BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Wolf and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-127

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Graham Wolf
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Holmes – item about Tana Umaga’s appointment as All Black captain – reference to Mr Umaga’s dreadlocks – presenter allegedly implied that dreadlocked sportspeople are incompetent and engage in sexually deviant behaviour and law breaking – allegedly breached standards relating to good taste and decency, law and order, balance, accuracy and fairness

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – presenter’s comments innocuous – neither indecent nor in bad taste – not upheld

Standard 2 (law and order), Standard 4 (balance), Standard 5 (accuracy) and Standard 6 (fairness) – matters complained about not expressed or implied in the broadcast – no basis for any of the complainant’s allegations in presenter’s comments – declined to determine

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] A live interview on Holmes by the presenter (Paul Holmes) with recently appointed All Black captain Tana Umaga and All Black coach Graham Henry was broadcast on TV One at 7.00pm on 24 May 2004.

[2] During the interview, the presenter congratulated Mr Umaga on his appointment as the first All Black captain of Pacific Island descent and referred to his dreadlocked hair. Later, when Mr Henry was asked about the changes he wanted to make to the team, the presenter made a jocular suggestion that he should “stop them from dressing up in women’s clothes on a Saturday night” before quickly pointing out that he was joking.


[3] Mr Wolf complained to TVNZ about the broadcast He maintained:

[The presenter] made a series of inappropriate remarks about Mr Umaga’s dreadlocks hairstyle. These remarks consisted of thinly veiled innuendos about sports people with dreadlocks being both incompetent and anti-social.

He continued:

[The presenter] went on to accuse dreadlocked sportspeople, particularly those of Mr Umaga’s culture and appearance, as “being antisocial, and having nothing better to do on a Saturday night than to cruise various bars and taverns and engage in kinky practices”.

[4] Mr Wolf said that the item had clearly portrayed Mr Umaga and other dreadlocked sportspeople as “sexually deviant, incompetent and law-breaking individuals”.

[5] Mr Wolf alleged that the interview breached standards relating to good taste and decency (Standard 1), law and order (Standard 2), balance (Standard 4), accuracy (Standard 5) and fairness (Standard 6).


[6] TVNZ considered the complaint against the standards in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice nominated by the complainant:

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 2 Law and Order
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.

Standard 4 Balance
In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Standard 5 Accuracy
News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7] TVNZ found that none of the standards against which it assessed Mr Wolf’s complaint had been infringed.

[8] TVNZ explained to Mr Wolf:

  • The interview was conducted in a relaxed fashion – Mr Umaga’s telephone rang, and Mr Henry then asked if the interview was being broadcast live:
  • In these circumstances, perhaps partly distracted, the presenter, Paul Holmes, did mention Mr Umaga’s “dreadlocks” hairstyle briefly. This in the [Complaints] Committee’s view, was more in the context of that hairstyle underlining that Umaga was a different captain ethnically and in mana. He certainly showed no offence whatsoever at the remark, Paul Holmes’ question giving him the opportunity to report on the pride his appointment had given him and his family, and he hoped all of Samoa, Tana being the Pacific Islands’ first All Black captain.
  • The interview did not contain “a series of inappropriate remarks” about Mr Umaga’s hair.
  • There were “certainly” no “thinly veiled innuendos about sports people with dreadlocks being both incompetent and anti-social” in the broadcast.

Referral to the Authority

[9] Mr Wolf referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority for investigation and review:

  • He considered that TVNZ had not responded to his formal complaint within 20 working days. He also submitted that it had taken two formal reminders to “finally get a decision by TVNZ”.
  • He considered that TVNZ’s response had focussed on the most innocuous parts of the interview.
  • He disagreed that the references to Mr Umaga’s dreadlocks had been “brief”.
  • He urged the Authority to view the interview in its entirety, as he considered TVNZ had failed to address his concern about remarks allegedly made by the presenter about
    …rugby players cross-dressing and engaging in perverted practices/frequenting bars in women’s clothing.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10] TVNZ made the following remarks in its response to the referral:

  • It did not agree that it had not responded to Mr Wolf’s complaint within 20 working days.
  • It disagreed that it had focussed on innocuous matters in its response, saying:
  • In the context of the complaint they reflect[ed] the light hearted, almost jovial, mood in which the discussion took place.
  • It did not consider that either Mr Henry or Mr Umaga indicated any disquiet or offence at the way the interview was going and recorded that this was the only complaint it had received about the matter.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[11] In his final comment, the complainant reiterated and elaborated on his concerns about the broadcast.

Authority's Determination

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

[13] The Authority notes that the presenter referred once to Mr Umaga’s dreadlocks and the only reference connected in any way to the complainant’s improbable allegations was the joking comment referred to above in paragraph [2]. The Authority agrees with TVNZ that the item:

  • did not contain a series of inappropriate remarks about Mr Umaga’s hair
  • did not contain any innuendos about “sportspeople with dreadlocks being both incompetent and antisocial”.
Good taste and decency

[14] In the Authority’s opinion, the broadcast did not contain any of the implications about incompetent, sexually deviant and law-breaking behaviour which Mr Wolf attributed to it. The comments made by the presenter were innocuous and were made in the context of a good-natured interview about Mr Umaga’s appointment as All Black captain. It was clear from the demeanour of the participants and the overall tone of the interview that the comments were light-hearted banter. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that the broadcast did not breach Standard 1.

Law and order, balance, accuracy and fairness

[15] The Authority does not consider that there is any basis to Mr Wolf’s allegations that the broadcast breached Standards 2, 4, 5 and 6. As his allegations were premised on an interpretation of the broadcast which the Authority has rejected, the Authority declines to determine these aspects of Mr Wolf’s complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Tapu Misa
30 September 2004


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

  1. Mr Wolf’s Formal Complaint to TVNZ – 9 June 2004
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 6 July 2004
  3. Mr Wolf’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 29 July 2004
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 11 August 2004
  5. Mr Wolf’s Final Comment – 30 August 2004