BSA pings Campbell Live

July 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The BSA has ruled against Campbell Live in relation to a complaint from the Insurance Council, and unusually has ordered a summary of the decision be broadcast at the end of the 6 pm news.

There were two aspects where the BSA found Campbell Live were in the wrong.

  1. lack of balance
  2. inaccurately saying no one would front from the Insurance Council

In terms of the balance issue they found:

At no point did MediaWorks present an adequately balancing viewpoint to counter the overarching message of the programme, which was that the insurance industry was ‘substandard’, ‘lamentable’ and generally failing the people of Canterbury. Nor was anything presented to counter the negative portrayal of the general insurance landscape, the quality of repairs carried out or the scope and context of unsettled claims. The only positive reference to the insurance industry was a brief mention that some smaller insurance companies had implemented improved processes – although this comment was made by an advocate for homeowners, not an insurance industry spokesperson.

I think the more important issue is that they were misleading over the Insurance Council being willing to front. The background:

A stage was set with empty chairs holding pictures of Tim Grafton, the Chief Executive of ICNZ, the Chief Executive of EQC and the Minister responsible for EQC and the Canterbury earthquake recovery. Mr Campbell said that all three individuals had been asked to attend but that ‘they are not fronting’. He stated that Mr Grafton ‘declined at the last minute’ and said that it was ‘unbelievable’ that none of them were able to attend. Mr Campbell then approached audience members at random to hear their stories. All of the stories were negative about private insurers, EQC or both.

This was a meeting called specifically for people to complain about their insurers, so it is no surprise that all the stories were negative. But the issue is they said:

Mr Grafton ‘declined at the last minute’

This was false.

A key aspect of MediaWorks’ position is that reasonable efforts were made to provide balance by inviting ICNZ onto the programme – an invitation that it says was declined. It is apparent from the information provided to us that there was a considerable number of emails and phone calls between ICNZ and the programme producer before the date of broadcast, which essentially resulted in a stalemate. From 20 August 2014 up until the broadcast date on 4 September, a Campbell Live producer repeatedly invited ICNZ’s chief executive Tim Grafton to participate in the live broadcast at Shirley Boys High School, and ICNZ repeatedly indicated that Mr Grafton would happily participate in a live interview with John Campbell, but not in front of a live audience or in the proposed location and format. For example, ICNZ said in its correspondence:

  •  Tim Grafton ‘won’t be available for an interview in front of a live audience… [but he is] very happy to have a live one-on-one interview with John Campbell but no audience.’ (25 August)
  •  Mr Grafton was ‘not declining [the] invitation to be interviewed to discuss progress but not in front of an audience’. (30 August)
  •  Mr Grafton ‘remains available to respond positively to your request for an interview but not in the setting [proposed]’. (31 August)
  •  Mr Grafton was available to do a live interview – and had arranged travel and accommodation in Christchurch accordingly – ‘but not in the proposed setting’. (1 September)

[19] Following that correspondence the producer maintained that ‘we need to do all the interviews inside the hall at Shirley Boys High School on Thursday night because that’s where John Campbell will be. Technically, it won’t work to do an interview in another location’. ICNZ asked further questions about the rundown of the event at the school and whether it would cover unresolved claims against EQC or against insurers. The day before the broadcast (3 September), ICNZ indicated that Mr Grafton ‘could also accommodate a pre-recorded interview away from the venue if that worked for [the producer]’.

[20] It was understandable that ICNZ elected to decline the invitation to appear at the school in front of hundreds of dissatisfied homeowners. It was made very clear that Mr Grafton was willing to participate or comment in another way.

Campbell Live refused to do a pre-record or a one on one interview with Grafton. They wanted it to be a spectacle with a hall of angry homeowners howling the insurance rep down.  It certainly would made for good viewing, but not for balanced journalism.

Plunket comments cleared

June 30th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A talkback host’s comments describing award-winning New Zealand author Eleanor Catton as an “ungrateful hua” and a “traitor” were not in breach of broadcasting standards.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has declined to uphold two complaints about RadioLive host Sean Plunket’s comments about Catton speaking critically about the National government at a literary festival in India earlier this year.

