BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Francis and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2005-039

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Ken Francis
Rove promo
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Rove – promo – screened during Joan of Arcadia at about 8.15pm – focused on pronunciation of “whaka” as ”far car” – allegedly offensive and unsuitable for children

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

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – suitable in PGR time slot – host programme rated PGR – not upheld.

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] A promo for Rove was broadcast on TV3 at about 8.15pm on 20 March 2005 during the screening of Joan of Arcadia.  In the promo, the host Rove McManus commented on the phonetics of the word “whaka”.  He referred to a Maori phrasebook which explained that the correct pronunciation of “whaka” was “far car”.


[2] Ken Francis complained to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the promo made use of “bike-shed” humour to link the words.  Describing Joan of Arcadia as a wholesome programme, he contended that the promo was offensive and its broadcast displayed poor judgment on the broadcaster’s part.


[3] CanWest assessed the complaint under Standard 1 and Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.


1a   Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.

Standard 9 Children’s Interests

During children’s normally accepted viewing times (see Appendix 1), broadcasters are required, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, to consider the interests of child viewers.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] CanWest explained that the promo had been broadcast during the PGR-rated Joan of Arcadia which often dealt with such issues as sex, alcoholism and teen drinking.  PGR rated programmes, it continued, contained material which was more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers subject to the guidance of a caregiver.

[5] Noting that context was relevant to complaints which alleged a breach of Standard 1 (good taste and decency), CanWest referred to the time of broadcast, the genre of the host programme during which the promo was screened, the PGR rating of the host programme and the content of the promo.

[6] In regard to the latter point CanWest wrote:

The words used in the promo “Whaka” and “far-car” are proper words and are entirely appropriate in G programming.  The insinuation of the similarity between these proper words and a well known swear word is appropriate for the “G excluding children’s programmes” rating that the Promo Scheduler awarded the promo.

[7] As for the Standard 9 (children’s interests) complaint, CanWest referred again to the promo’s rating which, it contended, was appropriate as the promo contained no swear words or coarse language.  CanWest also reiterated the point that Joan of Arcadia was a PGR rated programme, adding that it contained low level coarse language used on a fairly regular basis.  CanWest concluded that children’s interests had been taken into account in view of the rating and scheduling of the promo.

[8] Referring to the right to freedom of expression contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, CanWest declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

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

[10] Mr Francis remarked that he and his family had been watching Joan of Arcadia during “prime family viewing time” when the promo he considered offensive had been screened.  The Maori pronunciation of “Whaka”, he wrote, had been clearly linked to the “F-word”.  He objected to the broadcast of such promos, without warning, during “good, wholesome, family fare”.

[11] While acknowledging that Joan of Arcadia dealt with teen issues, Mr Francis maintained that it did so in a way which directed children towards making wise choices.  He focused specifically on Standards 1 and 9 but urged the Authority also to consider “traditional decency and propriety”.

Authority's Determination

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

[13] When the Authority considers a complaint which alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast.  Taking context into account, the Authority considers that the broadcast does not transgress the standard.  The relevant contextual matters on this occasion are:

  • the time of broadcast – shortly after 8.00pm
  • the PGR time band
  • the classification of Joan of Arcadia (the host programme) – PGR
  • the host was making a word-play on a phrasebook’s phonetic interpretation of “whaka”
  • the host’s comments were intended as light humour.

[14] The Authority acknowledges that it has upheld complaints about the pronunciation in radio broadcasts of the words Whakatane and Whakamarama which have emphasised the first syllable of each word (see Decision Nos: 2000-182 and 2001-138).  It considers that the reasoning in those earlier decisions is not applicable to the current situation.  In those instances, the emphasis was solely on the first syllable, repeated with increasing intensity, and the broadcasts were simply a blatant attempt to justify the use of a swear-word in time when school children would be listening. 

[15] As noted above, not only did this broadcast occur in the PGR time band, the intention of the promo was clearly designed to be humorous rather than deliberately provocative or offensive.  For this reason, the Standard 1 complaint is not upheld.

[16] In light of these contextual matters the Authority also accepts that the broadcaster considered sufficiently the interests of child viewers.  It declines to uphold the Standard 9 aspect of the complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
30 June 2005


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

  1. Ken Francis’ complaint to CanWest TVWorks Ltd – 20 March 2005
  2. CanWest’s response to the formal complaint – 27 April 2005
  3. Mr Francis’ referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 8 May 2005
  4. CanWest’s response to the Authority – 13 May 2005