BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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McLellan and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2003-041

  • J H McGregor
  • Tapu Misa
  • R Bryant
  • John McLellan
TV One

Holmes – host referred to the WestpacTrust Stadium as the "cake tin" – derogatory phrase – offensive

Section 11(b) – no issue of broadcasting standards raised by this complaint – decline to determine

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] The WestpacTrust Stadium in Wellington was referred to as the "cake tin" by the host (Susan Wood) in an item broadcast on Holmes at 7.00pm on 7 February 2003.

[2] John McLellan complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the reference was "derogatory".

[3] When the broadcaster failed to respond to his formal complaint, Mr McLellan referred it to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[4] In its response to the Authority, TVNZ argued that the matter did not raise an issue of broadcasting standards. It maintained that the term was not derogatory, as it was common practice for such buildings to be referred to by their "popular nicknames".

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to determine this complaint.


[5] The members of the Authority have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. It was not provided with a video of the programme to view. The Authority reaches its decision without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] In an item on Holmes, concerning the International Rugby Sevens Tournament being held in Wellington, the host referred to the WestpacTrust Stadium as the "cake tin". The item was screened at 7.00pm on TV One on 7 February 2003.

The Complaint

[7] Mr McLellan complained to TVNZ, that he found the use of the term "derogatory", and wrote:

In just a relatively short interview segment she [the host] referred to it [the Stadium] as the "cake tin" 4 times. Not only is this unprofessional it is also unacceptable as it is a deliberate repetition of a derogatory phrase bound to cause offence.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[8] As TVNZ failed to respond to Mr McLellan’s formal complaint within 20 working days, he referred his complaint to the Authority.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[9] Dealing first with its failure to respond to the formal complaint, TVNZ apologised to Mr McLellan and noted that while it was its practice to respond to all correspondence, his letter "must somehow have ‘slipped through the cracks’".

[10] While TVNZ was unable to provide a copy of the item, it did not dispute that the term was used. It supplied a transcript of the "studio introduction" indicating the "context in which the phrase was employed."

[11] TVNZ submitted that the complaint did not raise an issue of broadcasting standards. It argued that many people throughout the country, including Wellingtonians, used the term "cake tin" to describe the Stadium. Further, it maintained that it was common practice for buildings and facilities around the world to "become known by their popular nicknames", such as "Big Ben" and "The Beehive".

[12] TVNZ concluded:

We note Mr McLellan’s objection and the matter has been brought to the attention of the News and Current Affairs Department. However in our view the complaint should be dismissed because the expression is not derogatory and does not raise an issue covered by the statutory programme standards. It is not a breach of standards to refer to something by a commonly used colloquial term, especially when, as in this case, it was used in association with the stadium’s ‘proper name’.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[13] Mr McLellan disputed several aspects of TVNZ’s explanation. He said that the transcript failed to reflect the extensive use of the term by the host during the programme. He noted that other participants in the item had not used the term when referring to the Stadium. Mr McLellan maintained that the host had been "notably enthusiastic" about the use of the "derogatory" term.

[14] The complainant disagreed that many Wellingtonians used the term "cake tin" to describe the Stadium. Mr McLellan noted TVNZ’s reference to buildings’ nicknames, and contended that "none of these could be considered derogatory". As to the status of his complaint, he wrote:

I suggest that this is an issue of programme standards because the term is derogatory, and offensive. It is not colloquial as stated because the general interpretation of this is "a term in wide local use" which it most certainly is not.

The Authority’s Determination

[15] Mr McLellan contended that the host’s reference to the WestpacTrust Stadium as the "cake tin" was "derogatory". In the Authority’s view the informal reference to the Stadium could in no way be considered offensive. Accordingly, the Authority does not consider that the complainant has raised any issue of broadcasting standards.

[16] Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act allows the Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers:

That, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.

[17] Having considered all the circumstances of this complaint, the Authority exercises its discretion under s.11(b) and declines to determine the complaint.


For the above reasons, the Authority declines to determine this complaint under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Dr Judy McGregor
22 May 2003


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

  1. John McLellan’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 7 February 2003
  2. Mr McLellan’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 13 March 2003
  3. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 21 March 2003
  4. Mr McLellan’s Final Comment – 26 March 2003