Plunket called Catton an ‘ungrateful hua’ and a ‘traitor’, amongst other things.

The BSA received complaints that Plunket’s comments constituted “bullying” and a personal attack on Catton.

The authority’s decision said that “the severity of [Plunket’s] attack and the hostility and aggression of the language used? raised the question of whether this attack went too far”.

However, Plunket’s comments did not breach broadcasting standards, it ruled.

Catton was “powerfully exercising her right to freedom of expression and has had to suffer the responses including those from the broadcaster”, the BSA said.

“Conversely, the broadcaster has exercised its right to freedom of expression and it will have suffered consequences from those who objected to what Mr Plunket said and the way in which he said it.”

The decision from the authority considered that “?different views have been expressed and have been evaluated and those who have expressed or broadcast these views have been judged accordingly”.

“This is how we think things are meant to work in a liberal democracy.

“We do not think that our society would be better off if views such as those of the radio host were staunched.”

Another defeat for the opponents of free speech.

Broadcasting Standards Authority – September Decisions

October 31st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Guest Post by Nigel Kearney:

Broadcasting Standards Authority – September Decisions

The BSA issued 21 decisions in September made up of 9 TVNZ, 4 TV3, 5 radio, 1 Sky and 2 election ads. Only one was (partially) upheld and, as you would expect, most had no real merit and were quickly disposed of. The decisions can be found here.

There’s no point in trying to analyze the merit or reasoning of the decisions because the very existence of the BSA is inconsistent with free speech. But what we can do is amuse ourselves with the foolishness of the complainants and, occasionally, the authority itself.

The silliest complaint decided in September was made by a Rebecca van der Kley of Christchurch. It concerned a Fair Go investigation into a Christchurch roofer who had taken money from customers and not completed the work. The roofer was interviewed and gave his side of the story so you may wonder what the problem was.

One of the roofer’s excuses for his non-performance was that he had mental health issues. He volunteered this information when he knew he was on camera. Apparently Ms van der Kley was nevertheless sufficently outraged that she decided to lodge a complaint alleging a breach of the fraudster’s privacy.

It’s possible for anyone to complain to the BSA about a breach of someone else’s privacy. It doesn’t matter whether the ‘victim’ considers their privacy has been breached or may even have voluntarily revealed the information. These kind of complaints seem very popular. Normally, a complaint about breach of broadcasting standards has to be lodged with the broadcaster first but a privacy complaint can be made directly to the BSA. I’m no psychologist, but I think maybe the sort of people who make these complaints prefer a ‘blab to the teacher’ approach rather than directly confronting the person they have a problem with, and the privacy standard allows them to do that.

Dishonourable mentions for most unjustified complaining go to Metua Pekepo of Auckland for complaining about inaccuracy where the Internet party was referred to by the name of its bankroller instead of the offical party name, and to Elizabeth Samuel of Kaiapoi for complaining about the word ‘fuck’ being used in show screened after 8:30 and after a warning about ‘frequent use of coarse language’. Apparently it was too soon after 8:30 or something.

As I said above, I don’t believe the BSA serves any purpose, and therefore no complaint should be upheld ever. But it’s worth noting their rationale for declining a complaint by Victor Wieland of Auckland about lack of balance in a global warming story:

“…this item did not purport to discuss the different sides of the debate around the existence, or causes of climate change. It simply reported the latest findings of the IPCC, so it did not amount to a ‘discussion’ which required the presentation of alternative views.”

I wonder if it would be the same if there was a story on the economy consisting entirely of repeating some findings from the NZ Initiative.

This post would not be complete without mentioning the ‘heifers and lardos’ comment by Rachel Smalley. Chris Du Fall of Wellington saw fit to complain to the BSA about this even after the broadcaster itself upheld her complaint and apologized publicly. The BSA rightly rejected the complaint and also noted they would not have taken any action even if the broadcaster had done nothing. The actual comments were, of course, absolutely true and their broadcast was a valuable public service, albeit unintentional.

TVNZ loses BSA case re Colin Craig

December 17th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

TVNZ has been ordered to broadcast an apology to Conservative Party leader Colin Craig over an item it ran on Seven Sharp.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority says an item from April 24 – a short skit “lampooning” Mr Craig over his threat of defamation against a satirical website – was “childish and unfair”.

