BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Kehoe and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2021-084 (22 September 2021)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • William Kehoe
Police Ten 7


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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint alleging a segment on Police Ten 7 breached the discrimination and denigration standard. A man called a woman who had called the police a ‘nosey motherf***ing white c***’. The Authority found in the context of the long-running series, and the particular programme, this comment did not reach the threshold for a finding that it encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration

The broadcast

[1]  An episode of Police Ten 7, a reality TV show which follows the work of police officers in New Zealand, contained a segment where a woman called the police regarding two dogs locked in a hot car. When the car’s owner returned, he claimed the dogs hadn’t been in there for an hour (as the woman alleged). They had the following exchange, which was bleeped, subtitled and censored as follows:

Woman:          Don’t lie.

Man:               Yeah, up yours.

Woman:          You’re a gentleman.

Man:               Nosey motherf***ing white c***.

Woman:          Oh pull the race card.

Police Officer:  Cool it, cool it.

The complaint

[2]  William Kehoe complained this breached the discrimination and denigration standard, as it was ‘blatant unacceptable racism’, and the woman ‘was called a white motherfucker’.

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  TVNZ did not uphold the complaint, noting ‘all the coarse language in the segment is removed, and the closed captions for the encounter have censored versions of the swear words’. It submitted:

  • The comments were made by the man and ‘reflect his annoyance that he is being called out for not properly looking after his dogs’.
  • ‘The comments, while rude, are directed at one person, not a group of people’ and the woman responded ‘and puts her position across on [the man’s] comments and manner in the exchange’.
  • With reference to BSA Decision No. 2011-121,1 ‘the episode in question here also realistically portrays the work of police – in this case in de-escalating the situation, and making sure that the dogs are going to be OK. The programme did not encourage the denigration or discrimination of any section in the community, the man’s words are portrayed for what they are, an expression of his truculent and difficult demeanour’.

The standard

[4]  The discrimination and denigration standard2 protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief. It protects sections of the community from verbal and other attacks, and fosters a community commitment to equality.

[5]  ‘Denigration’ is defined as devaluing the reputation of a particular section of the community. ‘Discrimination’ is defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular section of the community, to their detriment.3 

Our analysis

[6]  We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[7]  The right to freedom of expression is an important right in a democracy and it is our starting point when considering complaints. We weigh the right to freedom of expression against the harm that may have potentially been caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified, in light of actual or potential harm caused.

[8]  Where discrimination and denigration complaints are concerned, the importance of freedom of expression means that a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will usually be necessary to find a breach of the standard.4 The importance of the right is also recognised in the guidelines to the standard, which state it is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion.5

[9]  The standard applies only to recognised ‘sections of the community’, which is consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993.6 We accept that referring to the woman as ‘white’ may reference a section of the community, and therefore the standard applies.

[10]  We have previously found ‘Police Ten 7 is designed to be a raw and real presentation of what life is like for police working on the streets, sometimes in very difficult situations…in this context, where police are dealing with difficult individuals, viewers expect some degree of challenging content…’7 With this in mind, we considered the context of this broadcast, applying the following relevant factors:8

  • Police Ten 7 was broadcast at 7.30pm and was classified PG.
  • The programme has an adult target audience.
  • The programme has been running for nearly 20 years and this segment was consistent with expectations of regular viewers.
  • The coarse language used in the comment was censored both in the subtitles and audio.
  • The broadcast included the woman’s response to the comment, and the Police Officer’s request for the man to ‘cool it’.

[11]  Taken together, these factors mean the broadcast did not reach the high threshold required for a finding that it encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard.

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



Susie Staley
Acting Chair
22 September 2021    




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

1  William Kehoe’s complaint to TVNZ – 1 July 2021

2  TVNZ’s decision on the complaint – 27 July 2021

3  Mr Kehoe’s referral to the BSA – 27 July 2021

4  TVNZ’s final comments – 23 August 2021

1 Freeman and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-121, at [7] and [25]
2 Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
3 Guideline 6a
4 Guideline 6b
5 Guideline 6c
6 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 16
7 Freeman and Television New Zealand, as above, at [7]
8 Guideline 6d