O’Sullivan and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2022-138 (22 March 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Jeffrey O’Sullivan
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint concerning a reporter’s thanking and farewell on behalf of ‘the tangata whenua, from the indigenous people here in Aotearoa’ in an interview with Chilli from TLC. The complainant considered it was ‘highly offensive and racist to single out specific groups of people and not include all people of New Zealand’. The Authority found the standard did not apply, as the comments did not target a recognised section of the community for the purposes of the standard. In any event, the comments did not reach the threshold required for a breach of the standard.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
 A segment on Seven Sharp, broadcast on TVNZ 1 on 11 November 2022, included an interview by reporter Te Rauhiringa Brown with Chilli (of African American, Arab and Bangladeshi descent) from the music group TLC ahead of their performance in Tāmaki Makaurau | Auckland. Brown (who is of Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Apakura and Ngāti Kahu descent) concluded the interview by stating:
Thank you so much. From the tangata whenua, from the indigenous people here in Aotearoa [Chilli: aww, I love that!], tēnā koe, thank you so much. Nō mātou te whiwhi, we're so lucky to have you. This is a dream come true for me and I cannot wait to see you on stage next weekend.
 Back in the studio, Hilary Barry commented, ‘it’s so good to see Te Rau so starstruck’.
 Jeffrey O’Sullivan complained the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand:
- It was ‘highly offensive and racist to single out specific groups of people and not include all people of New Zealand.’
- This behaviour ‘only serves to drive a racist divide across New Zealand. I feel the only recourse for this is an on air apology by this reporter.’
- On referral to the Authority and in response to the broadcaster ‘saying [that] because the presenter was of Māori descent that what was talked about was acceptable’, ‘I would argue that if a white presenter had welcomed Chilli to New Zealand on [behalf] of all white people then that would not be acceptable’.
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold the complaint, stating:
- It ‘did not identify any material in the item that could reasonably be perceived as encouraging discrimination against, or denigration of, a section of the community. There was certainly no material in the programme in which a high level of condemnation was expressed toward a section of the community, or which embedded negative stereotypes.’
- ‘Ms Brown's reference to the indigenous people here in Aoteaora implied that, according to Ms Brown, TLC are held in high regard by Māori. We perceive no reason to conclude that by referring to TLC's importance to her own community, this meant that Ms Brown was encouraging discrimination against, or denigration of, others.’
 The discrimination and denigration standard1 protects against broadcasts which encourage the 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 importance of freedom of expression means a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will usually be necessary to find a breach of this standard.2
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 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 and uphold a complaint where the harm is such that limiting the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society.3
 The discrimination and denigration standard applies only to the recognised sections of the community set out in the standard and in the Broadcasting Act 1989.4 People who are not tangata whenua of Aotearoa New Zealand (‘tauiwi’5) are not a recognised section of the community under the standard.6 Given New Zealand’s multicultural society, nor do we think the comments could reasonably be interpreted as targeting or excluding people of one particular ethnicity (for example, ‘white’ people).
 Accordingly, we find the discrimination and denigration standard does not apply on the basis the reporter’s comments did not relate to any recognised section of the community.
 In any event, we are satisfied the item would not have met the threshold required for a breach of the standard. The right to freedom of expression protects individuals’ – including broadcasters’ – right to express themselves in their own words.7 The comments reflected the reporter’s, and her ancestry’s, high regard of Chilli and did not contain any malice or condemnation.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
22 March 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Jeffrey O'Sullivan’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 13 November 2022
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 December 2022
3 O’Sullivan’s referral to the Authority – 8 December 2022
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 12 December 2022
1 Standard 4, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
2 Guideline 4.2
3 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
4 Section 21(1)(e)(iv)
5 Referring to people who are not tangata whenua: “tauiwi” Te Aka (online ed)
6 See Kirke and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-020 at  where we made a similar finding regarding English speakers
7 Findlay and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2022-078 at