BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Thwaites and Radio New Zealand Limited - 2021-078 (22 September 2021)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Simon Thwaites
Morning Report
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Radio New Zealand


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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint under the discrimination and denigration and fairness standards about an item on Morning Report. The Authority did not consider referencing the iwi affiliation of the subjects featured in the piece discriminated against or denigrated other New Zealanders stuck in India due to COVID-19 who are not tangata whenua. It also found the complaint did not identify a particular individual or organisation that was alleged to have been treated unfairly in the broadcast, so the fairness standard did not apply.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness

The broadcast

[1]  An item on Morning Report, broadcast on RNZ National on 5 May 2021, reported on New Zealanders in India trying to get home. The relevant excerpts of the report follow:

New Zealanders in India are feeling hopeless about their chances to escape the COVID ravaged country as they watch the country's cricketers fly out on private jets this morning. The Indian Cricket Association is paying for chartered flights for Indian Premier League players to their homes, including two jets coming to Aotearoa. And that's cold comfort for other New Zealanders who can't leave despite their best efforts. Jordan Bond reports… Hundreds of thousands of cases every day and likely tens of thousands of deaths. Hospitals are full and people are dying on the streets. Yet New Zealanders have next to no way out of India as airlines restrict or stop flights out completely and the Government is not offering any help. [The interviewee’s] parents are in India for work and had to stay to see out a contract on an engineering job, and now her father of Ngāti Porou and mother of Ngāi Tahu can't come back to their whenua.

The complaint

[2]  Simon Thwaites complained that the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration and fairness standards for the following reasons:

  • This was not an appropriate context to mention whakapapa. Mentioning the descent of the interviewee’s parents implies their descent was relevant in repatriating them to New Zealand. Their descent is irrelevant when discussing repatriation and therefore it is not necessary to mention it.
  • ‘The vast majority of kiwis stranded for work in India at this present time are New Zealanders of Indian descent. The broadcast at the very least implies that there is a distinction to be drawn between people of Māori descent and others who are stuck in India.’
  • ‘Whether intentional or not [the report] gave the impression to the listener that one particular group, based on their ethnicity, were in particular need of repatriation…it was wrong at the time and deeply upsetting to my friends in the Indian community.’

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  RNZ did not uphold Mr Thwaites’ complaint for the following reasons:

  • ‘The report highlighted a growing desperation among Kiwis in India, whose return to New Zealand was blocked by a lack of airline flights, cancelled due to the COVID-19 epidemic while, incidentally the Indian Cricket Team were flying out on private jets that day.’
  • The interviewee spoke of her parents returning to their whenua. ‘While it may not have been obvious to all Pākehā listeners, to a number of Māori the connection would have been obvious and it was quite natural to describe the parent’s whakapapa or tribal connections to the land to which they wanted to return.’
  • It was neither discriminatory nor unfair under the standards of the radio code.’

The standards

[4]  The discrimination and denigration standard1 states broadcasters should not encourage 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 purpose of this standard is to protect sections of the community from verbal and other attacks, and to foster a community commitment to equality. The standard does not apply to individuals or organisations, which are dealt with under the fairness standard.2

[5]  The fairness standard3 protects the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes.4 It ensures individuals and organisations are dealt with justly and fairly and protected from unwarranted damage.

Our analysis

[6]  We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[7]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh 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.5

Discrimination and denigration

[8]  We first consider whether the complaint relates to a recognised ‘section of the community’ for the purposes of the standard. The complainant has raised concerns relating to the other New Zealanders not of Māori descent who were stranded in India at that time. This is a broad group of people who may not necessarily share the same race or other features and accordingly does not amount to a ‘recognised section of the community’ as intended by the standard.6 The standard therefore does not apply and we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

[9]  In any event, we do not consider the broadcast implied there was a ‘distinction to be drawn between people of Māori descent and others who are stuck in India’. As submitted by the broadcaster, it was natural and appropriate for the iwi affiliation of the interviewee's parents to be referenced. It provided context, enhancing listeners’ understanding of the relevant individuals’ circumstances.


[10]  We understand the complainant’s concern was the potential unfairness of the broadcast to New Zealanders, not of Māori descent, who were stuck in India at that time. The fairness standard is concerned with protecting against undue harm to the dignity and reputation of any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.7 As the complaint does not relate to a particular individual or organisation featured in the broadcast, the fairness standard does not apply.

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


Susie Staley
Acting Chair
22 September 2021    




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

1  Simon Thwaites’ original complaint to RNZ – 20 May 2021

2  RNZ’s response to Mr Thwaites – 22 June 2021

3  Mr Thwaites’ referral to the Authority – 16 July 2021

4  RNZ confirming no further comments – 11 August 2021

1 Standard 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page
3 Standard 11 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
4 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
5 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
6 See for example Truijens and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2019-012 at [16] and Lowes and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-064 at [10]
7 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21