The BSA says while it recognises the value of satire and free speech, the BSA found that the comments about his personal character and attributes went too far.

It says Mr Craig was given no opportunity to defend himself.

Seven Sharp is meant to be a current affairs programme. You can probably get away with what they did on 7 Days, but not on Seven Sharp.

The key paragraph is:

However, Mr Mulligan’s remarks, “I think Colin Craig is a nutcase; I feel Colin Craig is a doofus; I believe Colin Craig is a smarmy rich prick”, had no bearing on Colin Craig’s political views. These comments offered no constructive comment on the underlying issues, but were simply personal abuse masquerading as satire. The comments, combined with Ms Mau’s introductory statement that “most of us would like to have a go at Colin Craig”, the concluding remarks from Ms Mau and Mr Boyed about Colin Craig lacking a sense of humour, and the laughter from all three presenters, turned the item into a sustained personal attack against Colin Craig that was childish and unfair, in circumstances where he had no chance to defend himself.

Note Colin Craig was not one of the four complainants.

BSA upholds complaints against Radio NZ over three strikes coverage

November 25th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Garrett complained to Radio New Zealand and then the Broadcasting Standards Authority about a Nine to Noon item on 29 May 2013 regarding the three strikes law. The BSA has ruled that the item was both unbalanced and inaccurate. Their ruling is here.

David has provided Kiwiblog with a guest post about the ruling:

“Three Strikes”, Radio New Zealand and the Broadcasting Standards Authority

 On 29 May Radio New Zealand’s “Nine to Noon” featured what was supposedly a panel discussion about how the “three strikes” (3S) law  was working, almost three years after its passing.  The only problem – or at least the  most obvious one – was that the panel consisted only of Professor John  Pratt,  who had voiced his strident views against the law from well before it was passed, and the lawyer for one Elijah Whaanga,  a man with 20 odd convictions as an adult, two of them  “strikes” for aggravated robbery.

 And of course there was the supposedly neutral  presenter, one Lyn Freeman, filling in for Kathryn Ryan, who in all fairness would probably  have done a much better job. As the recently released Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) determination on my complaint about the programme makes clear, while nominally presenting the programme – and supposedly acting as devil’s advocate :

“…the presenter appeared to largely adopt the position of the interviewees without any real challenge….[her questions] were insufficient to provide balance on the topic under discussion, especially considering the broadcast involved two people strongly opposed to  the law” (at para. [25])

The programme began with a major  inaccuracy: that persons on their third strike “had no possibility of parole”, when in  fact  the “no parole at strike three” provision  will  not apply if the Judge finds it to be “manifestly unjust” in the circumstances of a particular case. The insertion of this proviso occurred after Judith Collins took over negotiation of the contents of the 3S  law from then Justice Minister Simon Power, and the Nats stopped playing games.

It is an important qualification – and gives the lie to the oft repeated claim that the law removes judicial discretion.  ACT readily agreed to this provisio being included. Radio New Zealand simply ignored its existence in Freeman’s introduction. Things got much worse from that point on.

Throughout the discussion, Elijah Whaanga, the second strike aggravated robber whose lawyer was a panelist, was referred to constantly  as “Elijah” and “a playground bully ”, presumably because his second strike aggravated robbery was of a skateboard and a hat. What wasn’t  mentioned was that the robbery occurred  in the street not a playground; that the victim was “only” robbed of a skateboard and a hat because he had no money; and that in Whaanga’s first strike – also an aggravated robbery in the street – the victim had all his money taken, and his head  kicked in.

As the BSA puts it in its decision:

“The offender on his second strike…was referred to throughout the discussion and  used as an example of the type of people  targeted by the law , without balancing comment to challenge this…Given the participants strongly held views that the law operated in a way that was unjust and unfair, and out of proportion to the crime committed, there was a clear requirement of the broadcaster to ensure the discussion was balanced” [paras. 19 -20]

The BSA concluded that the programme was one to which the “balance” standard applied,  that  RNZ “…did not include sufficient balance on the issue”, and therefore upheld the  first limb of  my complaint.


