BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Steel and The Radio Network Ltd - 2006-008

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Brian Steel
Radio Sport

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio Sport – talkback programme – caller criticised the Kiwi rugby league team – host responded “get your head out of your arse”

Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – contextual factors – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] On Saturday 7 January 2006, at approximately 11.35am, the host of a sports talkback programme responded to a caller’s criticism of the Kiwi rugby league team by commenting “get your head out of your arse”.


[2] Mr Steel complained about the use of the phrase “get your head out of your arse”.


[3] TRN assessed the complaint under Principle 1 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Principle 1

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] In its response to the complaint, the broadcaster noted that the programme in which the comment occurred was a “hard hitting, provocative and robust” show. It observed that this could sometimes “descend to name calling” from both the host and the caller.

[5] On this occasion, it noted, the caller was adamant about the lack of quality in the Kiwi rugby league team, which caused the host to use the language which was the subject of the complaint.

[6] While it accepted that the statement would be unacceptable on some shows, TRN maintained that, taking into account the audience knowledge of this particular programme, and the “nature, tenor and record” of the programme, the statement “just [got] by”.

[7] The broadcaster noted that it had cautioned the host about using suitable language in future.

Referral to the Authority

[8] Dissatisfied with the response from the broadcaster, Mr Steel referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[9] While the complainant acknowledged the broadcaster’s assertion that the show was of a robust nature, he did not agree that the language was acceptable, regardless of the genre of programme in which it was included. He noted that TRN had acknowledged that the phrase used was marginal.

Authority's Determination

[10] The members of the Authority have listened to a copy of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[11] When the Authority considers a complaint alleging a breach of good taste and decency, it takes into account the relevant contextual factors. On this occasion, the relevant contextual factors are:

  • the robust nature of talkback, which the Authority has acknowledged on numerous occasions
  • the adult target audience of the programme

[12] Further, the Authority considers that the host did not use the phrase in a nasty or abusive manner; the statement was simply a colloquial way to say “don’t be narrow-minded”. This was reinforced by the fact that the caller did not appear to take offence at the comment.

[13] The Authority notes that in a previous decision (No. 2003-044) it upheld a complaint about a host telling a caller to “stick his head up his arse”. It considered that the phrase was offensive and in breach of Principle 1. In contrast to that case, the Authority considers that the language used on this occasion, although coarse, was not intended to be gratuitously offensive or abusive.

[14] The Authority acknowledges that the broadcast was at a time when children might have been listening, but considers, in light of the above factors, that the comment did not breach standards of good taste and decency.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
21 March 2006


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

  1. Mr Steel’s formal complaint to The Radio Network – 18 January 2006
  2. The Radio Network’s response to the formal complaint – 27 January 2006
  3. Mr Steel’s referral to the Authority – 2 February 2006
  4. The Radio Network’s response to the referral (file note) – 14 February 2006