Taylor and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-106 (26 February 2019)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Paula Rose
- Wendy Palmer
- Susie Staley
- Bryan Taylor
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Breakfast, in which the phrase ‘he rooted my missus’ was read out on air, breached the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found that while the phrase was coarse and may have offended some viewers, the term ‘rooted’ was unlikely to undermine or violate widely shared community norms. Overall, the Authority found that any potential for harm did not justify a restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
 During an episode of Breakfast presenter Jack Tame read out some viewer feedback which included the phrase ‘he rooted my missus’. Other presenters on the show were shocked, laughed and said, ‘you can’t read that.’ Mr Tame said ‘This is what happens – our boss has left, he’s gone away for a couple of days so we can just say stuff like this’.
 The episode was broadcast on TVNZ 1 on 22 November 2018 at 7.35am. The Authority have watched a recording of the broadcast and have read all documents referred to in the Appendix.
 Bryan Taylor complained that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, for the following reasons:
- The word ‘rooted’ in context is a crude sexual reference which is offensive.
- Other presenters on the programme knew the word was inappropriate.
- It was inferred that Mr Tame only read out the statement as his boss was away.
- The broadcaster is incorrect in saying that the material would not have offended a significant number of viewers.
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ responded:
- Breakfast is aimed at adult viewers and children are unlikely to watch the news unattended. There is an expectation that parents exercise discretion around viewing news and current affairs programmes with their children.
- The word ‘root’ (meaning ‘to have sex’) is very mild, so much so that it was not included in the 2018 research survey Language that May Offend in Broadcasting, conducted by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
- There are several decisions from the BSA agreeing that infrequent low-level swearing in news programmes does not necessarily breach broadcasting standards.
- The material would not have offended a significant number of viewers. In some sections of society the word ‘root’ is not offensive. It may be considered coarse or vulgar by others, but it is not a swearword.
- In context, the coarseness was presented as humorous. While not all viewers would find the material funny, this does not automatically cause a breach of broadcasting standards.
- The co-hosts of the programme reprimanded Mr Tame in a tongue-in-cheek style.
- The tone of the piece was light-hearted and cheeky, not aggressive, disturbing or harmful.
 The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.1
 In New Zealand we value the right to freedom of expression. Accordingly, when we consider a complaint that a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, we weigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast.
 The complainant submitted that the term ‘rooted’, in context, was an offensive crude sexual reference and suggested that the material would have offended a significant number of viewers.
 The word ‘rooted’ was not tested in our 2018 Language That May Offend in Broadcasting research.2 ‘Rooted’ is slang that is often used to infer sexual intercourse. The term is not particularly explicit (particularly in comparison to many of the others considered in our research).3 We also note the term was not raised by any respondents to the survey when asked if there were other offensive words we should have tested.4 Having regard to this research we consider, while the use of the word may offend some people, it is unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress.
 We also note that context is crucial when determining a complaint under the good taste and decency standard.5 We found the following contextual factors important in our determination:
- The term was used once during the broadcast.
- It was a term used by a viewer, and was presented as a quote of colloquial language, by the presenter.
- The other presenters indicated their disapproval of the term.
- It is unlikely that young children viewers would know what the term meant.
- Breakfast often features light-hearted, colloquial chat between the presenters. While this type of language pushed the boundaries of audience expectations of Breakfast, it does not reach the level of offence required to breach the standard.
- Breakfast has an adult target audience.
 For these reasons we do not consider the use of this expression on this occasion was likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. We consider any potential for harm arising from the use of the word ‘rooted’ in this broadcast is outweighed by the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
 Accordingly we do not uphold this complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
26 February 2019
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Bryan Taylor’s formal complaint – 22 November 2018
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 7 December 2018
3 Mr Taylor’s referral to the Authority – 14 December 2018
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 19 December 2018
1 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
2 See Language That May Offend in Broadcasting (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2018)
3 See above, page 9
4 See above, page 28
5 Guideline 1a