BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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McLeod and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-072

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Paul McLeod
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Breakfast – presenter’s comment about people who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   During an episode of Breakfast, broadcast on TV One on the morning of 9 June 2008, the two presenters, Pippa Wetzell and Paul Henry, had an impromptu discussion about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at approximately 8am. Mr Henry shared a story with Ms Wetzell and viewers about an ex-colleague of his who suffered from OCD, which took the form of a need to “count the pillars” while on his journey to work in the morning. Mr Henry then commented:

He was a crazy freak, like all Obsessive Compulsive people are.

[2]   Later in the programme, Ms Wetzell discussed OCD with Breakfast’s resident doctor, who offered some factual information about the disorder.


[3]   Paul McLeod made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached standards of good taste and decency. He said that, as one of a minority with OCD in New Zealand, he was “extremely hurt” by Paul Henry’s remarks about OCD sufferers.


[4]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVNZ contended 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 target audience, its classification, and the use of warnings.

[6]   The broadcaster argued that there is considerable audience expectation that the Breakfast presenters will “have a bit of fun on a number of issues”. It said that some of the perspectives offered by the presenters would not be considered “PC”; in particular, Paul Henry is known for his “off the wall” brand of humour. TVNZ maintained that “the familiarity the viewer has with the style of the presenters and their sense of humour, ensures that the comment would not have offended a significant number of viewers”.

[7]   The broadcaster acknowledged that Mr Henry’s comments were “thoughtless” but pointed out that he did not mean to cause offence. It said that he was “well-known for making off-the-cuff remarks without thinking” and that this was one such occasion. It considered that the overall coverage of OCD in the 9 June episode of Breakfast, which included educational and factual material about the disorder, would have offset Mr Henry’s comments.

[8]   Accordingly, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint that Standard 1 was breached.

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr McLeod referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated that he was extremely upset by the broadcast, and disagreed with TVNZ that no breach had occurred.

[10]    The complainant considered that Mr Henry’s comments had undermined “anti stigma” television advertisements regarding mental health. He disagreed with the broadcaster that Breakfast would not have offended “a significant number of viewers”, because OCD affects one in five people in New Zealand, and they tend to be “ultra sensitive”. He also disagreed that the other coverage of OCD on the episode made up for Mr Henry’s insulting comment.

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 the Authority considers a complaint that alleges a breach of good taste and decency, it is required to take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • the programme was broadcast between 6.30am and 9am
  • expectations of regular viewers
  • the programme was rated G (General).

[13]   The Authority acknowledges that the complainant found Mr Henry’s comment about OCD sufferers to be derogatory and insensitive. However, it considers that the remark was an example of his irreverent, “off the wall” brand of humour which the Breakfast audience is familiar with. Mr Henry clearly intended his comment to be humorous rather than offensive, and it was made in the context of Ms Wetzell offering her opinion that Mr Henry himself exhibited obsessive compulsive tendencies. The programme also included a discussion with Breakfast’s resident doctor, who offered factual information about the disorder.

[14]   Taking the above contextual factors into account, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
18 September 2008


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

1.           Paul McLeod’s formal complaint – 14 June 2008
2.          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 11 July 2008
3.          Mr McLeod’s referral to the Authority – 14 July 2008
4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 August 2008