BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Phillips and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-056

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Alan Phillips
3 News
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – news reader stated “What is wrong with these people, I ask”, with reference to Richie McCaw and others declining invitations to Royal wedding – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration standard

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – complaint frivolous – decline to determine under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on Wednesday 27 April 2011, reported on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s plans following their upcoming wedding. At the end of the item, the reporter stated:

And just this morning we’ve heard that a third wedding guest has returned his invitation. Richie McCaw, Bahrain’s Crown Prince and now Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll, who says he’s got a rugby game at the weekend, and in his words, “the team come first”. And I am just wondering what his wife’s words might have been.

[2]  The item cut to the news reader, who stated, “What is wrong with these people, I ask.”


[3]  Alan Phillips made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached Standard 7(discrimination and denigration).

[4]  The complainant argued that the news reader’s comment, “What is wrong with these people?” defamed “the honour and motivation of the captain of New Zealand’s rugby team (let alone the Irish captain)”. The complainant considered that it was “totally unacceptable” for a news reader to make “personal and disparaging” comments about people, especially those that many “Kiwis” held in high regard.


[5]  Mr Phillips nominated Standard 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his complaint. Guideline 7a is also relevant. These provide:

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.

Guideline 7a

This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:

  • factual
  • a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or
  • legitimate humour, drama or satire.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[6]  The broadcaster said that the news reader’s comment related to an individual and not a section of the community to which Standard 7 applied. In any event, it said that the comment was not intended to be disparaging or defamatory towards Mr McCaw, but was an “off-hand” remark “made to (humorously) express the news reader’s personal view that she would love to attend the wedding if invited”. It asserted that occasional casual comments from news readers were not uncommon, and generally accepted by the programme’s regular audience.

[7]  Accordingly, TVWorks declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[8]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Phillips referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant argued that the comments defamed the rugby captains’ reputations by suggesting that they “had something wrong with them for putting their team commitments before attending a wedding”. He considered that it was unacceptable to make personal comments directed at individuals during news programmes, especially in a manner that could be construed as offensive.

Authority’s Determination

[9]  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.

[10]  We agree with TVWorks that the comment subject to complaint was an off-hand remark, which in our view, does not raise any issues relating to broadcasting standards.  

[11]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 allows the Authority to decline to determine a complaint which it considers to be frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. Pursuant to this section, we decline to determine this complaint on the grounds that the complaint by Mr Phillips was trivial.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
8 July 2011


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

1    Alan Phillips’ formal complaint – 27 April 2011

2   TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 2 May 2011

3   Mr Phillips’ referral to the Authority – 2 May 2011

4   TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 25 May 2011