My second complaint was about the many inaccuracies the programme contained, none of them corrected or challenged by the presenter.  I identified a lengthy list of statements – mostly by Professor Pratt  – (see para. [37] of the determination)  which were inaccurate or misleading.

The BSA found that the programme was misleading in two crucial respects: firstly by its  many completely inaccurate comparisions with California’s “three strikes” law; the second  was the way “playground bully” Elijah Whaanga was “portrayed and used as an example of the type of criminals (sic.)  targeted by the law “ (See para. [43] of the BSA decision).

The first  point  is of course indeed  crucial. From the outset, opponents of 3S have attempted to use the indisputable   excesses of the law in California as it was originally enacted   as a reason not to enact  a law with the same name here.

In 2007, Garth McVicar and I went to California specifically to find out whether the “life for stealing a chocolate bar” stories were true (we never verified  that one, although there were others which were clearly unacceptable and unjust) and if so, to work out how to draft our  3S law so  injustices like them  couldn’t happen here.

California recently modified its law to make it much more like ours: no more “technical felonies”, and much more prosecutorial and  judicial discretion. Rather than make those points, Freeman talked about California “backing away” from 3S, and rhetorically asked “What does that tell you? ” Professor Pratt obliging leapt on his soapbox and gave his version of what the changes in California meant, untroubled by any dissenting voice.

The BSA was perhaps  harshest on this point, saying:

“…comparing the legislation in this manner, without any countering views, and in particular the presenter’s unequivocal statement that California had started to ‘back away’  from the legislation, would have misled listeners as to the nature of New Zealand’s ‘three strikes’ law  and any comparison with California.” (see para. [42] )

The BSA concluded its decision on the balance and accuracy complaints thus:

“The programme omitted any alternative voice to counteract the one sided statements  made by the panelists, and the presenter failed to adequately challenge those statements. Compounding this, the panelists also made statements which created a misleading impression in the absence of any balancing comment.” (See para. [49] )

As I did on the morning  I heard this travesty of journalism unfolding, I have offered to  appear as “balance” for any future programme on 3S. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be getting a call, but at least after receiving  a spanking from the BSA like this one, they might be a bit more careful next time.

Well done to David for getting a successful ruling, and hopefully Radio NZ will be more balanced in future on this topic.

The most unacceptable words and phrases for television

September 10th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The BSA has done a survey on what words or phrases people would find acceptable on free to air television at 8.30 pm. The 31 phrases tested, and proportions finding them unacceptable are:

  1. Cunt 70% (-9%)
  2. Nigger 65% (-7%)
  3. Jesus Fucking Christ 61% (-4%)
  4. Mother fucker 61% (-17%)
  5. Cocksucker 56% (-8%)
  6. Get fucked 54%(-1%)
  7. Fuck off 50% (-2%)
  8. Fuck 50% (-19%)
  9. Faggot 48% (+2%)
  10. Slut 43% (nc)
  11. Whore 43% (-12%)
  12. Cock 42% (-16%)
  13. Retard 41% (-3%)
  14. Wanker 39% (-9%)
  15. Arsehole 37% (-12%)
  16. Jesus Christ 33% (-8%)
  17. Dick 32% (-8%)
  18. Jesus 30% (+3%)
  19. Piss 29% (-9%)
  20. Bitch 28% (-14%)
  21. Prick 28% (-15%)
  22. God 27% (-7%)
  23. Piss off 27% (+3%)
  24. Bastards 26% (-10%)
  25. Balls 24% (-9%)
  26. Shit 23% (-8%)
  27. Bullshit 20% (-8%)
  28. Crap 17% (-6%)
  29. Bloody 15% (-2%)
  30. Bollocks 13% (-7%)
  31. Bugger 13% -3%)

The figures in brackets are the change in unacceptability from the 1999 survey (or 2009 for some newer phrases).

Only the first two words would cause me a bit of shock if used on television.

Also of interest is the other words or phrases some respondents offered as unacceptable:

  • Pommy bastard
  • Being Jewish (tight with money)
  • Hua Slimy Mongrel
  • Nignog
  • Milf
  • Cock-tease
  • Cuntface
  • Frogface
  • Tea bagging
  • Fucktard

Fucktard is a great word!

