BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Johnson and The Radio Network Ltd - 2012-066

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Keith Johnson

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Jay, Flynny and Jacqui – host told a personal anecdote about a prank she committed in her youth, namely setting off a fire alarm “resulting in all of Timaru’s fire engines turning up” allegedly in breach of law and order standard


Standard 2 (law and order) – anecdote was a light-hearted recollection of host’s actions in her youth, with educational message – host made comments condemning her own behaviour and noted the repercussions – story was intended to humour and entertain and did not invite imitation or otherwise encourage listeners to break the law or condone criminal activity – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  At approximately 2.20pm during the ZM drive show Jay, Flynny and Jacqui, broadcast on 8 June 2012, one of the hosts told a personal anecdote, as follows:

Do you know, once, this is actually a really bad story, it might get me in trouble, this was ages ago, so five years… I don’t know why I did it, I thought it was funny at the time… I was in Timaru for some reason and I hit the fire alarm as a joke and then I ran off and we thought it was a hoot, and then they had all of Timaru’s fire engines turn up, I think there are two or three, and then they were looking for the person who did it and I’d accidentally, when I’d done it, cut my hand, and so I was like walking around and I still had to stay there… they said that they were going to charge that person, and I felt really bad about that, to this day actually… I did community service at an old people’s home…

[2]  Keith Johnson made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the host’s “admission of illegal behaviour” was totally unacceptable to broadcast as it fostered disrespect for the law and the misuse of public safety services.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast, and specifically the host’s story, breached Standard 2 (law and order) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast encourage listeners to break the law or condone criminal activity?

[5]  The intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage listeners to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.1 The standard exists to ensure that broadcasters refrain from broadcasting material which does not respect the laws which sustain our society. 2

[6]  Mr Johnson argued that the host’s story promoted “the notion that such ‘pranks’ are acceptable… thereby corrupting public respect for New Zealand’s emergency/safety services, and encouraging antisocial and criminal behaviour”.

[7]  TRN said that the anecdote was told in the context of a recent spate of false fire alarms in the Wellington region. It asserted that while the host admitted to committing “what may be a criminal act”, she did not promote that behaviour as acceptable, but in fact made comments that condemned it. The broadcaster did not consider that the host’s story would lead to listeners mimicking her behaviour.

[8]  In our view, this was a light-hearted anecdote about the host’s actions in her youth, intended to entertain and educate, rather than to encourage or condone inappropriate or illegal behaviour. We agree that she made comments expressing regret and condemning her actions, for example, “this is a really bad story”, “I don’t know why I did it”, and, “I feel really bad about that, to this day actually”. The host also clearly referred to the repercussions of her actions, suggesting that it was a criminal offence which had consequences; she noted that the police were looking to charge the person responsible for the prank, and that she was ultimately made to do community service.

[9]  The programme’s target audience would have understood that the story was not intended to be taken seriously, and we agree with the broadcaster that the story did not glamorise the host’s behaviour or encourage listeners to act similarly, or otherwise condone criminal activity.

[10]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached Standard 2.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
21 August 2012


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

1                  Keith Johnson’s formal complaint – 11 June 2012

2                 TRN’s response to the complaint – 12 June  2012

3                 Mr Johnson’s referral to the Authority – 14 June 2012

4                 TRN’s response to the Authority – 21 June 2012

1See, for example, Keane and TVNZ, Decision No. 2010-082

2See, for example, Hunt and Māori Television, Decision No. 2009-010