BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Marston and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2022-117 (20 December 2022)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
  • Tim Marston
MediaWorks Radio Ltd
The Rock


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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a segment on The Morning Rumble featuring ‘songs that I can guarantee won’t be played’ at Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral breached the offensive and disturbing content standard. One of the songs was ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen, which the complainant considered was in bad taste. The Authority found the segment was within audience expectations of the radio station and the programme, and sufficiently signposted to allow listeners an opportunity to exercise choice and control. Therefore it was unlikely to cause widespread disproportionate offence or distress or otherwise undermine widely shared community standards.

Not Upheld: Offensive and Disturbing Content

The broadcast

[1]  During The Morning Rumble, broadcast on 19 September 2022 on The Rock, the hosts acknowledged Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the significance of her funeral (which would occur later that day), and the impact her death had on people given her ‘incredible life of service… There’s no doubt she’s done a lot for a lot of people and a lot of people are really sad… about her passing’.

[2]  Host 1 then went on to note that ‘there are others that aren’t as sad’, with Host 2 acknowledging ‘you’re not a royalist and that’s fine, cause not everyone is’.

[3]  Following these acknowledgments, Host 1 noted some people would choose the song that would be played at their funeral and went on to suggest songs that he could ‘guarantee won’t be played’ at the funeral. Excerpts of songs, and related commentary, included:

  • Tie Your Mother Down, by Queen (introduced by Host 1 as ‘with the Queen passing, surely, you’d have some Queen’). Host 1 continued ‘that’s not very nice… but it’s not as bad as this Queen one that I was gonna go.’
  • Another One Bites the Dust by Queen was then played, and Host 2 stated ‘No. Bro.’ while Host 3 laughed then commented they ‘can’t even look at’ the host.
  • Who Let the Dogs Out, by Baha Men (Host 1 introduced it as ‘for the corgis when they realise that Prince Andrew is now looking after them’, with Host 2 commenting ‘and also, who let that dog out’.)

[4]  The ‘number one’ song that will not play at the funeral was said to be One Last Breath, by Creed.

The complaint

[5]  Tim Marston complained the broadcast breached the offensive and disturbing content standard of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand:

  • ‘On the day of the Queen’s funeral, they began to play songs that wouldn’t be played at her funeral. One of them was Another one bites the dust. This was in bad taste.’
  • The Queen’s funeral ‘was a significant event in British history and indeed world history, a lot of ex pats live in New Zealand and just because it's English news does not mean it can't be insensitive or in bad taste.’

The broadcaster’s response

[6]  MediaWorks did not uphold the complaint, noting:

  • ‘The Rock has a target audience of 25-44 males and is well known for appealing to that audience using humour and irreverent adult-oriented content...’
  • The ‘distant proximity of New Zealand to the United Kingdom will mean that many New Zealanders, and especially The Rock listeners, are unlikely to be as culturally invested in the British royal family’ as the complainant suggests. The ‘broadcast of the very popular and well-known track [‘Another One Bites the Dust’] is unlikely to have offended a majority of listeners.’
  • ‘The “compilation of a list of songs that I can guarantee won’t be played at Queen Elizabeth's funeral” was a tongue-in-cheek response to an event of international significance, an event that provoked a wide variety of responses from various communities around the world. To uphold this complaint would be a severe limitation on the station’s freedom to impart information to their audience and the audience’s right to receive information according to their own tastes [and] preferences for entertainment, within established norms. Furthermore, the broadcast did not air during the Queen’s funeral. The breakfast show aired over 12 hours before the funeral because of New Zealand’s time difference with the United Kingdom.’

The standard

[7]  The offensive and disturbing content standard1 states:

Broadcast content should not seriously violate community standards of taste and decency or disproportionately offend or disturb the audience, taking into account:

  • the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast, and
  • the information given by the broadcaster to enable the audience to exercise choice and control over their own, and children’s, viewing or listening.

