BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Allison and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2020-142 (16 March 2021)

  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
  • Keith Allison
The AM Show

Warning: This decision contains language that some readers may find offensive.


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

The Authority did not uphold a complaint that use of the term ‘wanker’ was inappropriate and offensive in breach of the good taste and decency standard. Taking into account the relevant contextual factors, the use of the term was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence, or undermine widely shared community standards.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency

The broadcast

[1]  On the 26 August 2020 episode of The AM Show on TV3, the hosts discussed the most expensive sandwich in the world as follows:

[Duncan Garner] …How much should you pay for a sandwich if it’s a fancy sandwich? There's a cafe at the end of the road, charges 10 to 14 dollars for sort of fancy sandwiches. But in Chicago, on the menu of this restaurant, there's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for 350 U.S. dollars. It is the most expensive sandwich in the world at 350 US dollars, 500 New Zealand bucks.

[Amanda Gillies] Where are they sourcing the nuts?

[Garner] Ok, very good question. So it is fancy all natural peanut butter, Manuka honey from a place called New Zealand.

[Gillies] Oh that’s worth it…

[Garner] That’s worth 10 bucks. And the world’s most expensive seedless redcurrant jam from France. I’m sorry, the golden goose is what it’s called. The golden goose, which needs to be ordered one day in advance, has only been ordered three times. But would you?

[Mark Richardson] I’m picking up a massive mark-up on that already, but I think it’s a great idea because there are plenty of people that I would describe as wankers…those people, if you give them the opportunity to horrendously waste their money on something like that because it looks cool, they’ll take that opportunity…you can make plenty for their w-ness.

[Gillies] I was thinking, can we say w-ness from now on, and maybe a word that rhymes with bankers that begins with W just to be safer on TV?

[Garner] …in this instance the word that you chose

[Richardson] was necessary

[Garner] appropriate…

[Richardson] …they are come on

[Garner]…so there are at least three of those W’s in America…

The complaint

[2]  Mr Allison complained that the item’s use of ‘wanker’ breached the good taste and decency standard.1 He argued Mr Richardson could have used an alternative word to describe what he had intended and added:

I am at a loss to understand why Richardson is using offensive language as general conversation which is going into homes around the country, and being heard by children.

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  MediaWorks apologised to Mr Allison for the offence that the broadcast may have caused him but did not uphold Mr Allison’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • The word ‘wanker’ is at the low end of the offensive language scale. ‘Wanker ranked 23rd out of a list of 31 words in the Broadcasting Standards Authority’s 2018 research Language that May Offend’.
  • ‘In this instance it was used in an appropriate context, which we believe was unlikely to have resulted in widespread undue offence or distress to The AM Show’s target audience.’

The standard

[4]  The good taste and decency standard states that current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast. It is intended to protect members of the audience from viewing broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2

Our analysis

[5]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[6]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. As we may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified, it is important we weigh the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast.3

Good Taste and Decency

[7]  The standard’s purpose is not to prohibit challenging material, or material that people may find offensive. It is to ensure sufficient care is taken so that such material is played only in an appropriate context, and that the material is not so offensive that it is unacceptable regardless of context.4 The context in which the content occurs, and the wider context of the programme, are relevant in the assessment of a complaint under this standard.5 The question is whether this broadcast exceeded what the community would consider to be acceptable, in this context.

[8]  Research conducted by the Authority in 2018 into community views about the acceptability of certain words found the term ‘wanker’ ranked low in overall unacceptability: 23 (out of 31) for words considered ‘totally unacceptable in all scenarios’.6

[9]  The relevant contextual factors considered include:

  • The nature of the programme and the channel: The AM Show is a news and current affairs programme.  
  • The programme’s classification and scheduling:  The AM Show is unclassified and screens every weekday morning from 6am to 9am on TV3. While we recognise that children may be part of the audience at this time before school, the show is targeted at an adult audience and it is reasonably expected that child viewers would likely be supervised.
  • Whether the programme was pre-recorded or live: This is a live show.
  • Audience expectations of the channel and the programme: There are established audience expectations of the programme format, and the hosts, including that it will feature a level of banter, informal commentary, jokes and the expression of the hosts’ opinions.7

[10]  Also relevant are the following factors:

  • The AM Show’s target audience would be familiar with Mr Richardson’s style, manner and type of humour.
  • In this instance, the term was not directed at any particular individual, nor was it used in a manner intended to be abusive. Mr Richardson was expressing his opinion on the particular subject matter.
  • The word was used once and was fleeting. He subsequently referred to the word using ‘W’.
  • Following the use of the term, co-host Ms Gillies suggested the use of alternatives to the word to be ‘safer’.

[11]  For the above reasons we do not find the item breached the standard. While the term ‘wanker’ may offend some, its use in this context is unlikely to undermine widely shared community values, or cause widespread undue offence or distress.

[12]  We therefore do not uphold this complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Judge Bill Hastings


16 March 2021



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

1  Keith Allison’s formal complaint – 2 September 2020

2  MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 30 September 2020

3  Mr Allison’s referral to the Authority – 11 October 2020

4  MediaWorks’ confirming no further comments – 9 November 2020

1 Standard 1, Free-to-air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Commentary: Freedom of Expression, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
4 Cherry and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2017-077 at [10]
5 Guideline 1a
6 Language That May Offend in Broadcasting, Broadcasting Standards Authority, page 6
7 See Gale and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-106 at [18] and Martin and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2020-002 at [16].