BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-119 (17 November 2021)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Donald McDonald
Discovery NZ Ltd


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

The Authority did not uphold a complaint about a Newshub Live at 6pm item on the Paralympics depicting a hug between sisters Lisa Adams and Dame Valerie Adams. The complaint was that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests, and law and order standards as the Paralympics occurred amid the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst various physical distancing restrictions were in force. The Authority found the item did not breach the standards specified as it did not encourage non-compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, nor was it likely to cause widespread undue offence, or harm to children watching.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Law and Order

The broadcast

[1]  An item in the sports segment of Newshub Live at 6pm on 29 August 2021 reported on Lisa Adams winning a gold medal in shot put at the Paralympics.

[2]  The host introduced the segment as follows:

… Well, New Zealand is celebrating a second gold medal at the Paralympics in Tokyo, and the name will come as no surprise. Lisa Adams was able to celebrate with her sister and coach Dame Valerie Adams, after claiming shot put gold last night...

[3]  The segment consists of an interview with Ms Adams, containing the following excerpts, as well as a close-up shot of Ms Adams hugging Dame Valerie:

James Regan:  Lisa's gold now giving her bragging rights alongside her ridiculously talented family. Brother Stephen plays in the NBA and her sister is a double Olympic champion, and Dame Valerie, who coaches Lisa, was right there for the special moment.

Lisa Adams:     You know, smashes me in the gym, but I'm grateful for it. Look, we're, you know, look, what's come of it? It's amazing. So she's just got decades of knowledge, and I'm really grateful that I get to, you know, sponge off her.

James Regan:  the final embrace in the Olympic Stadium, bringing a close to three years of gruelling hard work and sacrifice.

The complaint

[4]  Donald McDonald complained the segment breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests, and law and order standards.

[5]  He argued the hug was contrary to COVID-19 restrictions as Discovery NZ Ltd (Discovery) ‘did not establish that the sisters were in a bubble’. Instead, Discovery relied on an assumption that the sisters were sharing a bubble. The complainant suggested that broadcasting this shot provided a ‘bad role model’.

The broadcaster’s response

[6]  Discovery did not uphold the complaint as the sisters were presumably in a bubble together. This presumption is supported as Dame Valerie was both Ms Adams’s coach, and her sister. This was evident as Ms Adams jokingly referred to her coach ‘slamming her in the gym’.

The standards

[7]  The good taste and decency standard1 states current norms of good taste and decency should be maintained, consistent with the context of the programme. The standard is intended to protect audiences from content likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.2

[8]  The children’s interests standard3 requires broadcasters to ensure children are protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them. Material likely to be considered under this standard includes violent content or themes, offensive language, social or domestic friction and dangerous, antisocial or illegal behaviour where such material is outside the expectations of the programme’s classification.4

[9]  The law and order standard5 states broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order, taking into account the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast. Its purpose is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.6 It does not stop broadcasters from discussing or depicting criminal or illegal behaviour.7

Our analysis

[10]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[11]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.8

[12]  The context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast are important considerations when assessing potential harm under each of the standards raised.9 As the same contextual factors and other considerations are relevant to our assessment of each of these three standards, we have addressed them together. Key contextual factors in this case include:

  • The report concerned Ms Adams’s gold-medal win at the Paralympics. It did not reference COVID-19 or COVID-19 restrictions.
  • The Paralympics took place in Tokyo subject to local COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Newshub Live at 6pm is a news programme with an adult target audience.
  • Repeated reference was made to the relationship between Ms Adams and Dame Valerie.

[13]  In this context, we do not consider the broadcast was likely to cause widespread undue offence, cause any harm to child viewers, or encourage non-compliance with the Government’s Alert-level conditions. There was no suggestion the hug breached applicable COVID-19 restrictions. In the circumstances, viewers are likely to assume the hug was permissible (for example, due to a bubble arrangement).

[14]  In addition, there is an expectation that parents exercise discretion around viewing news and current affairs programmes with their children.10 Accordingly, any confusion that a child may have had regarding physical distancing restrictions, could be answered by the supervising adult.

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


Susie Staley
Acting Chair
17 November 2021



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

1  Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 6 September 2021

2  Discovery’s response to the complaint – 30 September 2021

3  Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 30 September 2021

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comments – 8 October 2021

1 Standard 1 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
3 Standard 3 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
4 Guideline 3a
5 Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
6 Commentary: Law and Order, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15
7 As above
8 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
9 Guidelines 1a, 3c, and 5b
10 See Maysmor and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-048 at [13].