Our analysis

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

[9]  Our starting point is to consider the important right to freedom of expression, which includes both the broadcaster’s right to offer a range of content and information to its audience, and the audience’s right to receive it. The Authority’s role is to weigh up the right to freedom of expression and the value of the broadcast against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where limiting the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society.2

[10]  We acknowledge the complainant considered the timing of this segment and specifically the song Another One Bites the Dust (being a euphemism for death) to be in bad taste, as it could be seen as making light of the Queen’s death in close proximity to her funeral. Others may also have found it offensive for this reason.

[11]  However, attitudes towards taste and decency – including various types of humour and what people may find funny – differ widely and continue to evolve in a diverse society such as ours. The standard does not prohibit challenging material, but rather ensures that broadcasts fall within the broad limit of not causing widespread disproportionate offence or distress or seriously undermining widely shared community standards.3

[12]  The context in which the song was referenced, and the wider context of the broadcast, are crucial in assessing whether the broadcast exceeded this limit. We considered the following contextual factors to be relevant in this case:

  • The Morning Rumble is a breakfast radio talkback programme with a humorous note.4 It is promoted on The Rock’s website, ‘Start your day with the goodness of randomness, in-fighting, a whole lot of piss-taking and more than a few nuts.’5
  • The Rock has an adult (typically male) target audience that expects the station will often feature adult themes and edgy or challenging content and music.6
  • The broadcast date was also the date of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral (following her death on 8 September 2022), although the funeral was set to occur later that day.
  • The hosts emphasised upfront the significance of the Queen’s funeral, noting four billion people would be watching a broadcast of the funeral later that day. They also acknowledged the level of appreciation around the world for the Queen’s life of service and that many people were extremely saddened by her passing.
  • The segment that followed was clearly signposted by the host as featuring ‘songs that I can guarantee won’t be played at the Queen’s funeral’. Another One Bites the Dust was the second song referenced.
  • The co-hosts’ reactions acknowledged the song was in bad taste through statements such as ‘No. Bro.’ and ‘I can’t even look at you’.
  • The broadcaster considered this particular segment was a tongue-in-cheek response to an event of international significance, consistent with The Rock’s usual style of humour.

[13]  We also consider it relevant the Authority has previously found similar humour acceptable (in its particular context), such as:

  • A joke on 7 Days referring to Prince Philip shortly after his death.7
  • A promo showing a parody of the Biblical Last Supper shown during the week before Easter.8
  • A news report on an unconventional celebration of Easter (featuring an image showing Jesus Christ inside the lid of a toilet seat) on Good Friday.9

[14]  The segment was clearly intended for comedic effect and offered a different take on a topical event, consistent with audience expectations of the programme and The Rock radio station. Although the humour may not have been to everyone’s taste, humour and satire commenting on current events are forms of speech that are valued and protected by the right to freedom of expression. In the context, we do not consider the segment or the song choice was likely to cause widespread disproportionate offence or distress, or that it seriously violated widely shared community standards. We also note the broadcaster provided sufficient information to enable the audience to exercise choice and control and make a different listening choice if they wished.10

[15]  In these circumstances, we have not found any harm arising from the broadcast that warrants regulatory intervention or restricting the right to freedom of expression.

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


Susie Staley
20 December 2022    




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

1  Tim Marston’s formal complaint to MediaWorks – 21 September 2022

2  MediaWorks’s decision on the complaint – 25 October 2022

3  Marston’s referral to the Authority – 25 October 2022

4  MediaWorks’s response to the referral – 13 November 2022

5  Marston’s final comments – 29 November 2022

6  MediaWorks confirming no further comments – 30 November 2022

1 Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
2 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
3 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 8
4 Alcohol Healthwatch Trust and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2020-053, at [12]
5 The Rock “Shows” Mediaworks Radio <>
6 See Sandbrook and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2017-096 at [12]; and Weich and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2016-023 at [14]
7 Hall and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-051
8 Durward and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-031
9 Moore and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2003-071
10 Guideline 1.3