BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Waterworth and Wickham and RadioWorks Ltd - 2012-033

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Louise Wickham
  • Lucas Waterworth
RadioWorks Ltd
The Rock

Complaints under section 8(1B)(b)(i) and 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Robert and Jono’s Drive Show – Valentine’s Day “Win a Divorce” promotion – broadcast was sabotaged by participants – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, privacy, fairness and responsible programming standards

Standard 1 (good taste and decency), Standard 3 (privacy), Standard 6 (fairness), Standard 8 (responsible programming) – concept of the promotion was not reflected in the broadcast – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  The Rock radio station ran a promotion called “Win a Divorce” which culminated in a broadcast during Robert and Jono’s Drive Show on the afternoon of 14 February 2012. The hosts rang a second participant on the instructions of the first, her partner, who allegedly wanted a divorce. The first participant claimed to want a divorce from her partner on air, which was the premise of the promotion, and when the hosts called the second individual it became apparent that the hosts themselves had been set up. The couple had planned the prank from the beginning, as a protest against the concept of the promotion. Neither wanted to, or suggested getting a divorce on air, and instead spent the air time berating the hosts and the station for going through with what they believed to be an on-air request for divorce.

[2]  Lucas Waterworth and Louise Wickham made formal complaints to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster. Mr Waterworth argued that the promotion was in bad taste, trivialised divorce, and would have been a serious breach of the participants’ privacy, had the divorce been announced on air to an unsuspecting partner. Ms Wickham considered that the promotion was “disrespectful and unfair” to the individual being divorced, and breached standards by dealing with “such a serious matter in such a flippant manner”. She said, “The fact that it was sabotaged is beside the point – this was still going to go ahead.”

[3]  Mr Waterworth also complained about “the promotional material leading up to the actual broadcast”, and Ms Wickham in her referral sought to “expand [her] complaint to be about not only the broadcast itself... but also the promotional advertising that occurred prior to the planned broadcast”. As Ms Wickham did not identify the broadcast of a particular promo in her original complaint, we cannot now consider it as part of her referral. Similarly, Mr Waterworth did not specify a particular broadcast of promotional material in his formal complaint, so the broadcaster was unable to consider that aspect. Our task is to review the broadcaster’s decision on the original complaints. Accordingly, we have limited our determination to the broadcast on 14 February, which was clearly identified in both complaints.

[4]  The issue therefore is whether the broadcast on 14 February breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency), 3 (privacy), 6 (fairness) and 8 (responsible programming) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  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 breach broadcasting standards?

[6]  The complainants are asking this Authority to consider the concept of the promotion, rather than what was actually broadcast. The essence of the complaints is that a radio station should not undertake and broadcast a promotion of this kind and encourage people to participate in the promotion. RadioWorks objected to this, and maintained that formal complaints must relate to “broadcasts”.

[7]  While it may be possible for a concept to lead to a breach of standards, that concept must be reflected in the content broadcast.1 Our jurisdiction in this respect is limited by our governing legislation. Section 6 of the Broadcasting Act 1989 states that broadcasters must receive and consider formal complaints about “any programme broadcast by it”. Therefore we cannot consider a concept in the absence of a broadcast. A determination as to whether broadcasting standards raised in relation to a programme were breached necessarily requires careful consideration not only of the exact words used in the broadcast, but also the overall tone of the programme and any relevant contextual factors.

[8]  Here, the complaints under good taste and decency, and responsible programming, relate to the idea behind the broadcast – that is, “winning” a free divorce by subjecting the unsuspecting spouse to the announcement on live radio. While, understandably, this concept may be considered offensive and irresponsible to some people, the concept itself did not materialise and was not reflected in the content of the “programme broadcast”. In fact, the broadcast as it eventuated highlighted a negative response to the promotion and in this sense, advocated and promoted the opposing viewpoint, expressed by the complainants in their complaints.

[9]  The privacy and fairness complaints related to the participants, and relied on the broadcast going ahead as intended. We therefore find that these standards are not applicable.

[10]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaints.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
8 June 2012


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

Lucas Waterworth’s complaint:

1           Lucas Waterworth’s formal complaint – 14 February 2012

2          Mr Waterworth’s referral to the Authority – 17 March 2012

3          RadioWorks’ response to the Authority – 4 April 2012

Louise Wickham’s complaint:

1           Louise Wickham’s formal complaint – 15 February 2012

2          RadioWorks’ response to the complaint – 4 April 2012

3          Ms Wickham’s referral to the Authority – 27 April 2012

4          Further comments from Ms Wickham – 1 May 2012 

5          RadioWorks’ response to the Authority – 2 May 2012

6          Ms Wickham’s final comment – 5 May 2012

1See Clarke and Others and RadioWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2010-068, where the Authority considered whether a programme can breach broadcasting standards based on its concept alone.