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All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Stark and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-080 (15 September 2021)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Geoffrey Stark
Newshub Live
Discovery NZ Ltd


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

The Authority has declined to determine a complaint about the use of the phrase ‘Jesus Christ’ by an English football fan expressing excitement during a news item covering England’s win against Denmark in the UEFA European Football Championship semi-finals. The Authority has found on numerous occasions the use of ‘Jesus Christ’ or similar terms as an exclamation does not amount to a breach of standards.

Declined to Determine: Good Taste and Decency (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989)

The broadcast

[1]  An item on Newshub Live at 6pm broadcast on 8 July 2021 on Three covered England’s win against Denmark in the UEFA European Football Championship semi-finals. The item showed the reaction of excited fans, in New Zealand and overseas. One fan interviewed for the item said, ‘Jesus Christ I’ve waited a long time for that.’

The complaint

[2]  Geoffrey Stark complained about the term ‘Jesus Christ’, alleging the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard:

I do not believe he was praying or giving thanks to Jesus. Some would term it cursing or blaspheming… Newshub could have 'bleeped' out the swearing. I find it offensive that Newshub disrespects the cherished beliefs of so many.

[3]  Mr Stark also raised the discrimination and denigration standard in his referral, commenting:

I realized when Newshub replied to me that their sense of Good Taste and Decency is very different to mine.  I mentioned in my complaint to them that they were obviously making decisions along lines that could be discriminatory (they will bleep out racial, sexual and some religious language) and the phrase they refused to bleep out was denigrating the faith of many, many people. They termed it one of ‘surprise’, I would call it a term to ‘shock’ or upset.

[4]  Generally when we consider a complaint where the complainant raises additional standards in the referral, we consider whether these standards may be reasonably implied as raised by the original complaint. Given our view on the merits of this complaint, outlined below, it is unnecessary to consider this issue.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  Discovery did not uphold the complaint, responding:

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has routinely and repeatedly found that an exclamation of 'Jesus Christ' as one of surprise, as in this instance, does not constitute a breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority has previously determined and 'consistently recognised that variants of the word 'Jesus' used as an exclamation for the purpose of expressing irritation, dismay or surprise, do not amount to coarse language and in our modern secular society have come to be widely used as part of everyday colloquial speech’.1

Outcome: Declined to determine

[6]  Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.

[7]  The decisions of the Authority issued over time provide guidance to broadcasters about what is acceptable under the broadcasting standards. In 2003 we found the term ‘Jesus Christ’ to be acceptable when it is an informal expression of irritation, dismay or surprise, in similar contexts.2 Since then we have consistently found the term used as an exclamation does not breach the good taste and decency standard,3 or the discrimination and denigration standard.4 

[8]  Given this consistent approach, the Authority considers it appropriate to exercise its s 11(b) discretion in this instance. The broadcaster’s response appropriately directed the complainant to a BSA decision which addressed the point he raised and there is no need for this Authority to address the complaint any further.

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Susie Staley
Acting Chair
15 September 2021



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

1  Geoffrey Stark’s complaint to Discovery – 10 July 2021

2  Discovery’s decision on the complaint – 19 July 2021

3  Mr Stark’s referral to the BSA – 21 July 2021

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comments – 26 July 2021

1 Bloem and TVNZ Ltd, Decision No. 2014-132
2 See Brown and TVNZ Ltd, Decision No 2003-068 at [15]
3 See for example Ten Hove and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2020-044A and Bruce-Phillips and TVNZ Ltd, Decision No. 2020-092
4 See for example Mclean and TVNZ Ltd, Decision No. 2018-046