BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Van der Merwe and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-141

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Hein van der Merwe
3 News: Firstline
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News: Firstline – item reported on protestor at St Peter’s Square who shouted “Pope, where is Christ?” – newsreader commented, “He’s here. His name’s Richie McCaw” – allegedly in breach of discrimination and denigration standard

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – comment was intended to be humorous and did not carry any invective – broadcast did not encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, Christians as a section of the community – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  An item on 3 News: Firstline, broadcast on TV3 at 8am on 24 October 2011, reported on a protester who climbed the walls surrounding St Peter’s Square and set fire to a bible. Concluding the item, the newsreader stated:

Vatican security, a Bishop and the Pope’s own bodyguard eventually talked the man down after he shouted “Pope, where is Christ?”

[2]  Smiling, the newsreader said, “He’s here, his name’s Richie McCaw.”

[3]  Hein van der Merwe made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the newsreader’s comment likening Richie McCaw to Jesus Christ was “highly offensive and insensitive to the Christian community” in breach of standards relating to discrimination and denigration.

[4]  The issue is whether the newsreader’s comment breached Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which states that broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community.

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

Did the newsreader’s comment encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, Christians as a section of the community?

[6]  The Authority has consistently defined “denigration” as blackening the reputation of a class of people (for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1), and “discrimination” as encouraging the different treatment of members of a particular group, to their detriment (for example, Teoh and TVNZ2). It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (for example, McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network3).

[7]  On this occasion, we are satisfied that the comment subject to complaint did not carry any invective and therefore did not reach the high threshold required to encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, Christians as a section of the community. The newsreader’s comment was clearly intended to be a humorous reference to the fact that Richie McCaw had led the All Blacks to victory in the Rugby World Cup the previous evening. It did not blacken the reputation of Christians, or encourage the different treatment of them, to their detriment.

[8]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the comment breached Standard 7.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
20 December 2011


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

1                  Hein van der Merwe’s formal complaint – 24 October 2011

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 8 November 2011

3                 Mr van der Merwe’s referral to the Authority – 10 November 2011

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 16 November 2011

1Decision No. 2006-030

2Decision No. 2008-091

3Decision No. 2002-152