BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Burford and The Radio Network Ltd - 2012-124

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • James Burford
Paul Holmes Show
Newstalk ZB

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Paul Holmes Show – guest host read out text message which used the phrase “pre-op tranny” – phrase repeated by a listener who called the show – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration standard – broadcaster upheld the complaint under Standard 7 – action taken allegedly insufficient

Action taken: Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – action taken by the broadcaster was sufficient considering the nature of the breach – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  During the Paul Homes Show a guest host commented:

Based on some of the conversations we have had over the last 40 minutes… when we talked about [name] becoming the editor of the Truth, we have had a text which says, “[name] running a publication called the Truth is a bit like making a pre-op tranny editor of the Woman’s Weekly”.

[2]  In response to muffled laughter, the host said, “Stop laughing in my ear [co-host’s name]”. A listener called the show and said, “Who was the pre-op tranny, whoever’s in the Weekly?”, and, “I think you actually had to have the ‘op’ to qualify for that job”. The programme was broadcast on Newstalk ZB on 3 November 2012.

[3]  James Burford made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the use of the phrase “pre-op tranny” was pejorative and “perpetuates bigotry and hatred against transgender communities”. He considered that the host’s behaviour, in reading out the text message, was ignorant and offensive.

[4]  TRN upheld the complaint under Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration). It said that the use of the word “tranny” was “common in some quarters” and that the text message was intended to be humorous. However, it agreed that the host’s use of the term was unnecessary in context and potentially offensive to the transgender community. Having upheld the complaint, the broadcaster said that the host had been counselled on the matter.

[5]  Dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster having upheld his complaint, Mr Burford referred his complaint to this Authority.

[6]  The issue is whether, having upheld the complaint under Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, the action taken by the broadcaster was sufficient.

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

Was the action taken by the broadcaster, having upheld the complaint, sufficient?

[8]  In our view, the action taken by the broadcaster, in upholding the complaint, and speaking to the host who made the comment, was sufficient.

[9]  The phrase “pre-op tranny” came from a listener in the form of a text message. The phrase was used by the guest host when he read the text message aloud, and was repeated by a subsequent caller. The comment in the text was primarily directed at the proposed editor of the Truth magazine, who had been the subject of the discussion. It was not intended as a comment on, or an attack against, transgender people. The host was counselled by the broadcaster, and we consider that in all the circumstances no further action was warranted. Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
29 January 2013


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

1          James Burford’s formal complaint – 3 November 2012

2          TRN’s response to the complaint – 5 November 2012

3          Mr Burford’s referral to the Authority – 13 November 2012

4          TRN’s response to the Authority – 20 November 2012