BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Doe and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-126

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • E W Doe
Fair Go
TV One

Complaint under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Fair Go – use of term “Jap import” in referring to second-hand cars – allegedly derogatory

Standard 6 (fairness) and Guideline 6g (discrimination and denigration) – term commonly used in a colloquial setting to describe second-hand cars imported from Japan – when used appropriately in context does not carry racially derogatory meaning – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] During an item on Fair Go on TV One on 26 May 2004, the presenter twice used the phrase “Jap import” to refer to second hand cars imported into New Zealand from Japan. The item was about imported cars which had been recalled for safety reasons.


[2] E W Doe complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the term “Jap import” was derogatory and “perpetuate[d] ignorant and intolerant racist attitudes”. He noted that as other racially derogatory terms that he listed were considered unacceptable, so too should the term “Jap import”.


[3] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 6 and Guideline 6g of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which read:

Standard 6
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guideline 6g

Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

  1. factual, or
  2. the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or
  3. in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] TVNZ did not uphold Mr Doe’s complaint. It wrote:

The conversational nature of the style of reporting used in Fair Go … enhances the relationship between the programme and its consumer viewers, and in the opinion of the [complaints] committee the phrase was suitable, contextual and fitted well with the story.

[5] Further, TVNZ wrote that there was no suggestion of racial denigration.

Referral to the Authority

[6] Dissatisfied with what he described as the “waffling, weaselling excuses” in TVNZ’s decision, Mr Doe referred his complaint to the Authority. Mr Doe wondered whether, if the term “Jap import” was acceptable, viewers could now expect other racially derogatory terms to be broadcast.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[7] TVNZ reminded the Authority of the high threshold the Authority required before it would rule that a broadcast was denigrating or discriminating in breach of Guideline 6g.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[8] In his final comment, Mr Doe stated that:

…in this day and age when racial harmony in New Zealand is so tenuous, we would expect national TV to set a good example and encourage sensitivity to racial groups.

[9] Mr Doe emphasised his view that neutral and non-inflammatory speech is particularly important in the informal style of presentation that Fair Go tries to foster, and described the words used as “gutter jargon”. He again referred to other racially derogatory words and questioned whether the use of the term “Jap import” legitimised the use of these other terms.

Authority's Determination

[10] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[11] The Authority does not uphold the complaint. It is of the view that the term “Jap import” is colloquially used in New Zealand to refer to the many second-hand cars imported from Japan. Used appropriately in this context, the Authority considers that the term does not have racially derogatory overtones and does not imply criticism or denigration of Japanese people.

[12] The Authority accordingly agrees with TVNZ that the phrase was suitable, contextual, and that its use did not convey any suggestion of racial denigration.

[13] Finally, the Authority does not accept Mr Doe’s assertion that if the phrase “Jap import” is acceptable, then other racially derogatory terms must be equally so. The terms noted by Mr Doe were not of an equivalent nature, as they were overtly offensive and derogatory. No useful comparison can be drawn between the use of such deliberately offensive terms and the use of the commonly used descriptive colloquial term complained of in the present case.


For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Tapu Misa
30 September 2004


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

  1. E W Doe’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 27 May 2004
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 2 July 2004
  3. Mr Doe’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 7 July 2004
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 5 July 2004
  5. Mr Doe’s Final Comment – undated