BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Baker and The Radio Network Ltd - 2004-034

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Chris Baker
Radio Sport

Radio Sport – host Doug Golightly told caller, “For Christ’s sake, piss off” – offensive – unfair

Principle 1 – context – not upheld

Principle 5 – comment directed at caller – bad tempered – verging on breach – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision


[1] During a talkback session on Radio Sport on 13 December 2003, at about 10.00am, the host Doug Golightly said to a caller, “For Christ’s sake, piss off”.

[2] Chris Baker complained to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, that the language was offensive and the comment was unfair.

[3] In response, TRN declined to uphold the complaint. It considered the attitude apparent and the language contained in the item were acceptable in the robust style of talk show hosted by Mr Golightly.

[4] Dissatisfied with TRN’s decision, Mr Baker referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.


[5] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.


[6] The talkback session on Radio Sport on Saturday mornings, hosted by Doug Golightly, is robust and includes strong opinions advanced by both callers and the host. At about 10.00am on Saturday 13 December 2003, one caller described the host as seeming to be “sad”. The host terminated the call with the comment “For Christ’s sake, piss off”.


[7] Mr Baker complained to TRN that he was “deeply offended” both by the words and the tone in which they were delivered.

[8] After TRN responded to the complaint as an alleged breach of Principle 5, Mr Baker complained again to TRN that his complaint also included an allegation that the broadcast breached Principle 1. He argued that, in view of the type and time of the broadcast, TRN had failed to maintain standards consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.


[9] TRN assessed the complaint under the standards nominated by the complainant. Principles 1 and 5 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice read:

Principle 1

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Principle 5

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[10] In its first response to Mr Baker, TRN referred to the robust nature of the programme, noting that it often featured put-downs of callers. It acknowledged that the use of the expression “piss off” would be offensive to some people but maintained that it was “just acceptable” in the context of the show. It declined to uphold the complaint under Principle 5, although it advised that Mr Golightly had been warned about his approach and its potential to upset people.

[11] In its second response to Mr Baker, TRN contended that the complaint had been dealt with appropriately under Principle 5. With reference to Principle 1, TRN said that it did not condone blasphemy or bad language and that had been pointed out to the host. Within the context of the programme, however, TRN did not uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[12] Mr Baker contended that TRN, by not responding fully to his initial complaint, had not followed the statutory process in the hope that his complaint “would just go away”. Mr Baker maintained that the language used was unacceptable given the time of broadcast and the likelihood that women and children would be listening. Moreover, he considered that the caller had not been dealt with fairly and reasonably.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[13] TRN maintained that the words were acceptable on the basis that the audience of Radio Sport at that time was mainly males aged 18 to 59 years.

Authority’s Determination

[14] This complaint involves the use of language by a talkback radio host to abuse a caller. The Authority is aware that the language used is considered by some in the community to be offensive.

[15] The Authority’s first task is to determine, under Principle 1, whether the language is acceptable in the talkback environment of a show targeted mainly at males aged 18 to 59, taking into account that the broadcast took place mid-morning on a Saturday. The Authority’s second concern, under Principle 5, focuses on the personal nature of the abuse, as the comment was directed at the caller who was expressing her concern about what she regarded as the host’s emotional state.

[16] When it determines a complaint under Principle 1 (good taste and decency) the Authority must take context into account. Given the robust environment of the talkback programme, its contents and target audience, the Authority declines to uphold the Principle 1 complaint.

[17] As for Principle 5 (fairness), the Authority considers that the extremely bad-tempered comment nearly amounted to a breach. It notes that the broadcaster seemed to be of a similar opinion when it reported that, in addition to advising the host that it did not condone blasphemy or bad language, it had warned him against this kind of reaction to callers. In the context of the particular programme however, the Authority finds that Principle was not contravened.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
1 April 2004


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

1.  Chris Baker’s Complaint to The Radio Network Ltd – 14 December 2003

2. TRN’s Response to the Complainant – 23 December 2003

3. Chris Baker’s Second Complaint to The Radio Network Ltd – 26 December 2003

4. TRN’s Second Response to the Complainant – 30 December 2003

5. Chris Baker’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – received
    13 January 2004

6. TRN’s Response to the Authority –19 January 2004