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.
Please note that you will need to select specific standard/s, as well as a broadcasting code, to return decision results.
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A complaint from Seafood New Zealand Ltd (Seafood NZ) about an interview between Morning Report host Guyon Espiner and Dr Russell Norman of Greenpeace was not upheld. Dr Norman and Mr Espiner discussed Greenpeace’s view that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) had been ‘captured’ by the fishing industry, and why MPI has not prosecuted anyone for under-reporting whiting catches, with reference to a leaked MPI report from 2012. While RNZ acknowledged the interview did not meet its internal editorial guidelines, as it should have at least acknowledged the views of other stakeholders, the Authority did not find any breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority found the interview was unlikely to mislead listeners as it was clear that the interview comprised Dr Norman’s and Greenpeace’s opinions and analysis. The Authority noted that, although the interview was clearly presented as being from Greenpeace’s perspective, Mr Espiner did challenge Dr Norman during the interview, and another broadcast later the same day contained comment from both Seafood NZ and MPI. The Authority emphasised the importance of holding central government departments to account in a way that is balanced and fair, and concluded that in this instance the broadcaster achieved this and did not breach broadcasting standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
A complaint about the use of the word ‘gypped’ during a segment of Sarah, Sam and Toni has not been upheld. The Authority found the host’s use of this word on this occasion did not carry any malicious intent and therefore did not reach the threshold required to be considered a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard. While the Authority did not uphold the complaint, they acknowledged that the casual use of this term and its variants may cause offence to some members of the public and noted care is required when using expressions relating to sections of the community.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has upheld one aspect of a complaint from three complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Panthic Vichar, broadcast on community radio station, Planet FM. During the programme, host Kuldip Singh made a number of allegations against the complainants, regarding use of grant money and cheating or ‘unjust’ behaviour at a kabaddi tournament. The Authority found that the host’s comments reflected negatively on the complainants and as such, they should have been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint. The Authority acknowledged the limited resources available to the broadcaster, but reminded it of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, including where the broadcast subject to complaint is in a language other than English. The Authority did not make any orders.
Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy. No Order.
The Authority has not upheld complaints from 20 complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme, Bhakhde Masley. During the programme, the host questioned the teachings of a deceased Sikh religious figure by posing hypothetical questions about how he and his widow, now also deceased, had children. The host implied that, given the leader’s teachings about celibacy, his widow and other family members must have had sex with animals. The complainants alleged that this discussion breached the privacy of the individuals referred to, and was degrading and humiliating. The Authority acknowledged that the segment was in poor taste, but found that the broadcast was not in breach of the standards raised by the complainants. The individuals referred to were either deceased (so the privacy standard could not apply) or lived overseas, making it difficult to assess the harm that could have been caused. The discussion was ultimately hypothetical and was not intended to be taken literally. The Authority noted that the right to freedom of expression comes with responsibilities by those who exercise it, and it is clear that this broadcast caused offence and significant division within the Sikh community in New Zealand. On this occasion, however, the Authority could not uphold the complaints based on the particular standards raised.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
During the talkback programme, Overnighter, host Garry McAlpine invited listeners to call in to discuss the issues facing New Zealand in 2018, one of which was the upcoming cannabis referendum. Mr McAlpine strongly expressed his view, throughout the programme, that cannabis should be decriminalised for medicinal and recreational use. A number of callers, including the complainant, expressed their views on the subject, with some supportive of, and others opposed to, Mr McAlpine’s views. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this programme was in breach of broadcasting standards. Talkback radio is known for robust discussion, and broadcasting standards recognise that it is an opinionated environment, with hosts granted some latitude to be provocative and edgy in the interests of generating robust debate. This programme in particular featured genuine discussion on an important issue in New Zealand. As such, the harm alleged to have been caused by the complainant did not outweigh the host’s, or callers’, right to express their opinions as part of a talkback discussion about New Zealand’s future, even if some listeners might have disagreed or found those views distasteful.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration
A segment on Polly & Grant for Breakfast featured the hosts reading out and discussing a list of countries referred to as ‘the last places on Earth with no internet’. The list was long and included countries such as India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The list was evidently sourced from an online article that contained relevant information about the countries listed having internet user penetration rates of less than 20%. That information was omitted during the broadcast, and created an impression that the countries listed had no internet. The Authority nevertheless did not uphold a complaint under the accuracy standard. The Authority noted that the accuracy standard only applies to news, current affairs or factual programming and found that it did not apply to this light-hearted, entertainment-based programme. The Authority noted that, while the information broadcast was incorrect, the hosts’ discussion of the relevant countries did not contain the malice or invective required to encourage discrimination or denigration, or undermine widely shared community standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
