BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McCarron and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-160

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Jon McCarron
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Breakfast – host made comments about a celebrity’s breasts, “Get your girls out” – in another segment host referred to music album, “Sex on Fire”, before stating, “Gonorrhoea anyone?” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency standard

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – comments not to everyone’s taste but would not have offended regular Breakfast viewers – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  An item on Breakfast, broadcast on TV One at approximately 7.30am on Tuesday 19 October 2010, reported on a well-known New Zealand jeweller who had enlisted the help of an international celebrity to boost his publicity while promoting a competition in New York. Concluding the item, the hosts joked about what the celebrity was famous for, and made reference to her naked photo shoots. One of the hosts stated:

She said that her mum encouraged her to do it [the Playboy photo-shoot]. What a Hallmark moment that would have been eh? Get your girls out, way you go, that’s my girl.

[2]  Later in the programme, at approximately 7.52am, the host introduced a review of a recent album release by Kings of Leon. The host said that the band “took the world by storm with their 2008 hit ‘Sex on Fire’”. Through almost closed lips and in a lowered tone, he stated, “Gonorrhoea anyone?”


[3]  Jon McCarron made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached standards relating to good taste and decency and responsible programming.

[4] The complainant argued that the host made multiple “sexual references” during the programme, including his statements “Sex on Fire” and “Gonorrhoea”. Further, calling female breasts “jugs” was derogatory, he argued. In the complainant’s view, the host used “offensive” language that should not have been broadcast at a time when children could be watching.


[5]  TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1 and 8 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 8 Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure programmes:

  • are appropriately classified;
  • display programme classification information;
  • adhere to timebands in accordance with Appendix 1;
  • are not presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue distress; and
  • do not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6]  Looking first at good taste and decency, TVNZ stated that Breakfast was “a mixture of news, serious interviews, magazine segments, reviews and often frequent good-natured ribbing at the expense of almost anyone in the headlines or visiting the set”. The programme was aimed at adults and routinely featured “spontaneous discussion” among the hosts, it said.

[7]  The broadcaster argued that to constitute a breach of Standard 1, the broadcast material must be unacceptable to a significant number of viewers in the context in which it was shown, including the time of broadcast, the programme’s classification, the target audience, and the use of warnings.  

[8]  TVNZ argued that the host’s “brief” comments about the celebrity were made in a “light-hearted” manner and were intended to be “comedic”. At no point in the item did he refer to breasts as “jugs”, it said. Similarly, the broadcaster argued that the host’s reference to gonorrhoea was a “spontaneous attempt at humour” and did not go into any explicit sexual detail. Taking into account the relevant contextual factors, TVNZ did not consider that the comments would have offended a significant number of adult viewers and it declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

[9]  Turning to Standard 8, TVNZ said that the responsible programming standard related to ensuring that programmes were correctly classified, and that ratings were displayed when programmes screened. It argued that “As a live daily news programme Breakfast is not required to be censor rated”. The broadcaster considered that the content subject to complaint was consistent with audience expectations and that none of the material shown would have caused panic, unwarranted alarm or undue distress. Accordingly, it declined to uphold a breach of Standard 8.

Referral to the Authority

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

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]  When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:  

  • Breakfast was an unclassified news and current affairs programme
  • it had an adult target audience
  • the comments subject to complaint were broadcast at approximately 7.30am and 7.52am respectively.

[13]  We consider that while the host’s comments, “Get your girls out”, and “Gonorrhoea anyone?” were not to everyone’s tastes, they would not have offended a significant number of regular Breakfast viewers. The host’s remarks were clearly intended to be humorous and not meant to be taken seriously.

[14]  In our view, the nature and style of the programme affords it some latitude with respect to its content. Taking the above contextual factors into account, particularly that Breakfast was unclassified and had an adult target audience, we find that the host’s comments did not breach standards of good taste and decency and 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
22 February 2011


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

1                 Jon McCarron’s formal complaint – 19 October 2010

2                 TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 17 November 2010

3                 Mr McCarron’s referral to the Authority – 26 November 2010

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 23 December 2010