BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-211

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Donald McDonald
Holmes promo
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Holmes promo broadcast during One News – interview with crime novelist – said “I’m going to tell you about how to commit the perfect murder” – allegedly in breach of law and order

Standard 2 (law and order) – promo consistent with law and order – no glamorisation of crime – crime novelist promoting her work – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] A promo for the Holmes show aired on TV One at 6.20pm on 27 October 2004. The presenter announced that he would be interviewing Tara Moss, a former model and “Australia’s number one crime writer”. The author was then shown to say:

Join me tonight…on the Holmes show, and I’m going to tell you about how to commit the perfect murder.


[2] Donald McDonald complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item had breached broadcasting standards. He alleged that the author’s comment was “sanctioning the worst crime in New Zealand” during “family viewing hours”.


[3] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 2 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 2 Law and Order

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.


2a  Broadcasters must respect the principles of law which sustain our society.

2b  Factual programmes should not glamorise criminal activity or condone the actions of criminals.

2c  Programmes should not depict or describe techniques of crime in a manner which invites imitation.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] In its response to the complainant, TVNZ contended that Mr McDonald had taken “what was clearly a tongue-in-cheek remark far too seriously”. It did not consider that the author’s remarks could be regarded as “sanctioning” murder, as alleged by the complainant. TVNZ said:

Novelists use imagination in their writings, and authors of crime stories are constantly setting up tales about imagined crimes and how they are solved (or in some cases not solved). In a previous age an Agatha Christie or a Ngaio March would have been trailered making similar remarks.

[5] The broadcaster noted that during the Holmes item which was promoted by the trailer, the author was asked to describe what her idea was of a “perfect murder”. It considered that this question was “perfectly legitimate” given that she was being interviewed because of her success as a crime novelist.

[6] In considering Standard 2, TVNZ concluded that the promo was consistent with the maintenance of law and order. The author was speaking as a novelist, it said, and her comment “cannot seriously have been taken as sanctioning murder”.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He submitted that the national news “is not a suitable forum for tongue-in-cheek murder classes”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[8] TVNZ added nothing further to its original reply to the complainant.

Authority's Determination

[9] 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.

[10] The Authority does not uphold the complaint and concurs with the reasons advanced by TVNZ in its decision.

[11] The Authority notes that the author was introduced as “Australia’s number one crime writer”, and that she was shown holding a copy of her book.  In the circumstances it was clear that Ms Moss’ comments related to her novel, and there is no suggestion that she was glamorising or condoning criminal activity.

[12] Accordingly, the Authority agrees with TVNZ that there was nothing in the promo which was inconsistent with Standard 2 (law and order).

[13] The Authority records its view that Mr McDonald’s complaint received a considered and appropriate response from TVNZ. The Authority considers that the subsequent referral to the Authority by the complainant bordered on being trivial.


For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
18 February 2005


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

  1. Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 31 October 2004
  2. TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 24 November 2004
  3. Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 6 December 2004
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 9 December 2004