BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Wiseman and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-039

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
  • Iain Wiseman
Paul Henry
MediaWorks TV Ltd
TV3 # 4

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

During a segment on Paul Henry the host referred to those involved in the Flag Consideration Project as a 'bunch of twats'. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of 'twat' was inappropriate for a breakfast show. The comment was within audience expectations of the host's well-known style of presentation and humour, and unlikely to disturb or offend a significant number of viewers in the context of a news and current affairs programme aimed at adults.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency


[1]  During a segment on Paul Henry the host referred to those involved in the Flag Consideration Project as a 'bunch of twats'.

[2]  Iain Wiseman complained that the use of the word 'twat' was inappropriate for a breakfast show when children were likely to be watching.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast on TV3 at 7am on 5 May 2015. 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 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]  Mr Wiseman argued that an unclassified news programme on free-to-air television should be suitable for viewing by anyone, or alternatively an appropriate warning or classification should be given for coverage that is inappropriate for a general audience.

[7]  MediaWorks argued that news and current affairs programmes are unlikely to be watched by unsupervised young children, who are more likely to watch programming directed at them screening on other channels. It considered Mr Henry's use of the word 'twat' carried only minimal potential for insult or offensiveness, and the word was at the lower end of the spectrum of coarse language. It maintained that the language was consistent with audience expectations of the host and the programme.

[8]  When we consider a complaint about good taste and decency, we take into account the context of the broadcast, which here includes:

  • the time of broadcast at 7am
  • Paul Henry is an unclassified breakfast news programme that screens at the same time each weekday
  • the programme's adult target audience
  • the host's well-known outspoken and provocative style of presentation and humour
  • audience expectations of breakfast programmes.

[9]  In addition to the context of the broadcast, the meanings of words can also change according to their context. In one context a word may be offensive but the same word may be innocuous when used elsewhere. The word 'twat' is a word which takes particular colour from its surroundings. Its meaning can go from characterising someone as a fool, stupid person or twerp, through to a reference to genitalia. Here we think that the use of this word was a throwaway comment and more towards a mild insult than anything more.

[10]  Paul Henry is an unclassified news programme that has an adult target audience. It is not aimed at, nor likely to appeal to, unsupervised child viewers. Regular viewers would be aware of Mr Henry's frequent use of language that some may find challenging, including the word 'twat'. His co-host also immediately mitigated his comment to some extent by saying, 'That's really harsh' and then making general comments about the need to 'not get nasty and personal' during the flag debate.

[11]  In this context we do not consider that Mr Henry's use of the word 'twat' threatened current norms of good taste and decency or that a pre-broadcast warning for language was required. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 1.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority



Peter Radich
25 August 2015



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

1      Iain Wiseman's formal complaint – 5 May 2015
2      MediaWorks' initial response to the complaint – 3 June 2015
3      Mr Wiseman's additional information about the complaint – date unknown
4      MediaWorks' subsequent response to the complaint – 10 June 2015
5      Mr Wiseman's referral to the Authority – 10 June 2015
6      MediaWorks' response to the Authority – 3 July 2015



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

2Practice Note: Good Taste and Decency (Broadcasting Standards Authority, November 2006)