BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Cook and The Radio Network Ltd - 2006-017

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • David Cook
Radio Sport

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio Sport Breakfast Show – host Tony Veitch talking with British correspondent Mike Bovill – good natured exchange – host called correspondent a “wanker” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – tone and other contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] The host of the Radio Sport Breakfast Show (Tony Veitch) called the British correspondent (Mike Bovill) a “wanker” during an exchange about a New Zealand soccer player playing for Blackburn Rovers. The discussion was broadcast at about 6.45am on Monday 23 January 2006.


[2] David Cook complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that the use of the word “wanker” was offensive. He pointed out that the correspondent had suggested the word was inappropriate, but that his comment was rejected by the host.


[3] TRN assessed the complaint under Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which reads:

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] TRN explained that the word had been used by the host during a good natured exchange about a New Zealand player who was playing for Blackburn Rovers. The word, it said, described someone who was “self-obsessed or a show-off”, and had become widely used as a figure of speech “denoting fun and affection”.

[5] The correspondent had not objected to being described as a “wanker”, TRN added, but, in view of the situation in England, to the use of the term on the radio.

[6] TRN acknowledged that “wanker” was ranked in the top half of the 22 words rated for unacceptability in the Authority’s research published in 2001. However, it believed that its acceptability had increased in recent years.

[7] In view of this matter, along with the time of broadcast, the tone of delivery and the largely male target audience, TRN declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

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

Authority's Determination

[9] 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.

[10] In Decision No. 2004-201, the Authority declined to uphold as a breach of the good taste and decency standard the use of the word “wanker” in The Simpsons, broadcast on TV3 at 7pm. It had also declined to uphold an earlier complaint about the same word used on radio station The Rock (Decision No. 2001-138–204). While past research has disclosed a moderately high level of disapproval for the use of the word during a broadcast, recent research conducted by the Authority (to be published shortly as “Freedoms and Fetters”) records that the word’s acceptability has increased since 1999.

[11] The Authority acknowledges that in some circumstances the use of the word “wanker” may breach broadcasting standards. However, given the adult target audience of Radio Sport, the light-hearted tone in which the word was used, the recipient’s amused response, and the early hour of the broadcast (when children would have been unlikely to be listening), the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
11 April 2006


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

  1. David Cook’s formal complaint – 31 January 2006
  2. The Radio Network Ltd’s decision on the formal complaint – 20 February 2006
  3. Mr Cook’s referral to the Authority – 20 March 2006
  4. TRN’s response to the Authority – 23 March 2006