BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Hutchins and Māori Television - 2005-064

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Dr Patu Hohepa - Co-opted Member
  • R D Hutchins
Toi Whakaari
Māori Television
Māori Television

Dr Patu Hohepa, the Commissioner of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, was co-opted as a person whose qualifications and experience were likely to be of assistance to the Authority.  He took part in the Authority’s deliberations but the decision is that of the permanent members.

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Toi Whakaari – kapa haka group performing haka which included a whakapohane – exposed buttocks – allegedly unsuitable for children

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

Standard 9 (children’s interests) – traditional cultural event presented in a stylised manner – not disturbing or alarming for children – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] A kapa haka group performing a haka was shown in an episode of Toi Whakaari broadcast on Māori Television at about 6.40pm on 9 May 2005.  The theme of the haka was repression by past governments, and it included a gesture in which the male members showed their buttocks to the camera. This gesture is known as “whakapohane”.


[2] R D Hutchins complained to Māori Television, the broadcaster, that the broadcast of such material at that time was unsuitable for children and younger viewers.  The act, he said, was an extremely crude insult which followed a display of hostile intimidation.  It sanctioned aggression and intimidation and did not encourage the notion of a peaceful society, he said. 


[3] Māori Television assessed the complaint under Standards 1 and 9 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 9 Children’s Interests

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

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] Māori Television explained that the specific gesture complained about, whakapohane, involved the haka group exposing their buttocks, while wearing G-strings.  It continued:

The nature of many haka is to make a political statement and this particular haka was targeted at making a stand against oppression.  The gesture was intended as an affront to oppression and although it is difficult for some to take, there is no legal reason to edit this segment and thereby interfere with the freedom of expression ….

[5] Māori Television considered that the broadcast breached neither the standards relating to good taste and decency nor children’s interests. 

Referral to the Authority

[6] Dissatisfied with Māori Television’s response, the complainant referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of  the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[7] The complainant said that the haka and whakapohane derived from pre-Pakeha times when oppression through slavery was widespread.  He added that child viewers, especially those who spoke te reo Māori, would have been exposed to anger and intimidation.  He contended that the broadcaster, in its response, had acknowledged that the material would be offensive.

[8] Expressing the view that the broadcaster’s reference to the freedom of expression was a diversion, the complainant emphasised that the main complaint was the broadcast of such material during general viewing time when children and young people were watching television.

[9] In a separate letter to Māori Television, the complainant wrote of an awareness of the origins of haka and whakapohane, and questioned their relevance in today’s society.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10] Māori Television maintained that the material broadcast would not in any way “disturb or alarm” children.

Authority's Determination

[11] 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.

[12] The broadcaster considered the complaint under Standard 1 (good taste and decency) and Standard 9 (children’s interests).  However, the complainant emphasised a concern about the time at which the material was broadcast.  Accordingly, the Authority focuses its deliberation on Standard 9 which requires broadcasters to consider the interests of children during their normally accepted viewing hours.

[13] The item complained about showed a performance by Te Hapu Oneone (Tuhoe) at Te Matatini, the National Festival, in 2005. 

[14] Traditional performance is an important part of tikanga Māori, and waiata and haka are integral to teaching children in kohanga reo and kura kaupapa.  They are also taught in many mainstream schools.  As these elements of Māori culture form an important part of many New Zealand children’s education, the Authority considers that children would be neither disturbed nor alarmed by the performance screened on Toi Whakaari.

[15] Accordingly, while the broadcast took place during children’s generally accepted viewing time, the Authority concludes that Māori Television considered the interests of child viewers.  It declines to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standard 9. 

[16 ]Regarding the complaint that the whakapohane breached standards of good taste and decency, the Authority notes that the performers were wearing G-strings and did not expose their buttocks directly to the camera.  The performance was stylised and theatrical.

[17] The Authority is aware that in Māori culture whakapohane can sometimes be interpreted as a serious insult.  In the present case the Authority, guided by the advice of Dr Hohepa, concludes that even those viewers who understood the cultural relevance of the gesture would be unlikely to take offence.  Dr Hohepa described this particular whakapohane as “sedate”.  He advised the Authority that in the context of a cultural performance of a haka first performed 70 years ago as a challenge to the impact of colonial rule, there was nothing in the item that would be offensive to Māori adults or children.

[18] Dr Hohepa also advised that the language used in the performance was not modern Māori, and that even children fluent in modern reo would probably not have understood it. 

[19] For the above reasons, the Authority concludes that there was nothing in the item to threaten standards of good taste and decency.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
18 August 2005


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

  1. R D Hutchins’ formal complaint to Māori Television – 16 May 2005
  2. Māori Television’s response to the formal complaint – 26 May 2005
  3. R D Hutchins’ response to Māori Television – 16 June 2005
  4. R D Hutchins’ referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 17 June 2005
  5. Māori Television’s response to the Authority – 7 July 2005