BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Van Son and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2006-075

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Steven A van Son
Prime TV

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Crowd Goes Wild – included review of Soccer World Cup game between Portugal and the Netherlands – one presenter used phrase “Filthy Dutchman” four or five times – allegedly denigratory and in breach of good taste and decency

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – subsumed under Standard 6 – denigration of Dutch was essence of complaint – not upheld

Standard 6 and Guideline 6g (denigration) – high threshold for denigration not met – not upheld.

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] The Crowd Goes Wild, broadcast on weekdays by Prime at 7.00pm, is hosted by two presenters who take a light-hearted approach to recent sporting events. The high number of yellow and red cards issued in the Soccer World Cup game between Portugal and the Netherlands was one of the matters briefly addressed during the programme broadcast on 26 June 2006. One of the presenters used the phrase “filthy Dutchman” four of five times as a clip of parts of the game was screened and a Dutch player was penalised.


[2] Steven van Son complained to Prime Television about the repeated use of phrase “dirty Dutchman”, which he said was used with “malevolence” and in “a gratuitous and unwarranted manner”. He contended that it breached the standards relating to good taste and decency, and denigration. He acknowledged that he was born a “Dutchman” but said that he had lived in New Zealand for 40 years and that he laughed at jokes directed at the Dutch. The Authority notes that the phrase used was in fact “filthy Dutchman”.


[3] The broadcaster considered the complaint under Standard 1 and Guideline 6g of Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They read:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guideline 6g

Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] Sky Network Television Ltd responded to the complainant. It said that the programme took a “light-hearted and often irreverent take” on sporting events and described the presenter’s comments about the “hotly contested match” as “clearly over the top”.

[5] It contended that the denigration standard was not applicable in view of the exception for a dramatic, humorous or satirical work and it declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[6] Dissatisfied with Sky’s response, Mr van Son referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[7] He maintained that the programme was essentially a sports one and while it made an attempt to be humorous, it could not be described as satire.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[8] Sky said that the new evening sports news magazine programme was an alternative programme for viewers who were not interested in soaps or current affairs. It described the presenters’ style of humour as “upbeat” and argued that the comments complained about were acceptable in context.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[9] While he accepted that the tone of the programme was light-hearted, Mr van Son maintained that the tone did not excuse “inappropriate, irrelevant and xenophobic” remarks. An over-the-top comment did not justify denigration on the basis of race, he said.

Authority's Determination

[10] The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 6 and guideline 6g (denigration)

[11] Mr van Son argued that the presenter’s repeated use of the phrase “filthy Dutchman” breached this provision. The term “denigration” has consistently been defined by the Authority as meaning the blackening of the reputation of a class of people (see for example Decisions Nos. 1994-062 and 2004-129). 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 in contravention of the standards (see for example Decision No. 2002-152).

[12] In this case, the Authority finds that the threshold for denigration was not met. The Authority considers that the remark, repeated four times, while it could be seen as a provocative, was clearly intended to be humorous. That was apparent by the presenters’ exchange at the end of the clip. Accordingly, the Authority finds that the light hearted and irreverent remark made during the review of one specific game would not have encouraged denigration of Dutch people. It does not uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[13] In addition to complaining that the “filthy Dutchman” remark breached Standard 6, Mr van Son also argued that it breached standards of good taste and decency. Although the complainant has not elaborated on this point, it is clear from the correspondence that he was concerned that this was an offensive way of referring to Dutch people. The Authority considers that this concern has already been dealt with in its consideration of whether the remark denigrated the Dutch. Accordingly, it subsumes this part of the complaint into its consideration of Standard 6.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
19 October 2006


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

  1. Steven A van Son’s formal complaint about a programme broadcast on Prime Television –
    28 June 2006
  2. Sky Network Television Limited’s decision on the formal complaint – 7 July 2006
  3. Mr van Son’s referral to the Authority – 13 July 2006
  4. Sky’s response to the Authority – 8 August 2006
  5. Mr van Son’s final comment – 17 August 2006