In this section of the website you can search all our decisions from 1989/90 to the present. The decisions appear in descending order.
Decisions from 1994 appear in HTML. Decisions from 1989/90 to 1993 are attached as PDFs.
Four of the fields that appear at the top of individual decisions – Channel/Station, Programme, Standards, Standards Breached – have links that call up other decisions with the same information.
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Two complaints regarding an episode of Shortland Street were not upheld. In the episode a new character appointed CEO of the Shortland Street hospital commented, ‘Puffed up, privileged Pakeha men drunk on control, terrified of change… we are the future, Esther, not them,’ referring to the hospital’s management. Complaints were made that this statement was sexist, racist and offensive to white men. The Authority reviewed the programme and relevant contextual factors, including established expectations of Shortland Street as a long-running, fictional soap opera/drama, and concluded the character’s statement did not breach broadcasting standards. It found upholding the complaints in this context would unreasonably limit the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item on 1 News, about claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) that staff had been abused and attacked by anti-1080 protestors, breached broadcasting standards. The Authority found the item was unlikely to mislead or misinform audiences, as it contained comments from various parties including a DOC representative, an anti-1080 campaigner and a National Party MP. The Authority highlighted the importance of the reporting on issues of public importance in an accurate and balanced manner, finding that the broadcaster did so on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy, Fairness
During an episode of Shortland Street, one of the characters, Harper, used the exclamation ‘Oh, Jesus…’ to express her shock and disgust at a flood of sewage in her new home. A promo for this episode, broadcast during the weather report on 1 News, also included Harper using this expression. The Authority received a complaint that this language was blasphemous and offensive, and in the case of the promo, inappropriate for broadcast during 1 News at 6pm when children might be watching. The Authority acknowledged that the complainant, and others in the community, might find this type of language offensive. However, the Authority has consistently found that these type of expressions are commonly used as exclamations in our society. This was reflected in recent research undertaken by the Authority, which found that the level of unacceptability for some blasphemies was decreasing among the members of the public who were surveyed. Overall, the Authority considered the broadcast of this language did not cause harm to an extent which justified limiting the right to freedom of expression, and did not uphold the complaint.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration
The first segment of The AM Show’s daily panel, featuring panel guests Dr Don Brash and Newshub reporter Wilhelmina Shrimpton, discussed Dr Brash’s views on the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand, specifically in RNZ broadcasting without translation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this panel discussion lacked balance and was unfair to Dr Brash. The Authority found that, while the panel discussion was robust and Dr Brash’s opinion was tested by the panel, Dr Brash was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to present his point of view in the time allowed. Given the level of public interest in the issue discussed, Dr Brash’s position as a public figure and his experience with the media, the Authority found that the panel discussion did not result in Dr Brash being treated unfairly and viewers would not have been left misinformed as to his position on the issue.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
Saturday Morning featured a segment in which presenter Kim Hill interviewed former MP and spokesperson for lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, Dr Don Brash, about the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand, specifically in RNZ broadcasting, without translation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority found that, while Ms Hill asked Dr Brash challenging and critical questions, Dr Brash had a reasonable opportunity to put forward his competing point of view, and listeners would not have been left misinformed with regard to Dr Brash’s position. Given the level of public interest in the interview, Dr Brash’s position and his experience with the media, the Authority also found Ms Hill’s interview style did not result in Dr Brash being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency
Three episodes of a British dating game show, Naked Attraction, were broadcast on TVNZ 2 at 9.30pm on Friday 10, 17 and 24 November 2017. During each episode, a clothed individual selected a date from six naked individuals, who were gradually revealed in stages from the feet up, with no blurring or pixelation of nudity. Six complainants referred their complaints about these episodes of Naked Attraction to the Authority, complaining that the programme contained a high level of full frontal nudity and sexual discussion, which was offensive and contrary to standards of good taste and decency. The complainants also submitted that the programme denigrated, or was discriminatory towards, both participants and viewers, and was broadcast at a time on a weekend night when children were likely to be watching. The Authority did not agree with the complainants that this programme ought not to have been broadcast at all. It observed that, while the programme may not have been to everybody’s taste, it contained many body-positive messages and those involved in the programme spoke positively of their experiences. However, the Authority upheld the good taste and decency complaints on one aspect, finding the pre-broadcast warning did not adequately signpost the extent of nudity and sexual references in the programme for viewers.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency. Not Upheld: Children’s Interests; Discrimination and Denigration
During The AM Show, host Duncan Garner and then Newshub political editor Patrick Gower discussed various policies the new Labour Government was considering implementing, as well as legislation it planned to change or repeal. Discussing the ‘three strikes’ law, Mr Gower referred to one of the complainants, Mr Garrett, who was involved in introducing the law, and stated, ‘turned out that he had been stealing dead babies’ identities himself before he came into Parliament’. Mr Garner later clarified that it was ‘one dead baby’. The Authority upheld three complaints that the segment was inaccurate and unfair to Mr Garrett. While the broadcaster acknowledged the statement was inaccurate, the Authority found Mr Garner’s correction was dismissive and perfunctory, and insufficient to correct the error. The Authority also considered that the manner and tone in which Mr Garrett was brought up in the discussion, despite the passage of time since his offence, was unfair. The Authority did not make any order, finding publication of its decision was sufficient to publicly notify the breach of standards, and help to repair any harm caused to Mr Garrett.
Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken), Fairness. Not Upheld: Balance, Discrimination and Denigration
During a segment on The Project, the hosts discussed a new artificial intelligence technology capable of detecting a person’s sexual orientation through analysis of their facial features. In response, presenter Jesse Mulligan commented, ‘That’s an amazing story, a computer can tell if you’re gay or not. I hope the computer can keep a secret.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment ‘perpetuated the prejudiced view that homosexuality [was] something to be kept secret and… shameful’. The Authority found that, while Mr Mulligan’s comment could be seen as ‘clumsy’ or tactless, it was clearly intended to be humorous and it did not actively encourage the different treatment, or devalue the reputation of, gay people as a section of the community. A high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, is necessary to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration, and in this case, the Authority did not consider Mr Mulligan’s comments reached the high threshold necessary to find a breach of the standard, or to warrant limiting the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
During a sports news segment on Breakfast, the sports presenter was discussing American golfer Jordan Spieth’s victory at the British Open Championship. At the end of the segment the presenter remarked, ‘Yeah, they don’t have very good humour the British, do they? They probably didn’t get [Mr Spieth’s] speech.’ A complaint was made that this comment was ‘racist and untrue’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding the comment was not malicious and was unlikely to cause widespread offence, therefore any potential harm caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy
A promo for the latest season of 7 Days showed comedians featured on the programme preparing the show’s host for the ‘potentially hostile environment’, by heckling and pelting him with objects. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this promo trivialised the issue of bullying. The promo was a parody sketch of the type of heckling typically made by contestants during an episode of 7 Days, and common to live comedy programmes of this genre. It sought to recreate this live comedy environment in a humorous, satirical and highly exaggerated way, and in this context, the promo did not condone, encourage or trivialise bullying behaviour.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence, Discrimination and Denigration
Four items on Newshub featured stories related to the United Kingdom and/or the British Royal Family. The Authority did not uphold complaints that the Newshub items and the reporters’ comments were biased, unfair and derogatory towards the United Kingdom and/or members of the British Royal Family. The Authority found that the news reports did not contain any material which discriminated against or denigrated any section of the community, or which could be said to be unfair to members of the British Royal Family. The items also did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance which triggered the requirement for balancing perspectives to be given, and did not raise accuracy or programme information issues.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness, Balance, Accuracy, Programme Information
An item on Newshub reported on the conviction and sentencing of a New Zealand woman, A, for the murder of her 20-year-old severely autistic and intellectually disabled daughter, B. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item ‘sympathised with the murderer over the victim’ and ‘morally absolved [A]’. The broadcast was a factual news item which reported on the outcome of criminal proceedings involving A, and largely reflected the Judge’s statements at sentencing. It was focused on the circumstances of A’s particular case and did not contain a discussion of the wider issues of violence against disabled people or family violence, and therefore did not require balancing perspectives on these issues. While the item could be seen to report A’s sentence with some sympathy, it was based on the Judge’s findings and did not promote or condone harm against disabled people. In the context of a factual news report about the outcome of A’s case, the item also did not reach the threshold for encouraging discrimination against, or the denigration of, people with disabilities. Notwithstanding its findings, the Authority acknowledged the complainant’s concerns about important societal issues, such as the status of disabled people in our community and the proper understanding of disabilities.