  • Ginga
  • Muptard (combination of “muppet” and “retard”)

Also a great word!

  • Dog bangger
  • Whitee wifee

Not heard that one!

Some BSA complaints

February 5th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A few amusing or not so amusing complaints to the BSA. First James Burford complains about this on Paul Homes show on Newstalk ZB:

Based on some of the conversations we have had over the last 40 minutes… when we talked about [name] becoming the editor of the Truth, we have had a text which says, “[name] running a publication called the Truth is a bit like making a pre-op tranny editor of the Woman’s Weekly”.

Heh, that’s really funny. I suspect Cam would find it great also. So what was complained about?

James Burford made a formal complaint to The Radio Network Ltd (TRN), the broadcaster, alleging that the use of the phrase “pre-op tranny” was pejorative and “perpetuates bigotry and hatred against transgender communities”. He considered that the host’s behaviour, in reading out the text message, was ignorant and offensive.

Oh, Good God. It was a jibe at Cam, not pre-op trannies.

TRN upheld the complaint under Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration). It said that the use of the word “tranny” was “common in some quarters” and that the text message was intended to be humorous. However, it agreed that the host’s use of the term was unnecessary in context and potentially offensive to the transgender community. Having upheld the complaint, the broadcaster said that the host had been counselled on the matter.

The host would not have been Paul – either Kerre or Wendl probably. Wonder who got their hand smacked?

We also have the complaint from serial complainer Allan Golden who having claimed the moon landings were faked, now says NZ cheats more at sports than Belarus and Jamacia. I think it is about time any complaints from him go straight into the round cabinet.

Wayne Lowry complains that a promo for Coronation Street during Breakfast TV showed a woman slapping a man in the face. The horrors.

And Richard McKay (hopefully not this one) complaints that TV3 called Stewart Murray Wilson the Beat of Blenheim saying “purposefully designed to cause hurt, injury and harm to Mr Wilson (and his kind)”.  Are his kind rapists? No they are all innocent victims it seems.

He referred to all other prisoners “as victims of both media and the public”.

Maybe it is the same Richard McKay?

Mr McKay was concerned that the items showed disregard for Mr Wilson’s human rights in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. He argued that, “The grooming of the public by TV3 against Mr Wilson (in collaboration and union with other broadcasters who hold to the same practices and ideology of separatism, hatred and contemptuous superiority) is a crime in New Zealand”.

No, rape is a real crime.

These nutty complaints are a good example of why I am nervous about any prospect of a Communications Tribunal for online publishers. I can just see a legion of nutters and malcontents doing daily complaints.

Want to help highlight the silly complainers?

October 26th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Just been looking at all the complaints that the Advertising Standards Authority has had to deal with this year. There are a staggering 523 complaints, and reading through many of them, you see so many people with a total lack of sense of humour. For example:

The direct mail flyer showed a picture of a cow that had attempted to jump over a steel gate, but had got stuck half way. The position of the cow over the gate appears uncomfortable. Above the image is the heading “Rural broad band… no more obstacles”. Further information about the broadband packages is listed next to the image. …

Complainant, C. Bateman, said: in part “This image is disrespectful to animals, is offensive to anyone concerned about animal welfare and even if it’s meant to be “tongue in cheek” it is not even remotely humourous.”

Oh Good God. And that is one of the more sane complaints.

Anyway this has given me an idea for a regular feature – focusing on the idiotic complaints people send to to various regulatory bodies.

But I need some help to do this.

What I’m after is one or two people who will say once a week on alternate weeks go to the websites of the ASA, BSA and Press Council and have a quick skim of complaints. Then all you have to do is send me a link and/or an extract of the ones which are basically seriously demented or show someone totally lacking in humour.

If this appeals to you, just e-mail me. I think we’ll be doing a public service by highlighting the inanity of some of our serial complainers.

Probably looking to do one post a week highlighting no more than six inane complaints. I suspect a few names will reoccur!

Greens also want Govt control of the press

October 25th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged last week on how Labour’s policy was to look at bringing the self-regulatory Press Council under Government control (and to tax Internet users).

Well the Herald reports the Greens are also keen on the idea:

The Green Party wants to make independent media watchdog the Press Council answerable to the Government.

