BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Gibson and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2005-118

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Michael Gibson
Nine to Noon
Radio New Zealand Ltd
National Radio

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
National Radio – Nine to Noon – dispute about whether the presenter used the word “lie” or “line” – the former allegedly offensive

Phrase used was “that is a desperate line” – not in breach of broadcasting standards – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] On National Radio on 9 September 2005 on the Nine to Noon programme, National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said, referring to Radio New Zealand, “this is Radio Labour at its best”.

[2] In response to this comment, the presenter said either “that is a desperate line” or “that is a desperate lie”.


[3] Michael Gibson said that he had heard the presenter respond “that’s a lie”. He considered the presenter’s comment was damaging and offensive. He stated that it breached “at least one” of the broadcasting standards.


[4] The complainant did not nominate any principles from the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5] In its response to the complaint, Radio New Zealand advised the complainant that the words complained of were not used in the recording of the programme.

[6] Radio New Zealand stated that the presenter had responded to Mr Brownlee’s comment by saying “that’s a desperate line”. It considered that this was a reasonable response to the comment by Mr Brownlee that “this is Radio Labour at its best”, and maintained that the statement was justified in the context of a robust interview with a seasoned politician.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Dissatisfied with the response from the broadcaster, Mr Gibson referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[8] In his referral, Mr Gibson accepted that the Authority would need to determine which words were used.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[9] Radio New Zealand advised that it had nothing further to add in its response to the Authority.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[10] In his final comment, Mr Gibson advised that he considered it would be appropriate for the Authority to determine what the presenter of the programme had said.  He advised that, if the finding on the phrase used was equivocal, he would appreciate the opportunity to make further comments.

Authority's Determination

[11] The members of the Authority have listened to 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.

[12] After carefully reviewing a tape of the broadcast, the Authority is clear that the phrase used was “that’s a desperate line”. The word “lie” was not used.  

[13] As the host did not use the words alleged by the complainant, 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
22 December 2005


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

  1. Michael Gibson’s formal complaint to RNZ – 9 September 2005
  2. RNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 23 September 2005
  3. Mr Gibson’s referral to the Authority – 25 September 2005
  4. RNZ’s response to the referral – 28 October 2005
  5. Mr Gibson’s further correspondence – 1 November 2005
  6. Mr Gibson’s further correspondence – 17 November 2005
  7. Mr Gibson’s further correspondence – 23 November 2005