BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Callman and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2006-002

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Tom Callman
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Radio New Zealand National

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Afternoons with Jim Mora – discussion about restrictions on the behaviour of people acting as Father Christmas – presenter said she “scared the bejesus out of a number of kids” acting as “Mrs Claus” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – context – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] On Thursday 8 December 2005, a panel discussion was held between 4 and 5pm on National Radio, during Afternoons with Jim Mora, about the strict rules surrounding acceptable conduct for people acting as Father Christmas. A member of the panel said she had once acted as “Mrs Claus” and had unintentionally “scared the bejesus out of a number of kids”.


[2] Tom Callman complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the presenter’s statement was extremely offensive.


[3] RNZ assessed the complained under Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Principle 1

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

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] RNZ declined to uphold the complaint. It stated that RNZ endeavoured to ensure that the content of its afternoon programmes was not offensive. The broadcaster contended that the language in the programme was mild, and had been used by way of an expression rather than intended as blasphemy.

Referral to the Authority

[5] Dissatisfied with RNZ’s response, Mr Callman referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He accepted that RNZ’s response had covered the letter of the Radio Code, but felt that it did not cover the spirit of the Code. Mr Callman maintained that the presenter’s comment was inappropriate for broadcast on RNZ, which he considered should set an “exceptional standard” of broadcasting.

Authority's Determination

[6] The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[7] When the Authority considers a complaint which alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into consideration the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, relevant contextual factors include:

  • the time of the broadcast, between 4-5pm
  • the adult target audience of the programme
  • the light-hearted nature of the discussion
  • the fact that the use of the word “bejesus” was neither repeated nor gratuitous.

[8] The Authority accepts that some Christians would regard the use of the word “bejesus” as blasphemous. However,the Authority notes that the word is generally used as a slang noun to emphasise a statement. The Authority finds that the use of “bejesus” in the programme would have been accepted as colloquial use to a large proportion of New Zealanders.

[9] Taking into account the above contextual factors, the Authority finds that Principle 1 was not breached on this occasion.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
21 March 2006


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

  1. Tom Callman’s formal complaint – not dated
  2. RNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 29 December 2005
  3. Mr Callman’s referral to the Authority – 9 January 2006
  4. RNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 February 2006