BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Schwabe and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2001-070

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
  • Paul Schwabe
One News
TV One

One News – Shop closure in country town – comment from observer – "It’s going to be a bugger to lose that shop" – language offensive.

Standard G2 – language not inappropriate in context – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


The comment "It’s going to be a bugger to lose that shop" was used by a man interviewed during an item about the closure of the Deka shop in Dargaville. The item was broadcast on One News on 16 March 2001 at 6.00pm.

Paul Schwabe complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the word "bugger" was offensive.

TVNZ responded that the word was not inappropriate in the context of the item, and declined to uphold the complaint.

Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Schwabe referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.


The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

An item on One News on 16 March 2001 reported the closure of the chain of Deka stores, and examined its likely impact in Dargaville where the Deka store was the only "department store" in town. Among the people interviewed, a Dargaville resident commented:

It’s going to be a bugger to lose that shop.

Paul Schwabe complained to TVNZ about the use of the word "bugger". While noting that it was probably the least offensive of all offensive language, he maintained that TVNZ had a responsibility to set standards of decency. He believed the broadcast breached section 4(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

TVNZ considered his complaint under section 4(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act, and in the context of standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

Section 4(1)(a) provides:

Every broadcaster is responsible for maintaining in its programmes and their presentation, standards which are consistent with –
     (a) The observance of good taste and decency

Standard G2 provides that, in the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required:

G2  To take into consideration currently accepted norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs.

TVNZ argued that the use of the word did not come close to infringing the standard, and wrote:

Upon viewing the item it was the [complaints] committee’s conclusion that it was not inappropriate to show a local resident using his own words to react to the closure of a store which plays a significant role in his town. To put other words into his mouth would have impinged on the authenticity of his observation; to have "beeped" the word would have been to introduce an unnecessary distraction into the information flow.

When he referred the complaint to the Authority, Mr Schwabe pointed out that he was not complaining about the resident’s use of the word, but about its broadcast by TVNZ.

The Authority’s Findings

The Authority has ruled on complaints from Mr Schwabe on four previous occasions about the use of "bugger" (Decisions Nos: 2000-067, 2000-080, 2000-166 and 2001-019). The Authority has referred to its research on each occasion, and has emphasised that the word "bugger" is not acceptable in all circumstances, and that context is significant.

In each of the previous decisions, the Authority has determined that the use of "bugger" did not contravene broadcasting standards in the specific context in which it was broadcast. It reaches the same conclusion on this occasion.

According to the Authority’s research, the word "bugger" is at the lower end of offensiveness when offensive words are considered. A broadcast which includes the word "bugger" is not likely to breach the standards unless the tenor of its use means that it is gratuitously offensive in some way.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Cartwright
19 July 2001


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

  1. Paul Schwabe’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 6 April 2001
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 18 April 2001
  3. Mr Schwabe’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 14 May 2001
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 23 May 2001