A segment on The Country featured the host interviewing The Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern not long after she began her term as Prime Minister. Towards the beginning of the interview the host asked the Prime Minister, ‘Do you wake up and say to yourself, “Holy shit! I’m Prime Minister!” and have to pinch yourself?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the host’s comment breached community norms of good taste and decency and was discriminatory. Taking into account relevant contextual factors including low level of offensive language used, the light-hearted tone, and audience expectations, the broadcast did not threaten community norms of good taste and decency, or justify restricting freedom of expression. There was no malice or condemnation underlying the host’s comment, so it did not reach the threshold for encouraging discrimination against any section of the community.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency. Discrimination and Denigration
During a talkback segment on Overnight Talk, a caller rang up to discuss Metiria Turei’s resignation as Co-Leader of the Green Party in the wake of benefit and electoral fraud allegations. The caller made the remark that, ‘[i]t’s almost a situation where, the Green Party are in a room and Metiria dropped a big, fat, juicy, smelly fart.’ A complaint was made that the caller’s comments were demeaning and derogatory towards Ms Turei, and breached the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, noting that the discrimination and denigration standard applies only to sections of the community, and it does not apply to individuals. Even had the standard applied, the Authority was satisfied that, while some may find the choice of language distasteful, the comments did not reach the high threshold necessary to find a breach.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
During a talkback segment on Sportstalk, the host Mark Watson criticised northern hemisphere sports media and the British and Irish Lions rugby team. The host made provocative statements about the Lions team who were at that time touring New Zealand, saying, among other things, ‘hopefully you get smashed’. The host then engaged in a heated discussion with a talkback caller about northern hemisphere rugby and rugby media. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the host’s comments undermined broadcasting standards. The comments made, while critical and provocative, did not exceed audience expectations within the robust and opinionated environment of talkback radio, and particularly on Radio Sport. The Authority noted that the free and frank expression of opinions is an important aspect of the right to freedom of expression, and is valued in our society. Mr Watson was entitled to express his opinion, even if it was critical or if others disagreed, and his comments were not so offensive that they reached a level which warranted the Authority’s intervention. The Lions team and its supporters are not a section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies, and the balance standard was also not applicable to this particular segment.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance
During a Gospel Hour programme on Radio Voqa Kei Viti Aotearoa, a Fijian language station, the announcer used the term ‘iTaukei’ in her greetings to listeners, which the broadcaster submitted referred to the indigenous Fijian population in New Zealand and elsewhere overseas. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the term ‘iTaukei’ meant ‘owner’ in English (and therefore referred to New Zealand Māori), and that use of this term caused division and unrest amongst the station’s Fijian listeners. The Authority found that, while the announcer’s use of the term may be seen by some as divisive and politically-charged, it was not offensive, incorrect or discriminatory to an extent that would justify the Authority intervening and finding a breach of broadcasting standards, and as a result limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. The Authority however reminded the broadcaster of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, which did not occur in this case.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy, Fairness
During a talkback segment on the Leighton Smith Show, the host discussed the recent legal personhood granted to the Whanganui River. The complainant, Mr Haines, phoned in to the programme to discuss the issue. After a two-and-a-half minute conversation, Mr Smith responded that it was ‘stupidity to give [the Whanganui River] equal status as a person. Now get off the phone,’ and made comments about Mr Haines self-identifying as Māori. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Smith’s statements were derogatory and insulting to Mr Haines and to Māori people. While the Authority acknowledged that Mr Smith’s comments could be seen as dismissive and disrespectful, in the context of the robust talkback radio environment, they did not reach the level necessary to constitute unfair treatment or to encourage discrimination or denigration. Mr Haines was afforded a fair and reasonable time to put forward his views. Mr Smith’s disagreement in response was typical of the talkback genre, in which hosts often express contentious or strong views in the interests of generating debate, and of his well-known forceful style. The Authority noted that the free and frank expression of opinions is an important aspect of the right to freedom of expression, and is valued in our society. Mr Smith was entitled to express his opinion, even if it was critical or if others disagreed, and it did not reach a level which warranted the Authority’s intervention.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance
An interview was broadcast on Saturday Morning with a British comedy writer and producer. Following a discussion about causing offence to audiences, the interviewee recalled his time as a radio host and a complaint he received from the Bishop of Oxford about a crucifixion joke. He could not remember the joke, and the presenter invited listeners to ‘…send in a series of very funny jokes about the crucifixion to see if we can approximate it’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s remark was against common decency and offensive to Christians. The remark was not intended to trivialise or make light of the act of crucifixion or the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and did not reach the threshold necessary to encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, the Christian community.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