Not Upheld: Balance, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration
An episode of Shortland Street featured a storyline about the developing relationship of a young same-sex couple, and included several scenes of the two kissing, including shots of them from the waist up in bed together. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these scenes breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The Authority acknowledged there is value in programmes such as Shortland Street, which provides entertainment and reflects contemporary society and evolving social issues and attitudes. Shortland Street is a PGR-classified medical drama series that has screened in the 7pm timeband for many years. It is well known for featuring adult themes. In that context the level of sexual content did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency, nor would be likely to adversely affect any child viewers. The depiction of kissing in itself did not go beyond what is expected of the PGR classification, and no further sexual activity was shown. Given the nature of the programme and the PGR classification, any child viewers could reasonably be expected to be under adult supervision, and viewers were given the opportunity to make a different viewing choice for themselves and their children.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy
Four episodes of The Windsors, a British satirical comedy series, parodied the British Royal Family with reference to topical events. The episodes featured exaggerated characters based on members of the British Royal Family and contained offensive language and sexual material. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the episodes failed general standards of common taste and decency, and denigrated and ridiculed the Queen and her family. The Authority found that the episodes were clearly satirical and intended to be humorous. While this particular brand of humour may not be to everyone’s liking, the right to freedom of expression includes the right to satirise public figures, including heads of state. In the context of an AO-classified satirical comedy series, which was broadcast at 8.30pm and preceded by a warning for coarse language, viewers were sufficiently informed about the episodes’ likely content and were able to make a different viewing choice. The episodes did not contain any material which promoted illegal or antisocial activity, raised privacy issues, or triggered the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy
An item on 1 News reported on the then President-Elect Donald Trump’s meeting with rapper Kanye West, and President-Elect Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. At the end of the item, the newsreader stated, ‘And Trump has also chosen a climate change denier, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, to become his Secretary of Energy’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the term ‘climate change denier’ was deeply offensive to all climate change sceptics, particularly because it linked them to ‘Holocaust deniers’, and was inaccurate and unbalanced. ‘Climate change sceptics’ are not a recognised section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies. In any event, the term was used in this item merely to describe a particular perspective on the issue of climate change. The term did not amount to a material point of fact in the item, nor did it amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance. Therefore the requirements of the accuracy and balance standards were not triggered.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Balance
During the Leighton Smith Show, presenter Leighton Smith, in relation to a headline regarding Pope Francis’ warning to then President-elect Donald Trump, ‘do not back away from UN climate pact’, said, ‘I don’t want to offend, certainly not insult, any Catholics listening, but how did you end up with this tosser?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment was derogatory, crude and demeaning. Mr Smith was entitled to express his opinion on the Pope’s stance on climate change and while his comment was considered offensive by the complainant, in the context of a talkback radio show, the Authority did not consider it undermined current norms of good taste and decency. The comment did not breach the other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant, as it reflected Mr Smith’s opinion, did not discriminate or denigrate against a section of the community, and as a public figure speaking publicly on a controversial issue, Pope Francis could have expected commentary and criticism and was therefore not treated unfairly by Mr Smith.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
An item on 1 News discussed the New Zealand Government’s ‘open door policy’ on allowing foreign visitors in New Zealand to drive. The item featured an interview with a road safety campaigner, who said it was unfair that Chinese visitors were able to drive in New Zealand with international licences, while New Zealanders had to apply for a permit to drive in China. The item included numerous references to Chinese drivers in New Zealand, and featured footage of Chinese members of the public. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was discriminatory towards Chinese people. The item was framed around the campaigner’s opinion that there was not a ‘level playing field’ between China and New Zealand. While viewers may not have agreed with the campaigner’s views, his comments did not reach the high threshold required to encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, Chinese people. The comments that were critical of Chinese drivers were also balanced during the item with comments from a Government representative, and the reporter’s comments about accidents in New Zealand involving other nationalities.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Paul Henry about Independence Day celebrations in the USA featured an interview with the USA’s Ambassador to New Zealand. Prior to the interview, Paul Henry referred to the USA claiming ‘its independence from England’. He later quoted Margaret Thatcher, referring to her as the ‘Prime Minister of England’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Henry’s statements were inaccurate and discriminatory in that he should have referred to Great Britain or the United Kingdom, rather than England. The item was focused primarily on Independence Day celebrations and the statements would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the item as a whole. There was also no suggestion that Mr Henry intended to discriminate or denigrate against people of the United Kingdom who were not English.