Complaints that are unlikely to succeed

Guidance on types of complaints that are least likely to be upheld

Te reo Māori

The Authority does not consider the use of te reo Māori, an official language, in broadcasts raises any issues of broadcasting standards and will decline to determine such complaints. Its use is a matter of editorial discretion. Broadcasters are not expected to respond formally to complaints about te reo Māori.

KS and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-135

Low-level language

Isolated instances of low-level bad language will rarely breach the good taste and decency or children’s interests standards, particularly when aired during programmes rated PG or above, or during news bulletins. Words and phrases considered to be low-level bad language include ‘crap’, ‘bloody’, ‘bugger’, ‘wanker’, ‘pissed off’ and ‘shit’. While these words may not be everyone’s language of choice, they have become commonly used. They are unlikely to surprise or offend a significant number of listeners, however this may occur in some cases, eg when used frequently or in an aggressive manner.

Allison and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2020-142 (wanker)

Richards and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2018-006 (shit)

Harvey and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-023 (bugger)

McCaughan and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2020-165 (pissed off)

McCaughan and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2016-062 (piece of piss, bullshit, shit)

Jefferies and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-081 (shit, hell, bloody, pissing)

Lockyer and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2012-089 (crap, pissed off)

Blasphemy

The Authority acknowledges that when broadcasts feature exclamations of words associated with ‘God’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Christ’, ‘Hell’ and the Christian faith, some people might find this offensive. However, these words are not considered to be coarse language and in our modern secular society have become widely used as part of everyday speech. The Authority has consistently found variations of ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ used as exclamations do not threaten widely shared community standards of good taste and decency.

Bruce-Phillips and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-092 (Jesus)

McKane and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-118 (God, Holy Crap)

Nixey and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2020-037 (Satirical segment re Christian figures)

Balance (over time)

The balance standard does not require that every possible view on a complex issue be contained within one broadcast. A key consideration for the Authority when considering a complaint under this standard is whether viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of views expressed in other coverage, including other media (ie is it an ongoing topic of debate). The Authority rarely upholds complaints under the balance standard that a broadcaster is only presenting a particular point of view if the topic has been widely discussed elsewhere from a variety of perspectives.

Egan and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-002

Garrett and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2021-073

Bidwell and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-003 

Cotterall and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2019-072

Personal Preference

It is common for the Authority to decline to determine any complaint regarding the type of programming a complainant would prefer to be included or not included by broadcasters. This is a matter of editorial discretion and personal preference. The Authority’s role is to consider complaints about whether content broadcast has breached broadcasting standards, not to change broadcasters’ content to what a complainant may wish to see included.

Wratt and Mediaworks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-031

Malcolm and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-018

Sheerin and Mediaworks TV Ltd, Decision No. ID2017-022

Fairness applied to politicians/public figures

The threshold for finding a breach of the fairness standard in relation to politicians and public figures is higher than for someone unfamiliar with the media. Politicians and public figures hold a position in society where robust questioning and scrutiny of their policy, roles and behaviour is encouraged and expected. They are frequently capable interviewees, experienced in handling aggressive or inflammatory questioning or other coverage that may be considered unfair for an ordinary person.

Frewen and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-146B

Bowkett and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2020-103

Cowie and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-133

Downes, Penning, Maltby, Massie & Tang and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2020-123

Marra and Mediaworks Radio, Decision No. 2019-023

Content not appropriate for children (Free-to-Air TV)

The 16 & over watershed occurs at 8.30pm on Free-to-Air TV (it does not apply to Pay TV). Content rated 16 may be broadcast from this time and material rated 18 may be screened from 9.30pm. The Authority recognises that this is outside of children’s normal viewing times, even on weekends or during school holidays. Content appropriate for adults may include adult themes, language, violence and sexual content. A higher level of this content is permissible at later time slots. The time a programme is aired, classification it is given, warnings aired before it is broadcast, descriptions of the programme in TV guides and parental control options give audiences choice and control over what they wish to view. The Authority has consistently not upheld complaints about strong adult content being broadcast outside of children’s viewing times when these tools aiding choice and control are available. More information about timebands and classifications can be found here.

McMurchy and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2020-014

Barnao and Mediaworks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-002

Ross and Māori Television Service, Decision No. 2017-045

Ball and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-074

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