BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Jordan and TVWorks Ltd - 2009-153

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Gary Jordan
Sports Tonight
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Sports Tonight – presenter referred to the English netball team as “Poms” – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – term was affectionate slang rather than abusive – did not carry level of invective necessary to encourage denigration or discrimination – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   During an episode of Sports Tonight, broadcast on TV3 at 11pm on Wednesday 21 October 2009, the presenter referred to the New Zealand netball team beating “the Poms in overtime in a one-off test last week”.


[2]   Gary Jordan made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the term “pom” was a racial slur against English people and should not be broadcast. He considered the term to be derogatory and offensive.


[3]   Standard 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   TVWorks argued that the use of the word in the context of Sports Tonight did not “denigrate or vilify those to whom it refers in a manner that is objectionable in terms of the requirements of the Code”. It noted that the presenter and news management had been informed of the complainant’s concerns about the use of the word.

[5]   The broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint that the use of the word “pom” breached broadcasting standards.

Referral to the Authority

[6]   Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ response, Mr Jordan referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He argued that TVWorks considered it was “acceptable to use a racial slur for the English when similar terms are not used for other races or cultures”.

Authority's Determination

[7]   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.

[8]   Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. "Denigration" has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people (see for example Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1). The term “discrimination” has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment (for example Teoh and TVNZ2).

[9]   It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (see for example McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network3).

[10]   The Authority has previously considered the use of the term “pom” in Whitmore and TVNZ and Judge and TVNZ.4 It concluded that there was nothing discriminatory about the use of the expression in a sports report relating to the performance of an English team. It also took into account the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s ruling that the words "pom" and "pommy" were unlikely to offend, insult or intimidate.

[11]   The Authority finds no reason to revise its view on the use of the word "poms". It does not consider the remark, again on this occasion made in the context of a sports report, represented British people as inherently inferior, or that it was likely to lead to discrimination against them. Rather, it is of the view that the term was affectionate slang, was not used in an abusive manner, and did not carry the level of invective necessary to encourage discrimination or denigration. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the Standard 7 complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
15 February 2010


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

1.           Letter from Gary Jordan to TVWorks – 25 September 2009
2.          Letter from TVWorks to Mr Jordan – 8 October 2009
3.          Mr Jordan’s complaint – 25 October 2009
4.          TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 29 October 2009
5.          Mr Jordan’s referral to the Authority – 24 November 2009
6.          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 7 December 2009

1Decision No. 2006-030

2Decision No. 2008-091

3Decision No. 2002-152

4Decision Nos. 1999-029 and 1998-113