Hector and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2023-086 (7 November 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Martin Hector
ProgrammeNine to Noon
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has declined to determine a complaint alleging an item on Nine to Noon breached the offensive and disturbing content standard, due to a presenter using the expression ‘effing annoying’ when describing a character in a book review. In light of the Authority’s guidance on complaints that are unlikely to succeed and previous decisions on low-level offensive language, the Authority considered it appropriate to decline to determine this complaint.
Declined to Determine (section 11(b) in all the circumstances the complaint should not be determined): Offensive and Disturbing Content
 An episode of Nine to Noon, broadcast on 29 August 2023, contained a segment reviewing current books, during which the presenter used the phrase ‘effing annoying’ when describing a character.
 Martin Hector complained that the broadcast breached the offensive and disturbing content standard, on the basis the presenter ‘deliberately and without need used the shortened version of the F word for effect’ and that ‘Listeners do not expect to hear such an unnecessary utterance of an expletive during this time of daytime show at all’. In response to the broadcaster’s comments below, the complainant added:
- ‘Variations of Fuck are still not acceptable except when used for a reason such as when quoting someone, especially for instance like in this case when Ffffing [sic] was of no relevance and during time children are listening.’
- Commentators are not free to use whatever words they like, and RNZ would come under huge pressure if the presenter used discriminatory language.
- It is untrue that RNZ audiences are not offended by the phrase, as the complainant, an RNZ listener, was offended.
The broadcaster’s response
 RNZ did not uphold the complaint, stating the following:
- [The presenter] is free to express himself as colourfully as he likes in this segment.
- The expression ‘effing annoying’ is not on any prohibited list of offensive words.
- The Nine-to-Noon audience is not offended or disturbed by its use.
Outcome: Decline to determine
 Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined.
 The decisions of the Authority issued over time, and the Authority’s publication of Complaints that are Unlikely to Succeed,1 provide guidance to broadcasters and complainants about what is acceptable under the broadcasting standards.
 The Authority has consistently found low-level bad language (which we consider includes the term ‘effing’) does not breach the offensive and disturbing content standard when used as exclamations or emphasis, and when used in the context of an unclassified news programme or current affairs show (such as Nine to Noon).2
 Given this consistent approach, the Authority considers it appropriate to exercise its s 11(b) discretion in this instance. There is no need for this Authority to address such issues any further.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
7 November 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Martin Hector’s formal complaint to RNZ – 2 September 2023
2 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 6 September 2023
3 Hector’s referral to the Authority – 7 September 2023
4 RNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 22 September 2023
1 See Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Complaints that are Unlikely to Succeed” <bsa.govt.nz> at “Low Level Language”
2 See: Jones and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2023-006; Jeffries and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-081; Franklin and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2022-113; McCaughan and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2020-165; Francis and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2021-045; and Lough and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2017-080