During a segment on Jay-Jay, Dom & Randell, the show’s hosts asked callers to submit a ‘corny joke’. A caller submitted the following joke: ‘What’s the hardest part about cooking a vegetable? Trying to fit the wheelchair in the pot.’ Before the caller delivered the punchline, one of the hosts (who believed he knew the joke), asked his co-hosts to switch off their microphones so they could discuss it. The hosts also spoke to their producer, asking whether it was appropriate to air the punchline to the joke. After some deliberation, they decided to allow the joke to be broadcast. The hosts reacted to the punchline by saying, ‘No! No! That’s a terrible joke!’ and ‘That’s not a joke!’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the segment was in poor taste and discriminatory. While the Authority found the joke to be offensive and distasteful, taking into account the context of the broadcast and the reactions of the hosts, it did not consider the material reached the threshold necessary to find a breach of the good taste and decency standard. The broadcast of the joke also did not amount to hate speech or vitriol intended to encourage the different treatment, or devalue the reputation of, people with disabilities as a section of the community.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Checkpoint discussed the return of a child after she went missing off the coast of New Zealand with her father. Extensive media coverage reported that the pair had sailed to Australia on a catamaran and that the family was involved in a custody dispute, with proceedings pending under the Care of Children Act 2004. The item aired after the child had been located and featured an interview with the child’s mother, who discussed her fears for her daughter’s safety, and their reunion. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item breached the child’s privacy and treated her unfairly. The information discussed during the interview was in the public domain at the time of broadcast, and the topic was treated sensitively and respectfully by the interviewer. There was also an element of public interest in the child’s welfare and her being found safe. A number of other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant were not applicable or not breached in the context of the broadcast.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
An audio clip promoting the ZM radio station stated that ZM played ‘hit after hit after goddamn hit’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the phrase ‘hit after goddamn hit’ was offensive to those who hold Christian or other religious beliefs and contrary to children’s interests. The Authority acknowledged that use of the term ‘goddamn’ may have caused offence to some listeners. However, in this case it was used as part of the station’s promotional messaging for playing continuous music and was not dwelt upon. Taking into account the right to freedom of expression, and the context of the broadcast, the term ‘goddamn’ could not be said to have encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against, all Christians or others who hold religious beliefs. The broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests, having regard to the station’s target audience and the expectations of its listeners.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Children’s Interests
In June, October and November 2016, Sikh radio station Radio Virsa broadcast four programmes in Punjabi on 107FM. The programmes included host and talkback commentary about a wide range of issues. The Authority received a complaint that these broadcasts contained threatening and coarse language and themes, and offensive statements were made in relation to a number of named individuals in the Sikh community, including the complainant. The Authority found that aspects of these broadcasts were in breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority was particularly concerned that offensive comments were made about named individuals in the local community, which resulted in the individuals’ unfair treatment and, in one instance, a breach of privacy. The Authority also found aspects of the broadcasts, which contained comments about women, were unacceptable in New Zealand society and in breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the remaining broadcasting standards.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
A Nine to Noon programme included a segment featuring UK correspondent Dame Ann Leslie. In response to the host’s question ‘What is on your mind this week?’, Dame Leslie commented on the British Labour Party, its leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Black Lives Matter UK organisation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Dame Leslie’s comments constituted an attack on Mr Corbyn, denigrated the BLM UK activists, and were inaccurate and unbalanced. Mr Corbyn and BLM UK were not treated unfairly, as both could reasonably expect to be subject to robust media scrutiny as a consequence of their public profile. While the item was a current affairs piece to which the balance standard applied, the issues were approached from Dame Leslie’s perspective and listeners would not have expected alternative views to be given. The statements complained about were clearly Dame Leslie’s opinion, and so were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard. The statements about the BLM UK activists did not reach the high level necessary to constitute discrimination or denigration.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Accuracy and Discrimination and Denigration
During Kerre McIvor & Mark Dye Afternoons, the hosts had a conversation about tipping in the United States. They discussed a story told by a talkback caller, who said that a church published a Bible pamphlet to be used instead of a monetary tip. One host, who appeared to be reading from the pamphlet, said, ‘Some things are better than money, like your eternal salvation that was bought and paid for by Jesus,’ to which the other host responded by making a vomiting sound. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the vomiting sound made by the host was offensive to Christians and all those who hold religious beliefs. The Authority acknowledged that the host’s reaction would have caused offence to some listeners. However, the reaction reflected the host’s disagreement with the sentiment of the Bible pamphlet and the host was entitled to express this view. In the context of the broadcast, it did not reach the threshold necessary to encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, Christians or those who hold religious beliefs.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
