BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Rankin and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-031

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • David Rankin
Te Karere
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Te Karere – during interview presenter noted that Māori Party was using “a Chinese lawyer who has a lack of knowledge of Māori process” – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration standard

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – presenter’s comment was factual and did not carry any invective – broadcast did not encourage denigration or discrimination – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  During Te Karere, broadcast on TV One at 4pm on 20 January 2011, the presenter conducted a studio interview with Professor Ranginui Walker about MP Hone Harawira’s position in the Māori Party and the various sources of Mr Harawira’s anger at his party. The presenter said (in Te Reo with English subtitles), “That is why Hone’s angry, because the party turned to a lawyer, to a Chinese lawyer who has a lack of knowledge of Māori process.” Professor Walker responded, “Yes, that’s a problem. We have all heard of the writings of their lawyer [name]. Those writings are for the mainstream world and protect the Māori world. But we have some very quick lawyers, like [name], who can accommodate that.”


[2]  David Rankin made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that raising the issue of whether the Māori Party should be using an Asian lawyer, and “the discussion of a solicitor’s ethnicity as a militating factor” breached standards relating to discrimination.


[3]  Standard 7 and guideline 7a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They 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

[4]  TVNZ argued that:

In the interview, the presenter was simply paraphrasing Mr Harawira’s perspective. The presenter was asking a question of Dr Walker to ascertain his understanding of whether employing an Asian lawyer to sort out the dispute had added to Mr Harawira’s sense of outrage. The presenter’s question was a valid question to ask. There was no anti-Asian/Chinese sentiment expressed in the question and the question did not contain any invective against people of an Asian ethnicity.

[5]  The broadcaster considered that the comments made by Professor Walker were his genuinely held belief and his personal opinion, to which he was entitled within broadcasting standards.

[6]  Accordingly, TVNZ concluded that the broadcast did not encourage denigration or discrimination against Asian people in breach of Standard 7.

Referral to the Authority

[7]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Rankin referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the broadcast “encouraged a negative racist stereotype”.

Authority’s Determination

[8]  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.

[9]  The Authority has consistently defined denigration as blackening the reputation of a class of people (for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1), and discrimination as encouraging the different treatment of members of a particular group, to their detriment (for example, Teoh and TVNZ2). It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (for example, McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network3).

[10]  On this occasion, we consider that the presenter’s remark – that the Māori Party had hired a Chinese lawyer – was a factual statement (see guideline 7a). The point being made during the discussion was the suggestion that one of the reasons Hone Harawira was angry with the Māori Party was that the Party had employed someone from a different culture to resolve Māori cultural issues, without a full understanding of the Māori culture. We consider that in this respect the presenter was raising a valid issue, rather than making a comment on Chinese people. It was clearly not intended to denigrate Chinese people on the basis of their ethnicity or some other perceived group characteristic. Nor could it be said to have encouraged the different treatment of Chinese people to their detriment. The presenter’s comment clearly did not carry the invective necessary to encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, Chinese people as a section of the community.

[11]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that Standard 7 was breached.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold 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    David Rankin’s formal complaint – 21 January 2011

2   TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 3 March 2011

3   Mr Rankin’s referral to the Authority – 21 March 2011

4   TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 27 May 2011

1Decision No. 2006-030

2Decision No. 2008-091

3Decision No. 2002-152