BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Allardyce and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-054

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Jim Allardyce
One News

Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A One News item included footage of Gareth Morgan speaking at a Mana Party event. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that broadcasting his use of the word ‘prick’ breached standards. The comment was intended as self-deprecating humour, rather than being offensive or abusive, and it was relatively fleeting in the context of the item, which focused on a potential alliance between the Internet Party and the Mana Party.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Responsible Programming, Children’s Interests


[1]  During One News, an item about the relationship between the Mana and Internet Parties included footage of Gareth Morgan speaking at a Mana Party event. He was shown addressing the guests, saying:

I’ll leave it up to you [the guests] to decide whether I’m a prick or not… [laughter from audience]… hopefully you’ll wait until after the speech.

[2]  The programme was broadcast on TV ONE at 6pm on 13 April 2014.

[3]  Jim Allardyce made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd (TVNZ), alleging that the word ‘prick’ was ‘not acceptable in the national news bulletin and should have been bleeped out.’

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, responsible programming, and children’s interests standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the item, and specifically the use of the word ‘prick’, breach broadcasting standards?

[6]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) states that broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency. Responsible programming (Standard 8) is concerned with the proper classification and scheduling of programmes, and the children’s interests standard (Standard 9) requires broadcasters to adequately consider the interests of child viewers during their normally accepting viewing times.

[7]  Mr Allardyce argued that the broadcaster’s response to his complaint ‘justified swearing in a national news bulletin at a time when young listeners are present’. He said the word ‘prick’ should have been ‘bleeped out’.

[8]  TVNZ maintained that while One News is an unclassified news programme, it is aimed at adult viewers and is unlikely to be watched by unsupervised children. It argued that the term ‘prick’ had been used in a ‘humorous and self-deprecating way’ and not ‘as a term of abuse’.

[9]  We have previously found that the inclusion of one swearword expressed by an interviewee in an unclassified news programme would not have offended or distressed most viewers in the context of a high value political story – especially as children were unlikely to be watching unsupervised.1

[10]  Research conducted by the Authority indicates that 20 percent of those surveyed found the use of the word ‘prick’ unacceptable in all broadcasting scenarios.2 The use of the word ‘prick’ in this instance was relatively fleeting and incidental in the context of the two-minute item, which focused on a potential alliance between the Mana Party and the Internet Party. One News showed footage of a Mana Party event, and it was in the context of a public figure’s address that the word was used; it was not used gratuitously or by the broadcaster itself. Consistent with our previous decision,3 this was a high profile public figure, it was a political story which carried value, and this was how Mr Morgan chose to express himself. Further, Mr Morgan made the comment in relation to himself, so it was clear that it was intended as self-deprecating humour, rather than being offensive or abusive.

[11]  Taking into account the importance of the right to freedom of expression, we are satisfied that the potential harm to viewers, including children, in broadcasting the comment during an unclassified news programme, was minimal. We do not think most viewers would have been offended taking into account the context, or that supervised children would have been unduly alarmed or distressed.

[12]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the good taste and decency, responsible programming and children’s interests complaints.

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
21 August 2014


The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1          Jim Allardyce’s formal complaint – 13 April 2014

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 13 May 2014

3          Mr Allardyce’s referral to the Authority – 18 May 2014

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 June 2014

1Family First New Zealand and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2012-037

2What Not to Swear: The Acceptability of Words in Broadcasting (Broadcasting Standards Authority, 2010) at page 19

3Family First New Zealand and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2012-037