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Rawcliffe and New Zealand Media and Entertainment - 2014-130

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Rachel Rawcliffe
Newstalk ZB # 2

Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

During a segment called ‘The Huddle’ on the Larry Williams Drive Show, the host and two political bloggers discussed the candidates running for the Labour Party leadership. One of the bloggers referred to two politicians needing their ‘throat cut’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the comments were inappropriate. The comments were brief, intended to be metaphorical, and acceptable in the context of a robust political discussion broadcast on Newstalk ZB.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


[1]  During a segment called ‘The Huddle’ on the Larry Williams Drive Show, the host and two political bloggers discussed the candidates running for the Labour Party leadership. One of the bloggers said that ‘a large number of members want [name]’s throat cut’ and that ‘[name] actually needs his throat cut for the poor way he’s been carrying on’.

[2]  Rachel Rawcliffe complained that the comments were inappropriate.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The broadcast took place at 5.45pm on Newstalk ZB on 29 September 2014. The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the item and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast threaten current norms of good taste and decency?

[5]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.2

[6]  Ms Rawcliffe said that her grandchildren were ‘horrified’ by the remarks and that it was highly inappropriate to refer to people having their ‘throats cut’, especially ‘given the world situation’ (in reference to the actions of members of the Islamic State of Iraq).

[7]  The broadcaster argued that the blogger’s comments were not meant to be taken literally. It said in the context of the station’s adult target audience and audience expectations, most listeners would have regarded the comments about two politicians needing their ‘throats cut’ ‘as an informal expression meaning to be out of the job’.

[8]  The comments were fleeting and relatively brief in context. They were not repeated or taken up by the host or other participant. We agree that the reference to politicians having their ‘throats cut’ was intended as a metaphor, which was acceptable in the context of a legitimate and robust political discussion. The language did not go beyond audience expectations of the type of content that regularly airs on this programme and on Newstalk ZB. While the comments were broadcast at a time when children could be listening, the radio station and this particular programme are not targeted at, or likely to appeal to, children.

[9]  We are satisfied that most adult listeners would not have been offended by the comments in this context, and we therefore decline to uphold the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Peter Radich

3 December 2014


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

1                 Rachel Rawcliffe’s formal complaint – 29 September 2014

2                 NZME’s response to the complaint – 1 October 2014

3                 Ms Rawcliffe’s referral to the Authority – 7 October 2014

4                 NZME’s response to the Authority – 10 October 2014

1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-112

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)