BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Tanner and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2015-085 (28 January 2016)

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
  • John Tanner
Paul Henry
MediaWorks Radio Ltd
Radio Live # 3


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

During Paul Henry on Radio Live the presenters said ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ several times. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this language was unacceptable. These terms constituted low-level coarse language which would not have offended a significant number of listeners in the context of the broadcast. The language was within audience expectations of the presenters, the programme and the radio station.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


[1] During Paul Henry on Radio Live the presenters said ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ several times.

[2] Dr John Tanner complained that this language was unacceptable.

[3] As Dr Tanner did not nominate a specific standard in his complaint, MediaWorks assessed the complaint under what it considered to be the most relevant standard. The issue therefore is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4] The programme was broadcast on Radio Live at 6am on 18 September 2015. 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?

[5] The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) 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

[6] Dr Tanner argued that the repeated use of ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ was unacceptable and encouraged children to use similar language. He acknowledged that this language was not serious, but considered it had been increasing in frequency over recent months and ‘was not a good look for New Zealand radio’.

[7] MediaWorks considered the language was of a low level of offensiveness which would not have disturbed or alarmed a significant number of listeners. It noted that Radio Live was a broadcast environment where robust discussion and strong views are common, so the language would have been within audience expectations of the station. MediaWorks argued that Radio Live targets an adult audience and children would be unlikely to be listening to the station, but regardless, the language would not have disturbed any children who happened to be listening with their parents.

[8] When we determine a complaint about good taste and decency, we take into account relevant contextual factors, which here include:

  •  the time of broadcast, 6am to 9am, during children’s normally accepted listening times
  •  the length of the programme (three hours)
  •  the adult target audience of Paul Henry and Radio Live
  •  the nature of Paul Henry as a news/current affairs/entertainment programme
  •  presenter Paul Henry’s well-known provocative and outspoken style
  •  audience expectations of Paul Henry, its presenters and Radio Live.

[9] We are satisfied that the language used during Paul Henry sits at the low end of the spectrum of potentially offensive language and did not meet the threshold for breaching standards of good taste and decency in the context of the broadcast. While ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ may not be everyone’s language of choice, they have become colloquial terms used frequently in New Zealand and would be unlikely to surprise or offend a significant number of listeners. ‘Bloody’ and ‘bugger’ were ranked as two of the least unacceptable words in research conducted by the BSA into the acceptability of words in broadcasting.3 Here, ‘bloody’ was used twice and ‘bugger’ was used once over the course of a three-hour programme, so this language did not dominate the broadcast. The terms were not used in an aggressive or vitriolic way and were not directed towards individuals. For example, ‘bloody’ was used in the context of something taking ‘so bloody long’. The language would have been well within audience expectations of Paul Henry, a news/current affairs/entertainment programme which can contain adult material and colourful language (especially from presenter Paul Henry).

[10] The complainant also appeared concerned about the effect the language would have on child listeners. We agree with the broadcaster that Radio Live and Paul Henry are targeted at adult listeners and would be unlikely to appeal to children. In any case, given the relatively innocuous nature of the language used, we do not think it would have had an unduly negative effect on any children who happened to be listening.

[11] For these reasons we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 1.

Jurisdictional matter

[12] Subsequent to his referral to us, the Authority also received additional correspondence from Dr Tanner raising concerns about the language used during various other broadcasts.

[13] The Authority’s task upon accepting the referral of a complaint is to review the broadcaster’s decision on that complaint. This means that we are limited to considering only the specific content and alleged breaches raised in the original formal complaint lodged with the broadcaster; new matters are not able to be raised at a later stage in the process. Dr Tanner’s later correspondence is about additional broadcasts that were not raised in his original complaint, so this decision is limited to the Paul Henry broadcast of 18 September.

[14] Dr Tanner did raise on a separate piece of paper enclosed with his original complaint another Radio Live host Sean Plunket saying ‘bloody frustrating’ twice during his show on 18 September 2015. This was not addressed in the broadcaster’s decision and so has not been formally considered by us. However we are of the view that our reasoning expressed above equally applies to that instance of the word ‘bloody’ being used, so the Sean Plunket complaint would be unlikely to be upheld.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority




Peter Radich
28 January 2016



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

1      Dr John Tanner’s formal complaint – 18 September 2015
2      Dr Tanner’s further comments – 6 October 2015
3      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 14 October 2015
4      Dr Tanner’s referral to the Authority – 17 October 2015
5      Dr Tanner’s further comments – 6 November 2015
6      Dr Tanner’s further comments – 10 November 2015
7      MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 12 November 2015

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

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

What Not to Swear: The Acceptability of Words in Broadcasting (Broadcasting Standards Authority, 2013) at page 9