Maksimovic and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-087 (9 December 2020)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
- Valentina Maksimovic
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An item on Breakfast discussed Novak Djokovic, his recovery from COVID-19, his comments regarding efforts to contain the virus, and the others infected at a tennis tournament he organised. The Authority did not uphold a complaint the presenter’s description of Mr Djokovic as ‘a dick’ breached the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found the use of the word would not have caused widespread undue offence or distress or undermined widely shared community values.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
 An item on Breakfast broadcast on TVNZ 1 on 3 July 2020 reported men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic, and his wife had recovered from COVID-19. Mr Djokovic tested positive while playing in the Adria Tour, a tournament he organised. Several other players who participated in the tournament also contracted the virus.
 The report described how Mr Djokovic had previously described measures to contain COVID-19 as ‘extreme’. Following the report, presenter John Campbell said ‘he’s a dick’, referring to Mr Djokovic.
 Ms Valentina complained that calling Mr Djokovic ‘a dick’ breached the good taste and decency standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. She questioned why Mr Campbell was still employed as a presenter on Breakfast.
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold Ms Valentina’s complaint for the following reasons:
- Breakfast is aimed at an adult audience.
- Mr Campbell is known for his ‘colourful and colloquial mode of communication’ which is consistent with the programme’s ‘casual and conversational approach’ to news and current affairs.
- Mr Campbell has previously expressed a similar viewpoint on Mr Djokovic, criticising his decision to proceed with the Adria Tour during the COVID-19 pandemic and his anti-vaccination stance.
- ‘Mr Campbell’s sentiments echoed widespread criticism’ of Mr Djokovic’s decision to proceed with the Adria Tour and the Tour’s ‘lax implementation of safety protocols’ relating to the virus.
- Mr Djokovic has previously been criticised by Breakfast presenters in relation to a statement he made in April 2020 indicating he would oppose a COVID-19 vaccine.
- The criticism of Mr Djokovic was not related to his nationality.
- The word ‘dick’ is a common colloquialism and is at the low end of the offensive language spectrum. The Authority’s Language that May Offend in Broadcasting research ranked it as one of the most acceptable words surveyed.
- The Authority has not recently decided any complaints about the word ‘dick’, because ‘it is rarely complained about’.
 The good taste and decency standard states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme. The Authority will consider the standard in relation to any broadcast portraying or discussing material in a way that is likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.1
 In New Zealand we value the right to freedom of expression. When we consider a complaint, we weigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression against the level of actual or potential harm caused by the broadcast. We have viewed a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 The context in which such a statement occurs and the wider context of the broadcast are relevant to assessing whether a programme has breached the good taste and decency standard.2
 In this case, the following contextual factors are relevant:
- While the word was directed at Mr Djokovic it was used in an offhand or colloquial way rather than an aggressive way.
- The word was used to express disapproval of Mr Djokovic’s actions in relation to the Adria Tour.
- The word was used once and was not repeated.
- Breakfast is a news/current affairs programme with an adult target audience.
- The segment was consistent with the kind of light-hearted and colloquial discussion on Breakfast. The tone and language used would be within audience expectations of the programme.
 In our Language That May Offend in Broadcasting research the word ‘dick’ ranked 26 out of 31 words tested for offensiveness.3 This suggests the general level of unacceptability for this word in the community is low.
 In this context, the word would not have caused widespread undue offence or distress, or undermined widely shared community values.
 Accordingly, we do not uphold this complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
9 December 2020
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Valentina Maksimovic’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 5 July 2020
2 TVNZ’s response to Ms Maksimovic – 28 July 2020
3 Ms Maksimovic’s referral to the Authority – 28 July 2020
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 17 August 2020
1 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
2 Guideline 1a
3 Language That May Offend in Broadcasting (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2018), page 6