So if there is a centre-left Government of Labour, Greens and Winston, the Government looks likely to bring in Government censorship of print media. I mean can anyone imagine Winston thinking it is a bad idea?

If print media lose their independence by a Labour/Greens Government, then the possible penalties they could face from a Government appointed BSA regulator include:

  • Compulsory publication of a statement from the BSA
  • an order to refrain from publishing for a set period of time
  • an order to refuse any advertisements for a set period of time
  • $100,000 fines for non-compliance
  • Pay costs (which can be huge)

The Minister of Broadcasting appoints all four members of the BSA. I have no criticism of the current BSA members and their decision to date. But extending their reach to include all media would be a huge step backwards for press freedom, and would inevitably lead to more politicised appointments.

BSA rejects Labour’s complaint on all grounds

October 14th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has just released its decision on their complaints against the PM hosting a non-political hour of talkback on Radio Live.

They have rejected Labour’s complaint on every ground argued, and their conclusion was:

Our opinion therefore is that even if this programme were held to be an election programme, which we do not consider it was, it would not have breached any of the standards raised by the complainant.

So the BSA has said that in their view it was not an election programme, but even if it was it breached no standard. This suggests that the Electoral Commission are unlikely to find it was an election programme also, unless they radically depart from the BSA’s reasonings.

The real winner in all of this is Mediaworks. They have a tiny listenership, and if Labour had not whined about the one hour show, would have passed without much notice. But thanks to their complaints Mediaworks and Radio Live have had two weeks of publicity about it.

The decision is embedded below.

Radio Works 14 Oct

BSA complaints

August 15th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Bronwyn Torrie at the Dom Post reports:

A Wellington man has been fined $50 for a “frivolous and trivial” complaint that alleged TVNZ inaccurately reported the distance of a supernova star from Earth.

An item on One News, broadcast in January, reported that a supernova discovered by a 10-year-old Canadian girl was in a galaxy 240 light years away. The correct distance is 240 million light years. …

It dismissed his “frivolous and trivial” complaint and ordered him to pay TVNZ costs of $50 as a deterrent.

“He has now been warned numerous times about lodging complaints of this nature, and it is evident that his complaints expend a significant amount of both TVNZ’s and the authority’s time and resources.”

The man, who receives the invalids benefit and pension, generated about 5 per cent of complaints received about TV One in 2009 and 2010.

I don’t know why they do not name him.

I would like the BSA, ASA and Press Council to all publish their top 10 complainants, and what proportion of complaints those top 10 are responsible for.

Coro Street shocks Lianne

May 7th, 2011 at 10:08 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett in the Herald reports:

Television has become so raunchy that even Coronation Street is no longer acceptable for children’s viewing, says Labour MP Lianne Dalziel.

She said the “Adults Only” television watershed should be moved to 7.30pm as 8.30pm no longer reflected the content of the shows broadcast.

Ms Dalziel put her request to the Broadcasting Standards Authority at the commerce select committee yesterday.

She said she had watched Coronation Street as a child when Ena Sharples ruled supreme, “and I would have to say its content at that stage was unremarkable”.

“The most raunchy part of it was Elsie Tanner having a divorce. But there was no question around parents being able to be sure about what their children were watching.”

Ms Dalziel said she had seen the British soap opera recently after years of not watching, and “was shocked”.

Oh please. Coronation Street is hardly shocking. Californication is shocking maybe, but not Coronation Street.

And good luck trying to enforce kids not being able to watch TV after 7.30 pm.

At the end of the day, it is up to parents to decide what they do or do not allow their kids to watch. The BSA may have a role in making sure accurate information is provided to parents on the nature of a show or episode, so that parents are making well informed choices.

The future, when it is all digital, should be that parents can program their TVs to not show shows with violence or sex over certain levels, like one can do on Sky boxes.

BSA on Holmes & Hobbit Interview

April 6th, 2011 at 9:59 am by David Farrar

The BSA has rejected complaints from Pat Bolster and Anne Latimer over Paul Holmes interview of Helen Kelly over the Hobbit debacle.

I saw the interview, and Holmes was merely doing his job – applying the acid to a politician (and the CTU President is most definitely a politician). And the reality is, that Helen Kelly had shown appalling judgement around this issue with her comments over Peter Jackson etc.

