BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Clark and The Radio Network Ltd - 2013-063

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • James Clark
Newstalk ZB

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

During a segment called ‘The Huddle’ on the Larry Williams Drive Show, involving a discussion about the candidates for the Labour Party leadership, one of the panellists commented that a candidate ‘enjoys being stabbed from behind’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the comment was offensive and ‘disgusting’ because it allegedly referred to a gay candidate and amounted to ‘double entendre’. The comment was quick and open to more than one interpretation, and even if double entendre of a sexual nature was intended, this was well within the panellist’s right to free speech, and was permissible in the context of a discussion about a legitimate issue, aimed at an adult target audience.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


[1]  During a segment called ‘The Huddle’ on the Larry Williams Drive Show, involving a discussion about the candidates for the Labour Party leadership, one of the panellists commented that a candidate ‘enjoys being stabbed from behind’. The comment was broadcast at about 4.40pm on 26 August 2013 on Newstalk ZB.

[2]  James Clark made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the panellist’s comment related to a gay candidate and was offensive and ‘disgusting’.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard, as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Did the broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  The good taste and decency standard is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[6]  TRN said ‘The Huddle’ was targeted at adults and was known by regular listeners as involving ‘robust debate, but also irreverent and edgy at times’. It described the comment as ‘subtle and glossed over, with the other panellist and host not picking up on it at all’, and it considered that most listeners would have seen it as a throwaway line not to be taken seriously.

[7]  The comment subject to complaint was made by the panellist in the context of a political discussion, as follows:

[Candidate 1] is also out there saying, look, his sexuality shouldn’t matter, but then is claiming that he can’t wait to be the first gay Prime Minister. So he is a bit confused on that – either sexuality matters or it doesn’t… [Candidate 2] says this leadership contest is about the right pegs in the right holes, and that seems to be a bit of a backhanded attack on [Candidate 1], but he’s the one who really is the natural leader in this out of this whole lot, giving that he enjoys being stabbed from behind.

[8]  In our view, the comment was quick and confusing with more than one interpretation available. While a double entendre may have been intended, the comment could also have alluded simply to ‘back-stabbing’, and it was not entirely clear which candidate the panellist was referring to. Even if it was intended as a double entendre as alleged, the comment fell within the panellist’s right to free speech, and would likely have bypassed many listeners given the quick delivery and that it was not picked up on by the other participants. We are satisfied that the comment did not threaten standards in this context, including that it formed part of a legitimate political discussion, and the nature of the programme and the radio station which are both targeted at adults and unlikely to appeal to children. 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
19 November 2013


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

1                 James Clark’s formal complaint – 27 August 2013

2                 TRN’s response to the complaint – 2 September 2013

3                 Mr Clark’s referral to the Authority – 6 September 2013

4                 TRN’s response to the Authority – 24 September 2013

1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd

, Decision No. 2008-112

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)