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Story explored the issue of unconscious bias. During the introduction, footage of members of the public walking down the street was shown. Each individual was zoomed in and highlighted with special effects. The Authority upheld a complaint from JW, one of the individuals shown, that she was unfairly ‘showcased’ during the segment. Rather than being a face in the crowd, the edited footage used filming techniques that singled out the complainant and drew her into the issue under discussion without her knowledge or consent. This unduly impacted on her dignity and was unfair. The Authority recognised that bias is a sensitive issue and has the potential to cause hurt and offence. It is also an important social issue. In this context, without undermining the value of the item as a whole, the Authority considered more care should have been taken in the way the footage was edited to avoid the singling out of individuals who were unaware they would be featured. The Authority did not consider that JW had a reasonable expectation of privacy when she was filmed on a busy public street. Nor did the item reach the high threshold necessary to encourage viewers to treat differently, or devalue the reputation of, any section of the community.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Privacy, Discrimination and Denigration; No Order
The sports presenter during a ONE News bulletin described the performance of the Blues rugby team as ‘schizophrenic’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the term was unacceptable and contributed to the stigmatisation of people with mental illness. The Authority recognised that the use of the term ‘schizophrenic’ to describe a sports team may be seen as insensitive and inappropriate. However, in the context of this item the Authority found the comment did not reach the high threshold for encouraging discrimination against, or denigration of, those with mental illness. The term was used in a colloquial manner, and did not contain any malice towards people with mental illness.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Newshub reported on the world’s first legally recognised Pastafarian wedding between two members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (CFSM). The reporter referred to the CFSM as a ‘spoof religion’, and stated, ‘Pastafarians believe that pirates are supreme beings from which all humans evolved, and it’s an official religion’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that describing the CFSM as a ‘spoof religion’ was denigrating, disrespectful and discriminatory. It took the view that the broadcaster’s reference to the Church as a ‘spoof religion’ was an opinion which was available to be taken and able to be expressed, and that the high threshold required for discrimination and denigration to be established had not been reached. The Authority also did not uphold a complaint that the reference to pirates as ‘supreme beings’ was inaccurate. The comment would have been seen as nonsense which was incidental to the point of the broadcast. The focus of the item was that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster had been authorised to conduct marriage ceremonies and that the world’s first such ceremony had taken place in New Zealand.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
During an episode of The Crowd Goes Wild, the hosts discussed the results of the US Masters golf tournament. Host Mark Richardson, referring to English golfer Danny Willett (who ultimately won the tournament), commented in relation to footage of Mr Willett playing a hole, ‘you’re leading the Masters – how’re you going to handle this, you pommy git? Right, so pretty well then, old chap I see’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the phrase ‘pommy git’ was openly racist and derogatory. The hosts of The Crowd Goes Wild are known for their style of presentation and humour, which is often irreverent and ‘tongue-in-cheek’. The comments were not ‘nasty’ or ‘derogatory’ and were not intended to reflect negatively on English people generally. In these circumstances, the use of the term ‘pommy git’ did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency and did not reach the high threshold for encouraging the denigration of, or discrimination against, all English people as a section of the community.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
In an episode of an American sitcom Dr. Ken, Dr Ken met his wife’s successful former boyfriend, Dr Kevin O’Connell, and was jealous. At the end of the episode, Dr O’Connell was portrayed as being drunk and asking Dr Ken’s staff for a lift home. The three staff all replied in unison, ‘I’ll do it!’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the scene normalised rape and portrayed rape against men as a ‘laughing matter’. In the context of a fictional sitcom, which was intended to be humorous, the scene did not carry any level of invective, and could not be said to have encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of, men as a section of the community.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Sunday exposed the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of the dairy industry in the Waikato region. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was an unbalanced and inaccurate depiction of dairy farming, and breached a number of other broadcasting standards. The Authority found the item was sufficiently balanced, as the perspective of the dairy industry was given both within the item and within the period of current interest. The item was not inaccurate or misleading in the ways alleged by the complainant; rather, it focused on instances of bad practice within the dairy industry and did not suggest these were commonplace. Furthermore, the item did not breach the privacy of a local farming family, as they were not identifiable or otherwise referred to in the footage. The broadcaster exercised adequate care and discretion when showing footage of cruelty against bobby calves.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Privacy, Violence, Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness
ONE News reported on the recent death of a woman in Remuera and said her alleged attacker (who had name suppression) had appeared in the Auckland District Court that day. The reporter described the alleged attacker as a ‘24-year-old Pacific Island man’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the reference to the alleged attacker’s race was offensive and racist. The Authority acknowledged that the reporter’s commentary, which included racial identification, could be seen as unnecessary given that the ethnicity of the alleged attacker was no longer critical following his arrest. However, the reporter’s description of the man was factual, and the comments did not reach the high threshold for finding that the item encouraged discrimination against, or denigration of, Pacific Islanders as a section of the community.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration