BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Fearon and RadioWorks Ltd - 2010-118

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Kevin Fearon
RadioWorks Ltd
Radio Live # 2

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Weekend Sport
– host used the word “root” during a discussion about alleged sexual misconduct by a former All Black – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – host used a coarse colloquialism to convey a positive message – word “root” said in matter-of-fact manner – younger child listeners unlikely to understand subject matter of the conversation – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   In a segment during Weekend Sport called “Six of the Best”, broadcast on Radio Live at approximately 5.20pm on 10 July 2010, the hosts briefly discussed the resignation of former All Black Andy Haden as a Rugby World Cup ambassador after he was criticised for comments he made about alleged historical sexual misconduct by another former All Black.

[2]   The hosts had the following exchange:

Host 1:    Andy Haden has resigned then as a World Cup ambassador – no great surprise. I
              think he was going to get shot if he didn’t walk the plank.

Host 2:    I think so. Although I didn’t think that, I certainly wasn’t offended by his last
              comments that he made.

Host 1:    You weren’t?

Host 2:    No.

Host 1:    Mate, I’m just confused by them though. Things like saying that he doesn’t say
              that women who put themselves into compromising positions deserve what
              happened. But he says, and I quote, “The consequences of having that
              objective put them at risk”. What does that mean? What, that these rugby players
              can’t control themselves ’cause the woman’s drunk?

              If she goes out wanting a root, which most men going out on a Saturday night are
              wanting – a root, right? I mean most. Just because she does, doesn’t mean that if
              she’s unconscious you jump on her.

Host 2:    No.

Host 1:    Under any circumstances. And if she decides she don’t want it, she don’t want it.
              That’s it.

Host 2:    Yeah, that’s true.

Host 1:    You know, even if she’s drunk and she’s horny. If she don’t want it, she don’t want

Host 2:    Yeah.

Host 1:    ’Cause there’s nothing manly about raping a woman.

Host 2:    No.

Host 1:    That’s called cowardly, is what that is.

Host 2:   Yes.

Host 1:    Under every circumstance.

Host 2:    Absolutely.

Host 1:    I mean, even being a bad root like I am. I mean, at least she’s alive. You know
              what I’m saying. Even if I’m dead.


[3]   Kevin Fearon made a formal complaint to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the contents of the hosts’ discussion breached standards of good taste and decency.

[4]   The complainant argued that the host’s comments relating to men and women wanting a “root” and his remark “even being a bad root like I am” were completely “inappropriate”, “offensive” and “unnecessary”.


[5]   RadioWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 1 and guideline 1a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

Standard 1 Good taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Guideline 1a

Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. time of day, target audience.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6]   The broadcaster stated that the programme had an adult target audience and that it was satisfied that “the language used, ‘wanting a root’ and various references to ‘rooting’ were not inappropriate in this context and did not exceed what the likely audience might expect from this host in this context”.

[7]   RadioWorks therefore declined to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standard 1.

Referral to the Authority

[8]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Fearon referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) 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]   When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme was broadcast on a Saturday afternoon during children’s normally accepted listening times
  • it had an adult target audience
  • the expectations of regular listeners.

[11]   In our view, the host was conveying a positive message in colloquial language which his regular listeners would have identified with. We consider that, given the sports programme’s adult target audience, it is unlikely that unsupervised children would have been listening to the programme. Further, younger child listeners would not have understood the subject matter of the discussion.

[12]   The Bill of Rights Act 1990 gives people freedom to express their opinions and only allows for that right to be limited in cases where it is reasonable and proportionate to do so. In our view, the Bill of Rights Act allows people to express opinions from time to time in a way that others may find offensive, illogical or rude. Therefore, when looking at an alleged breach of broadcasting standards, we must balance the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression against the purpose of the broadcasting standard concerned.

[13]   While the host’s use of the term “root” amounted to a coarse expression, having regard to the context in which it was used, and the purpose for which it was used, we find that its use did not breach standards of good taste and decency on this occasion.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
23 November 2010


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

1.          Kevin Fearon’s formal complaint – 12 July 2010

2.         RadioWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 2 September 2010

3.         Mr Fearon’s referral to the Authority – 9 September 2010

4.         RadioWorks’ response to the Authority – 16 September 2010