BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Riley and TVWorks Ltd - 2010-165

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Peter Riley
Campbell Live
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – host interviewed members of New Zealand Actors’ Equity union on controversy surrounding production of the film The Hobbit in New Zealand – the host stated, “So there is not some Australian with his or her hand up your bum operating you like a puppet?” – allegedly in breach of standards relating to good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – host’s comment innocuous – would not have caused offence or distress to viewers – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – host was respectful to female interviewees – comment did not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, women – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision


[1]   Campbell Live, broadcast on TV3 at 7pm on Friday 2 October 2010, featured an interview with Robyn Malcolm and Jennifer Ward-Lealand, from the New Zealand Actors’ Equity union. The interview focused on controversy surrounding production of the film The Hobbit in New Zealand. The host, John Campbell, questioned the interviewees about the union’s call for producers to standardise performers’ employment contracts, and the potential this had to move film production offshore.

[2]   The following exchange took place with regard to the union’s motivation for the dispute:

Campbell:           Can I clarify one of the issues that keeps getting raised, and that is that this is a
                         stroppy Aussie union that’s trying to shaft cinema in New Zealand, motivated by
                         their own self-interest. Is this really an international union?

Malcolm:           This is the New Zealand Actors’ Equity...

Ward-Lealand:    We represent New Zealand performers, we have an elected New Zealand board
                         and committee.

Campbell:           So there is not some Australian with his or her hand up your bum operating you
                         like a puppet?

Ward-Lealand:    No. We are a branch of the Australasian Media Entertainment Arts Alliance. We
                         are a fully autonomous New Zealand union. We are the union for New Zealand


[3]   Peter Riley made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached broadcasting standards. He argued that the host’s comment, “So there is not some Australian with his or her hand up your bum operating you like a puppet”, was not in good taste or decent, and encouraged discrimination against, and the denigration of, women.


[4]   Mr Riley nominated Standards 1 and 7 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his complaint. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

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.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[5]   Looking first at Standard 1, TVWorks said that an “important factor” surrounding The Hobbit dispute was the actors’ association with an Australian union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). The broadcaster said that Mr Campbell was simply addressing the “legitimate” contention that the New Zealand Actors’ Equity union was “being used by the [Australian] union to gain further influence in New Zealand”. The question was “straight-to-the-point” and phrased in colloquial language for the purpose of eliciting a direct response, and the interviewees were “clearly not offended” by it, TVWorks argued. The broadcaster did not consider that regular viewers would have been “surprised” by the comment, and it declined to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

[6]   Turning to Standard 7, the broadcaster said that Mr Riley had not specified, in his original complaint how he considered the comment encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of women. Regardless, it argued, the comment did not reach the high threshold required to find a breach of Standard 7. Accordingly, the broadcaster declined to uphold this part of the complaint.  

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ response, Mr Riley referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant maintained that the language used in the broadcast was “offensive” and argued that it contained “sexual connotations” that were derogatory to women. Mr Riley argued that the fact regular viewers would not be offended by the comments, as alleged by TVWorks, did not “change the quality of the offence”. He maintained that Standards 1 and 7 had been breached.

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.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[9]   When we consider an alleged breach of good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors include:

  • Campbell Live was an unclassified news and current affairs programme
  • the item was broadcast at 7pm during the PGR time-band
  • the programme had an adult target audience
  • audience expectations.

[10]   We note that the comment subject to complaint was made in the context of a discussion about the union’s motivation for The Hobbit dispute. The host used colloquial language to convey the contention that New Zealand Actors’ Equity was being influenced by an Australian Union. We consider that it was clear from the participants’ demeanour, and the overall tone of the interview, that the comment was intended to be light-hearted. It did not contain any sexual connotations, as alleged by the complainant.

[11]   Taking into account the relevant contextual factors, particularly that the comment was part of an unclassified current affairs programme targeted at adults, we do not consider that the comment would have offended or distressed viewers, and we decline to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.  

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration)

[12]   Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. The Authority has consistently defined “denigration” as blackening the reputation of a class of people (see, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1). “Discrimination” has been defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group, to their detriment (for example, see Teoh and TVNZ2). 

[13]   In his referral, the complainant argued that the language used in the item contained “sexual connotations” and was derogatory to women.  As noted above, we consider the comment was used for the purpose of questioning the extent to which an Australian union was influencing the position of New Zealand Actors’ Equity. In our view, the host was respectful toward the female interviewees and we do not consider that the comment was intended to be sexualised, or that it was in any way derogatory to women. Accordingly, we find that the broadcast did not encourage denigration or discrimination in breach of Standard 7, and we 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
29 March 2011


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

1                  Peter Riley’s formal complaint – 5 October 2010

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 24 November 2010

3                 Mr Riley’s referral to the Authority – 30 November 2010

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 17 February 2011

1Decision No.2006-030

2Decision No. 2008-091