BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Schwabe and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2014-011

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Paul Schwabe
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Radio New Zealand National

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

During Arts on Sunday an audio clip from a movie being reviewed was broadcast, in which a character from the movie said ‘frigging’. The Authority declined to uphold the complaint that this low level language breached standards of good taste and decency. It was fleeting and innocuous and broadcast as part of a movie review targeted at adults.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


[1]  The ‘At the Movies’ segment of Arts on Sunday contained audio from the film ‘Thanks for Sharing’, in which one of the characters used the word ‘frigging’, as follows:

Character 1:    I got fired yesterday for filming up my boss’s skirt… I’m out of control and I
                       need help…

Character 2:    I’m going to call you…

Character 1:    I’m gonna frigging answer…

[2]  The audio was broadcast twice during the segment, which aired on Radio New Zealand National on 17 November 2013.

[3]  Paul Schwabe made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd, alleging that ‘frigging’ was ‘offensive, vulgar slang specifically equating to the “fucking” word’.

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard, as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]   The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

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

[6]  The good taste and decency standard is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence.1 The 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

[7]  The use of the term ‘frigging’ in the item did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency when taken in context. The language was at the lower end of the scale in terms of its offensiveness, and it formed part of a fleeting and innocuous exchange in an audio clip from a movie under review. The slang term is used precisely because it is considered to be a less offensive substitute for ‘fucking’.

[8]  We note that Mr Schwabe has repeatedly complained to this Authority about words at the low end on the spectrum of offensiveness,3 and in declining to uphold this complaint we remind him that such language is unlikely to threaten current norms of good taste and decency in breach of the standard, especially in programmes targeted at adults.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
2 May 2014


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

1                  Paul Schwabe’s formal complaint – 4 December 2013

2                 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 January 2014

3                 Mr Schwabe’s referral to the Authority – 31 January 2014

4                 RNZ’s response to the Authority – 27 February 2014

1Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd

, Decision No. 2008-112

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

3For example, Schwabe and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-084; Schwabe and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-076; Schwabe and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-041