BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Grieve and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-098

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Robin Grieve
Campbell Live
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – reported on controversial comments made by the chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association that female workers are less productive because they take sick leave when they are menstruating – media commentator stated “if men had periods there would have been a law passed, there would be a menstruation allowance so that all of you could go home and curl up in a ball once a month” – allegedly in breach of the discrimination and denigration standard

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – comment did not encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, men as a section of the community – guideline 7a provides exemption for genuine opinion and legitimate humour – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  An item on Campbell Live, broadcast on TV3 at 7pm on Friday 24 June 2011, reported on controversial comments made by the chief executive of the Employers and Manufacturers Association, Alasdair Thompson, during an interview on Newstalk ZB. The item included a panel discussion about Mr Thompson’s comments that female workers were less productive because they took sick leave when they were menstruating. During the discussion, a well known media commentator gave her perspective on his remarks, stating, “If men had periods there would have been a law passed, there would be a menstruation allowance so that all of you could go home and curl up in a ball once a month...”


[2]  Robin Grieve made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the media commentator’s comment denigrated men in breach of Standard 7. He argued that the comment was “offensive and sexist” because “she made a generalisation that all men were weak or wimpy and would be curled up in pain if they had periods”. Further, he asserted that “the other suggestion [she] makes is that men would look after themselves better than women are looked after in the workplace.” In the complainant’s view, this was sexist because it suggested that men were somehow responsible for employment laws and for what occurred in the workplace in a way that women were not.

[3]  Mr Grieve asked the broadcaster to acknowledge that offence had been taken to the “sexist” comments and requested that an apology be broadcast by both Campbell Live and the media commentator.


[4]  TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Guideline 7a is also relevant. These provide:

Standard 7 Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Guideline 7a

This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:

  • factual
  • a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or
  • legitimate humour, drama or satire.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[5]  While the broadcaster acknowledged that Mr Grieve was offended by the comments, it did not consider that they reached the necessary threshold to find a breach of Standard 7. It noted that the media commentator’s role was to provide comment and opinion, and contended that her remarks were spoken with humour. It did not consider that they constituted “hate speech or vitriol” or blackened the reputation of men. 

[6]  For these reasons, TVWorks declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Grieve referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[8]  The complainant considered that the broadcaster’s response was inconsistent with the Authority’s recent decision where it upheld a complaint about Paul Henry’s remarks regarding the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit.1 He argued that the comments subject to complaint were “very similar” to Mr Henry’s remarks, in that “neither were an angry rage of hate speech with a high level of invective and vitriol”. In the complainant’s view, the Authority had set a “new level of invective required for such a complaint to be upheld”, and he had therefore referred his complaint on this basis.

[9]  Mr Grieve argued that TVWorks did not give any evidence to support its argument that the interviewer’s comments did not blacken the reputation of men, and questioned, “What else [are the comments] doing?” Even if the comments were spoken with humour, as contended by the broadcaster, this did not mean that they were not offensive and denigrating, he said. He concluded by saying, “[the media commentator’s] comments were hurtful, men are sick and tired of the constant put-downs such as this. A class of people, men, were denigrated by her comments. There is no justification for this and there is no other description of her hurtful comments.”

[10]  The complainant maintained that Standard 7 had been breached.

Authority’s Determination

[11]  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.

[12]  Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[13]  The Authority has consistently defined “denigration” as blackening the reputation of a class of people (for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks2), and “discrimination” as encouraging the different treatment of members of a particular group, to their detriment (for example, Teoh and TVNZ3). It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (for example, McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network4).

[14]  On this occasion, we are satisfied that the comment subject to complaint did not carry any invective and therefore did not encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, men as a section of the community. In our view, the comment clearly fell within the exemptions in guideline 7a for legitimate humour and the expression of opinion in current affairs programmes. The commentator was offering her personal commentary and opinion, in a humorous way, on the topical issue of sexism in the workplace and in response to comments that had generated a high level of public interest.

[15]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
18 October 2011


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

1                  Robin Grieve’s formal complaint – 7 July 2011

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 14 July 2011

3                 Mr Grieve’s referral to the Authority – 28 July 2011

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 19 August 2011

1Adams, Godinet and Parsons and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-145

2Decision No. 2006-030

3Decision No. 2008-091

4Decision No. 2002-152