BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Gautier and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2006-093

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
  • Lyn Gautier
Close Up
TV One

Tapu Misa declared a conflict of interest and declined to take part in the determination of this complaint.

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up – item about two young people training for the priesthood at a seminary on Ponsonby Road – reporter used phrases “big boss” and “big guy” when referring to God and said “helluva” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency and denigratory

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

Standard 6 and guideline 6g (denigration) – item did not encourage denigration of Christians – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] An item on Close Up looked at young people training for the priesthood and, using the example of two individuals in a seminary, asked why they had chosen the vocation and how certain they were of being able to cope with it.  The seminary on Ponsonby Road illustrated the religious lifestyle and this was contrasted with the popular image of the secular Ponsonby Road lifestyle. The reporter used the phrases “big boss” and “big guy” to refer to God, and used the term “helluva”.

[2] Close Up is a news and current affairs magazine programme broadcast on weekdays at 7.00pm on TV One.  The item complained about was broadcast on 21 July 2006.


[3] Lyn Gautier complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about some of the language used in the item.

[4] She said that she was appalled by the report’s crudeness and ignorance, and that the reporter did not appreciate that the language used would be offensive to those who loved and honoured God.


[5] TVNZ assessed the complaints under Standards 1 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.  They 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.

Standard 6 Fairness

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:

i)   factual, or

ii)  the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] TVNZ said that the item was designed to contrast colourful hedonism with the cloistered world and maintained that the phrases used to refer to God were part of the informal conversation of young adults.  It contended that neither showed a lack of respect and “big guy” was almost an affectionate term.  TVNZ did not accept that “helluva” strayed outside current norms of taste and decency.

[7] Declining to uphold the complaint, TVNZ said the item did not breach Standard 1 given its “easy-going secular” style.  TVNZ also found nothing in the use of the phrases which encouraged denigration.

Referral to the Authority

[8] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mrs Gautier referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[9] Mrs Gautier did not accept that a breach of the denigration guideline required a high level of invective.  The Authority, she argued, should be the guardians of language standards.  The worst form of denigration, she wrote, was to bring “God down to the level of an ordinary man or even an ordinary bloke”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10] TVNZ insisted that was no sense in which the item on Close Up could be seen as mocking Christian beliefs.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[11] Mrs Gautier argued that, on Close Up, an interviewer would not refer to an interviewee’s spouse as “the missus” or the “old man”, and that national leaders would not be described as “the big boss” or “the big chief”.  Accordingly, the language used on this occasion was not appropriate.

Authority's Determination

[12] The members of the Authority have viewed 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.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[13] In the present case the language complained of was neither indecent nor used to criticise God or Christianity.  The Authority acknowledges that colloquial references to God might offend some Christians.  It considers, however, that the expressions in this item did not give rise to issues of good taste and decency.

Standard 6 and guideline 6g (denigration)

[14] The term “denigration” has consistently been defined by the Authority as meaning the blackening of the reputation of a class of people. In light of the finding above that the language complained of did not criticise Christians, the Authority similarly concludes that the broadcast did not denigrate this section of the community.  


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
20 November 2006


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

1    Lyn Gautier’s complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 31 July 2006

2    TVNZ’s response to Mrs Gautier – 29 August 2006

3    Mrs Gautier’s referral to the Authority – 5 September 2006

4    TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 29 September 2006

5    Mrs Gautier’s final comment – 26 October 2006