Hosts on The Morning Sound radio show discussed the news that the Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka had made a number of workers redundant. The hosts commented that the Brewery was where the ‘pretty’ and ‘hot girls’ worked and expressed their concern about them being ‘laid off’, making comments such as, ‘All the pretty girls are going…’, ‘I hope they don’t get rid of any of the hot girls’, and ‘I don’t know if I can drink the beer if it’s not had the ladies’ touch.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this discussion was denigrating or discriminatory towards any female workers made redundant, or to women generally. The hosts were clearly referring to a series of satirical Tui television advertisements, which depicted the Mangatainoka Brewery as being run by women. In any event, any female workers who may have been made redundant were not a section of the community covered by the standard.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
Several weeks before Waitangi Day, during Mike’s Minute on Newstalk ZB, host Mike Hosking made comments critical of Ngāpuhi leader Kingi Taurua and his stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Mr Hosking also suggested that the Prime Minister should ‘flag Waitangi’ because it is an ‘annual ritual of abuse and anger and ignorance’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item encouraged discrimination against Māori and Ngāpuhi and was unbalanced. While the Authority recognised that Mr Hosking’s comments could be considered by some to be insensitive, they were clearly his opinion and protected under the right to freedom of expression. The comments were not framed as reflecting on Māori generally and did not reach the high threshold necessary to encourage discrimination or denigration. Additionally, the item did not contain a ‘discussion’ of controversial issues but rather was clearly presented as an opinion piece. Therefore the broadcaster was not required to present alternative viewpoints. In any event, the host did make reference to countering views, such as those of Kingi Taurua.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Controversial Issues
Worldwatch broadcast a three-part interview series with Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, described as ‘one of the most powerful women in the Middle East’ and ‘a forceful advocate for Palestinian self-determination and peace in the Middle East’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the interviews amounted to support for terrorism, ‘[s]olely blame[d] Israel for all the Palestinian suffering’, and contained a number of inaccurate and misleading allegations about the Israel-Palestine conflict. The interviews did not contain several of the statements complained about, but were rather the complainant’s interpretation of what he considered Ms Ashrawi had implied. Other comments complained about were clearly Ms Ashwari’s opinion, to which the accuracy standard did not apply. The interview did not encourage the denigration of or discrimination against Israelis, but was rather a considered discussion about negotiations between Israel and Palestine that was not inaccurate, discriminatory, unfair or irresponsible.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness, Responsible Programming
In its Morning Report programme RNZ replaced the Pacific and Te Manu Korihi bulletins with ‘feature or lead stories’, including those with a Māori focus. The Authority declined to determine a complaint about this scheduling change, finding it raised matters of editorial discretion and personal preference rather than broadcasting standards.
Declined to Determine: Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming
During Talk with Willie and Alison, host Willie Jackson referred to a caller (who seemed to snore, rather than talk, on the other end of the phone) as ‘one of those crackers’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the term ‘cracker’ was a racial slur which discriminated against white people and/or poor white people. The host did not appear to use the term in the way alleged by the complainant, but rather as a light-hearted reference to the caller’s state of mind, and could not be said to have encouraged discrimination against, or denigration of, white people and/or poor white people in this context.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
During Talk with Sean Plunket, the CEO of the National Foundation for the Deaf called in to discuss captioning on television, and especially the perceived problem of the lack of captioning of broadcasts of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Mr Plunket argued, ‘You can actually watch the rugby with the sound off, you can see – they’ve got big numbers on their backs – you can see what’s happening’ and asked, ‘Really is this such a problem?’ After further discussion, he stated, ‘You do have a hearing problem because you’re not actually engaging in a conversation’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Plunket’s comments amounted to bullying and denigrated the deaf community. Taking into account freedom of expression and the context of talkback radio and this particular broadcast, Mr Plunket’s comments did not reach the high threshold necessary for a finding that the broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration, nor did they go so far as to breach standards of good taste and decency.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency
Two hosts on George FM Breakfast asked listeners to send in the names and profiles of female users of Instagram described as ‘do-nothing bitches’. The names of two women, A and B, were submitted. The hosts went on to comment extensively on A’s profile, making inappropriate and disparaging comments about her, and also contacted A and interviewed her on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks having found breaches of the fairness and good taste and decency standards was insufficient, and also found that the broadcast breached the privacy of both women.
Upheld: Fairness (Action taken), Good Taste and Decency (Action taken), Privacy
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Law and Order, Responsible Programming, Controversial Issues, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation to A for breach of privacy; section 13(1)(d) $2,000 compensation to B for breach of privacy; section 16(4) $2,000 costs to the Crown