BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Jones and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2023-006 (12 April 2023)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
  • Graham Jones


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

The Authority declined to determine a complaint alleging an item on AM breached the offensive and disturbing content and children’s interest standards. The broadcast included the phrase ‘get the bloody hell out of here’. 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 the complaint. 

Declined to determine: Offensive and Disturbing Content, Children’s Interests (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989)

The broadcast

[1]  A segment on AM, broadcast on 9 December 2022, reported on the TranzAlpine and Coastal Pacific scenic train services’ summer schedule. The reporter made the comment ‘as you’ll see, there’s a number of people waiting for us to get the bloody hell out of here’.

The complaint

[2]  Graham Jones complained the use of the phase ‘get the bloody hell out of here’ demeaned viewers, dragging them ‘down into a sordid and repellent level’. The complainant further stated:

  • it was ‘totally inappropriate’ and in ‘very bad taste’, and by being broadcast at 8.00am it could have been viewed by children.
  • ‘While low-level bad language may be tolerated from people being interviewed in news and current affairs programming, the blatant use of it by a reporter is demeaning for viewers and sets a very poor standard for broadcasting within New Zealand.’

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) apologised to the complainant for the offence caused, but did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:

  • The phrase used was a play on the famous Australian advertising campaign from 2006 which used the phrase ‘Where the bloody hell are you’ in a bid to encourage people to travel there.
  • The BSA has provided guidance on ‘Complaints that are unlikely to succeed’, and in relation to low level language, states ‘isolated instances of low-level language will rarely breach standards, particularly when aired during… news bulletins. Words and phrases considered to be low level bad language include[s]…“bloody”. While these words may not be everyone’s language of choice, they have become commonly used.’

Outcome: Declined to determine

[4]  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 by the Authority.

[5]  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.

[6]  The Authority has consistently found low-level language (such as the use of ‘bloody’ and ‘hell’) does not breach the offensive and disturbing content and children’s interest standards when used as exclamations or emphasis, and when used in the context of an unclassified news programme (such as AM).2

[7]  Given this consistent approach, the Authority considers it appropriate to exercise its s 11(b) discretion in this instance. The broadcaster’s response appropriately directed the complainant to BSA guidance which addressed the point raised and acknowledged any offence caused. There is no need for this Authority to address the complaint any further.

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine this complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Susie Staley
12 April 2023



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

1  Graham Jones’s formal complaint – 9 December 2022

2  WBD’s response to the complaint – 19 January 2023

3  Jones’s referral to the Authority – 19 January 2023

4  WBD’s confirmation of no further comment – 24 January 2023

1 See Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Complaints that are Unlikely to Succeed” <> at “Low Level Language”
2 See: 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