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Hummelstad and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2018-077 (14 November 2018)

  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Rhys Hummelstad
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Three (MediaWorks)


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

A complaint about a Newshub item in which the presenter commented, ‘And I thought the only reason we watch Aussie Rules [AFL] was for the short shorts’, has not been upheld by the Authority. The Authority found that the comment, while inappropriate, did not reach the threshold to be considered a serious violation of community norms of good taste and decency. The Authority acknowledged the importance of contextual factors in considering whether the standards have been breached, including the nature of Newshub as an unclassified news programme and audience expectations of the broadcast. The Authority recognised that the statement was not made with malice or nastiness and found the comment did not breach the discrimination and denigration, balance or fairness standards.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Fairness 

The broadcast

[1]  A Newshub item reported on a skilful goal made during an Australian Rules football (AFL) match. During the item, one of the female presenters said: ‘And I thought the only reason we watch Aussie Rules [AFL] was for the short shorts’.

[2]  The item was broadcast at 6:40pm on 28 July 2018 on Three.

The complaint

[3]  Rhys Hummelstad complained the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, discrimination and denigration, balance and fairness standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  Mr Hummelstad submitted that the comment was offensive and sexist. Mr Hummelstad said it would be a clear breach of broadcasting standards if a male presenter had made a similar statement about a female athlete.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  In response to the complaint, the broadcaster submitted that despite being ill-considered, the presenter’s comment was lighthearted and did not reach the threshold required to breach the standards nominated.

[6]  Although MediaWorks did not uphold the complaint, Mr Hummelstad’s concerns were discussed with Newshub’s Head of Television News. She agreed that the presenter’s ‘shorts’ comment was inappropriate, and the presenter had been ‘counseled.’

The standards

[7]  Mr Hummelstad raised four broadcasting standards in his complaint. When we assessed his complaint, we found the good taste and decency standard to be the most relevant, so we have focused our decision on this standard. The remaining standards raised are addressed briefly at paragraph [13] below.

[8]  The good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence. The Authority will also consider the standard in relation to any broadcast that portrays or discusses material in a way that is likely to cause offence or distress.

Our findings

[9]  Our starting point is that we recognise the importance of the right to freedom of expression, which includes both the broadcaster’s right to present information and ideas to the public, and the audience’s right to receive that information. We weigh the value of the broadcast item, as well as the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast, either to an individual or to society or the audience generally.

Good Taste and Decency

[10]  When we consider the good taste and decency standard, context is highly relevant to our assessment of whether the broadcast undermined widely-shared community standards.1 In our consideration of this complaint we found the following contextual factors to be relevant:

  • Newshub is an unclassified news programme broadcast at 6pm each weekday.
  • Newshub is targeted at an adult audience.
  • The nature of news programmes, which frequently contain strong or adult material – so the Authority recognises that children are unlikely to be watching unsupervised.

[11]  Having regard to these factors, we have reached the view that the comment did not reach the threshold required to find a breach of the good taste and decency standard. While the presenter’s comment was inappropriate for a news broadcast, it was not explicit and was unlikely to be understood by any children watching the broadcast. It was not made with any malice or nastiness or directed at a particular individual. We understand some viewers, including the complainant, have found this comment offensive. However, considering audiences’ expectations of Newshub and the brief, light-hearted nature of the comment, it was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress to viewers.

[12]  In any event we note MediaWorks has spoken to the presenter about the complainant’s concerns with this comment, reducing the risk of potentially offensive or inappropriate comments being made in the future. We consider that in this instance, this was a proportionate response.

[13]  Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

Remaining standards raised

[14]  We have summarised below our findings in relation to the other standards raised in Mr Hummelstad’s complaint, and the reasons these standards were either not applicable or not breached:

  • Discrimination and Denigration: The presenter’s comment did not carry the level of malice or invective required to constitute a breach of this standard.
  • Balance: This broadcast did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance that required the presentation of significant alternative viewpoints.2
  • Fairness: This standard only applies to individuals or organisations taking part or referred to in a broadcast. Mr Hummelstad has not identified any person or organisation as being the subject of any unfairness arising from the broadcast. It cannot be applied to men as a group of people.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Judge Bill Hastings
14 November 2018 



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

1       Rhys Hummelstad’s formal complaint – 28 July 2018
2       MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 24 August 2018
3       Mr Hummelstad’s referral to the Authority – 7 September 2018
4       MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 27 September 2018

1  Guideline 1a

 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18