s a heartless wench through and through” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency
Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – comment light-hearted expression of opinion – no obscene language – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision
 The subject of whether the Queen would attend the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles was discussed on the Newstalk ZB talkback programme at approximately 10.30pm on 23 February 2005. A male caller explained that, while the Queen would attend the religious blessing of the couple, she could not attend the civil wedding ceremony. The host ended the conversation saying “she’s a heartless wench through and through”.
 Mrs G R Fippard complained to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, that the host had said “she’s just a mean old bitch”. She felt that the comment showed a “complete lack of respect and understanding of the Queen’s role”. The complainant asserted that the Queen did not deserve the “cruel remarks” made by the host.
 TRN assessed the complaint under Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
 In its response to Mrs Fippard, TRN first corrected her description of what the host had said as being “she’s a heartless wench through and through”. This had followed a fair exchange of views between the caller and the host, it said, who had taken opposing stances on the Queen’s refusal to attend the civil ceremony.
 TRN contended that the host’s “parting shot” was acceptable in the context of the robust and sometimes boisterous talkback arena. In addition the broadcaster noted that the comment was made late at night to an adult audience. TRN did not uphold the complaint under Principle 1 (good taste and decency).
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mrs Fippard referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She included a letter of response to the broadcaster, in which she maintained that the host had said “she’s just a mean old bitch”.
 The word “wench”, she said, was a description meaning a young woman of ill-repute. Mrs Fippard found it unlikely that the host would have applied this term to the Queen who was almost 80 years of age.
 TRN added nothing further to its original reply to the complainant.
 The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 The Authority is satisfied, having heard the broadcast, that the complainant misheard the words used by the host; the host said “heartless wench” rather than “mean old bitch”.
 The Authority is of the view that the host’s words do not threaten the good taste and decency standard. The comment was simply a light-hearted expression of opinion made during a talkback show, a format that is well-recognised as being a “robust” environment. No offensive language was used, and the comment was not said in an abusive manner.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
11 May 2005
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: