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Lowes and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2019-064 (16 December 2019)

  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
  • Archie Lowes
The AM Show
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Three (MediaWorks)


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

During a segment on The AM Show that discussed immigration to New Zealand host Mark Richardson said: ‘we’re clearly not getting enough English immigrants to become traffic officers’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Richardson’s comment was discriminatory to nationalities that are ‘not English’ in breach of the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority found the complainant did not identify a ‘section of the community’ for the purposes of the standard. The Authority also found that, considering audience expectations of The AM Show and Mr Richardson, the light-hearted nature of the comment and other contextual factors, the comment did not reach the threshold required to be considered discriminatory or denigratory.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and denigration

The broadcast

[1]  During a segment on The AM Show regarding immigration, host Mark Richardson said ‘[t]he English, they’re everywhere’ in reference to a question regarding the numbers of people immigrating to New Zealand. Mr Richardson then said ‘we’re clearly not getting enough English immigrants to become traffic officers’.

[2]  The episode was broadcast on Three on 13 June 2019. As part of our consideration of this complaint, we have viewed a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[3]  Archie Lowes complained that the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  Mr Lowes submitted that the reference to the need for more English immigrants as traffic officers was ‘clearly discriminatory’ to nationalities that are ‘not English.’ Mr Lowe submitted that this comment implied people who are not English are ‘inferior’.  

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  MediaWorks did not uphold Lowes’ complaint, finding no breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.

The standard

[6]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 6) protects against broadcasts that encourage discrimination against, or denigration of 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. The standard applies to ‘sections of the community’ which is consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993.1

[7]  In its assessment of whether a broadcast encourages discrimination or denigration, the Authority must always consider the context of the broadcast.2 For there to be a breach under this standard, the broadcast must have been considered to contain ‘a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness’.3

Our findings

[8]  The right to freedom of expression, including the broadcaster’s right to impart ideas and information and the public’s right to receive that information, is the starting point in our consideration of complaints. Equally important is our consideration of the level of actual or potential harm that may be caused by the broadcast. We may only interfere and uphold complaints where the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.  The harm alleged on this occasion is encouraging the different treatment of, and devaluing the reputation of, races and nationalities that are not English through Mr Richardson’s comment.

[9]  The discrimination and denigration standard states that ‘broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community’ on account of ‘race’, amongst other factors.  The complainant has identified people who aren’t English as the ‘section of the community’ who have been discriminated against by Mr Richardson’s comment, citing numerous different races and nationalities as examples.

[10]  Taking into account the wide range of races and nationalities that are not English, we do not consider people who are ‘not English’ amount to a ‘recognised section of the community’ as intended by the discrimination and denigration standard.  For these reasons, we find the discrimination and denigration standard does not apply and we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

[11]  In any event we note that Mr Richardson’s comment did not have the high level of condemnation required to encourage discrimination or denigration under the standard. Considering Mr Richardson is known for expressing often provocative opinions, audience expectations that The AM Show will, at times, broadcast controversial content and opinions, and the light-hearted nature of Mr Richardson’s comment, we do not consider the comment would have reached the threshold requiring our intervention (even if a ‘recognised section of the community’ had been identified).

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority




Judge Bill Hastings


16 December 2019    





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

1  Archie Lowes’ formal complaint –13 June 2019

2  MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 24 July 2019

3  Mr Lowes’ referral to the Authority – 14 August 2019

4  MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 17 September 2019

1 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15
2 Guideline 6d
3 Guideline 6b