BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-073

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Don McDonald

Complaint under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Holmes – light-hearted commentary on a TV3 presenter’s telephone call to Wellington High Court about Justice Ron Young who was hearing TV3’s appeal against some decisions of the Broadcasting Standards Authority – Holmes presenter (Paul Holmes) said that TV3’s presenter (John Campbell) had been getting it “up the chutney” at the appeal hearing – allegedly offensive

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – context – not upheld

When complaint referred to the Authority under s.8(1)(b) in which there is doubt whether broadcaster has had the opportunity to investigate the complaint, the Authority will clarify processes with the broadcaster before formal action initiated

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] A call by TV3 presenter (John Campbell) to the High Court inquiring about the possible political leanings of the judge (Ronald Young J) hearing TV3’s appeal in regard to the Broadcasting Standards Authority’s decision on the complaint about the “Corngate” interview was reported in the “New Zealand Herald”. It was also the subject of comment from the presenter (Paul Holmes) of TVNZ’s Holmes programme.

[2] The commentary on Holmes included a reference to an observation about the hearing apparently made by a TV3 executive to a TVNZ executive, who were present at the hearing, that Mr Campbell, the interviewer for the “Corngate” interview, was getting it “up the chutney”. The item was broadcast on TV One on 12 February 2004 at 7.00pm.


[3] Don McDonald complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the phrase was offensive. Referring to a search of the meaning of the phrase on Google, he claimed that it meant anal intercourse.

Referral to the Authority

[4] When TVNZ failed to respond to the complaint, Mr McDonald referred it to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Standards or Principles

[5] At the Authority’s request, TVNZ assessed the complaint under the standard relating to good taste and decency. Standard 1 of the Free to Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice reads:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.


1a  Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification. The examples are not exhaustive.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[6] Referring to the “rather garbled email” copy of his complaint sent to the Authority by Mr McDonald, TVNZ advised that it had not received the original complaint. It also expressed concern that the Authority had accepted the referral when it was apparent that it had not been through its (TVNZ’s) complaints process. It asked the Authority to check with it when referrals were received which had not been considered by its Complaints Committee.

[7] As for the complaint, TVNZ pointed out that according to the “New Zealand Herald”, TV3 and TVNZ had been “mercilessly mocking” each other that week. It also referred to an article by a New Zealand satirist (Jim Hopkins) which also used the phrase “up the chutney”, and concluded:

It is TVNZ’s view that “up the chutney” means little more than “bringing something unwanted or unfortunate upon oneself.

[8] Referring also to the satirical context in which the comment was made, TVNZ recommended to the Authority that it decline to uphold the complaint.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[9] Describing the comment as a “vicious attack” by one presenter on another, Mr McDonald contended that the phrase was unknown in polite speech. He reiterated his point that, as was apparent in his search on Google, the phrase was offensive.

[10] Mr McDonald maintained that his initial complaint had been to the Holmes programme specifically, and to TVNZ both in Auckland and Wellington.

Authority's Determination

[11] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[12] The Authority has some sympathy with TVNZ in that Mr McDonald’s email in which he made his complaint was not entirely straight forward as to the reasons for the complaint. Furthermore, it was not clear who, of a number of addressees, was the intended recipient and who finally received it. It is apparent that TVNZ’s Programme Standards Manager did not receive it as his name was spelt incorrectly. The Authority also notes that Mr McDonald made an effort to send his email, described as a “Formal Complaint”, to a number of addresses in an effort to ensure that the complaint was acted on.

[13] Nevertheless, to ensure that a broadcaster has had an opportunity to consider a complaint initially, the Authority acknowledges TVNZ’s request to clarify with broadcasters those instances which lack clarity. Accordingly, it will seek clarification when it receives a referral and it appears that the broadcaster has not had an opportunity to respond to the complaint.

[14] When the Authority considers a complaint that a broadcast breaches the good taste and decency standard, it is required to consider the context in which the matter complained about is broadcast. The essential aspect of context on this occasion is the mocking tone in which the remark was delivered.

[15] Although the phrase “up the chutney” is not one with which it is familiar, and while acknowledging that it could in some circumstances be used as an epithet for anal intercourse, the Authority has no doubt that its meaning on this occasion was that provided by TVNZ. In the context in which it was uttered, the phrase carried the meaning that a presenter on another channel had acted unwisely and was in trouble.

[16] Accordingly, the Authority does not accept that the phrase was offensive or that it breached Standard 1 of the code.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
1 July 2004


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

1     Don McDonald’s email complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 14 February 2004
2    Mr McDonald’s email referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 26 March 2004
3    Television New Zealand Ltd’s response to the Authority – 21 April 2004
4    Mr McDonald’s email Final Comment – 20 April 2004