But anyway I always wonder who actually complains to the BSA – is it just a concerned citizen, or a repeat complainer or political activists?

A quick bit of Google and it turns out Anne Latimer likes to campaign for Labour on the North Shore.

But even more interesting Pat Bolster is actually employed by the CTU!

I don’t know why Helen Kelly didn’t just complain herself, if she thought the interview was unfair – rather than have one of her staff do it, apparently as a member of the public.

This would be a nice test for the BSA

June 14th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A 13 year old uses the c word twice on television. But not in an offensive way – she was repeating a text sent between two teenagers (one of whom was her best friend) where she called him a rapist and he called her the c word. The TV presenter I thought handled it very well and said we need to be careful of language but says that’s all right sweetheart.

While such language is not generally allowed on free to air television, I don’t see that the network could do much about it. I do wonder what would the BSA do, if this happened in NZ.

What is perhaps surprising, is that the 13 year old didn’t think not to say the word on air. It indicates perhaps that it doesn’t have a lot of shock value to that generation. Or it might just be that she was being literal in referring to the content of the e-mails.

Hat Tip: Murray Report

Target rightfully slapped by BSA

June 4th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

TV3 consumer affairs programme Target has been ordered to pay nearly $40,000 after it wrongly accused an Auckland cafe of selling food with a high faecal coliform reading. …

Target wrote to Cafe Cezanne’s owners telling them a chicken sandwich from their cafe had tested positive for faecal coliforms. However, the letter contained incorrect information about the date of purchase.

The owners questioned whether the sample was from their cafe but Target went ahead with the broadcast.

The programme was forced to apologise the following week after it found a mistake had been made in labelling the samples, and the show broadcast a statement saying: “Due to a human error by a former Target staff member coding the results, we cannot confirm which cafe produced this high faecal coliform count”.

This is the worse part of what Target did. Their original appalling error was bad enough, but their so called apology actually made it worse by leaving open the possibility the cafe was Cezanne, when it could not have been.

I really don’t know why it is so hard for some media companies to simply say sorry without reservation and make a full apology.

The full BSA decision is here.

I recommend people with an interest, read it. You’ll be in no doubt that the BSA got this one right. Target could well have destroyed the cafe’s reputation and business.

The starting point for payment of a successful complainant’s legal expenses is 30%. The fact the BSA ordered Mediaworks to pay 100% speaks volumes about how serious this was. They also ordered them to apologise not just on Target, but on all the Mediaworks radio stations, and to take out an ad in the Herald. That may help restore the damage done to Cafe Cezanne.

Both Fair Go and Target are great shows which have provided many benefits to consumers. But they have to be beyond reproach in the way they collect and analyse data, and in this case Target fall way short. Hopefully they will learn from this, so there is never a repeat. This means not just a change in procedures, but also in attitudes. Their treatment of the cafe owners was arrogant and their initial apology grudging.

The Herald and swearing

April 19th, 2010 at 12:13 pm by David Farrar

A while back the Herald reported:

When is a swear word not a swear word?

When it is used on the Hollywood red carpet, says TVNZ.

Close-Up presenter Mark Sainsbury raised the question when he used the word “fugly” in a promotion for his show during Wednesday’s 6pm news. …

The utterance on prime-time television has prompted queries to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

But TVNZ says the word has become so popular it has lost its original sting and become a new term.

“Whilst a long time ago it might have been short for … two words … it is now being used regularly, particularly in entertainment circles, as simply an adjective. For example it is being used to describe an attitude or a dress,” said TVNZ news spokeswoman Andi Brotherston. …

Broadcasting Standards Authority chief executive Dominic Sheehan said the authority was flooded with hundreds of emails and phone calls after Mr Henry’s “retarded” comment, whereas “fugly” generated only two inquiries on Thursday.

People who contacted the authority to complain were told they needed to go through TVNZ’s internal complaints process first.

Mr Sheehan said “fugly” was not on the list of offensive words that were gathered in a recent survey of 1500 people, despite being commonly used.

“It is not even on anyone’s radar … – and they [survey respondents] have put a lot of words in there,” he said.

But he could not recall “fugly” being used during a news programme.

“This is new territory for us.”

“We haven’t tested the word and we have never had a complaint about it.”

Heh having someone complain about fugly is as amusing to me, as the fact someone complained about the use of the word “frack” on Battlestar Galactica.

I blogged last month the results of a BSA survey on the acceptability of various swear words. This got me wondering how those survey results contrast with actual practices in media newsrooms.

So I e-mailed all major media outlets in NZ, asking them what their editorial policy was on each of the 31 swear words, on the following scale:

  • A This word/phrase would never be used on air/in our newspaper
  • B There are no restrictions on use of this word or phrase
  • C This word/phrase is not banned, but would only be used if essential to a story

Sadly only one media outlet responded. Thanks to the NZ Herald, who did respond, and their responses are below:

1. Cunt Herald: A
2. Nigger Herald: C
3. Mother Fucker Herald: A
4. Jesus Fucking Christ Herald: A
5. Cocksucker Herald: A
6. Get fucked Herald: A
7. Fuck off Herald: A
8. Fuck Herald: A
9. Faggot Herald: B
10. Cock Herald: C
11. Retard Herald: B
12. Slut Herald: C
13. Whore Herald: B
14. Wanker Herald: B
15. Arsehole Herald: C
16. Jesus Christ Herald: C
17. Dick Herald: B
18. Prick Herald: C
19. Jesus Herald: B, but C if used as an expletive
20. Piss Herald: C
21. Bitch Herald: B
22. God Herald: B
23. Piss off Herald: C
24. Bastard Herald: B
25. Shit Herald: C
26. Balls Herald: B
27. Bullshit Herald: C
28. Crap Herald: B
29. Bollocks Herald: B
30. Bloody Herald: B
31. Bugger Herald: B

These are listed in the order of acceptability as the BSA survey found them.

So the Herald has a total ban on seven words or phrases, generally those using the cunt, cock or fuck.

14 of the 31 words have no restriction on their use. Mainly those at the lower end of the scale, but including retard (Paul Henry take note), faggot, whore and wanker. Of course that does not mean they will go out of their way to use them.

10 of the 31 words are in the category of only would be used if essential to a story – that is likely to be direct quotes from some one. This includes nigger, cock, slut, Jesus Christ, and shit.

The Herald also provided a couple of useful examples of when they might go outside their normal policy:

The Herald might allow words such as “fuck” in direct quotes if uttered by, for example, a member of the royal family or the Prime Minister, because that use would, in itself, be newsworthy.

That makes sense to me. John Key had better watch his language then 🙂

In our first reports of 9/11, we allowed the word “fucking” in the front-page lead: “Shortly after the first attack, a person who answered the phone on the trading floor at interdealer-broker Cantor Fitzgerald, near the top of the World Trade Center, said ‘We’re fucking dying,’ when asked what was happening, and hung up.”

Again, I think that is a sensible exception. I doubt anyone would be offended by direct reporting of those quotes, considering the circumstances. They help convey the atmosphere in a way, which asterisks would not have.

It is a shame, other media outlets did not respond. It would be very interesting to compare their different policies. Again my thanks to the Herald for being so open.

Acceptability of Swear Words

March 28th, 2010 at 11:33 am by David Farrar

The BSA has done a survey of what words New Zealanders find unacceptable to use on air.

In order of unacceptability, they are:

  1. Cunt 74%
  2. Nigger 66%
  3. Mother Fucker 66%
  4. Jesus Fucking Christ 65%
  5. Cocksucker 60%
  6. Get fucked 55%
  7. Fuck off 52%
  8. Fuck 51%
  9. Faggot 46%
  10. Cock 46%
  11. Retard 44%
  12. Slut 43%
  13. Whore 40%
  14. Wanker 37%
  15. Arsehole 35%
  16. Jesus Christ 31%
  17. Dick 30%
  18. Prick 27%
  19. Jesus 27%
  20. Piss 26%
  21. Bitch 26%
  22. God 24%
  23. Piss off 24%
  24. Bastard 23%
  25. Shit 22%
  26. Balls 21%
  27. Bullshit 17%
  28. Crap 14%
  29. Bollocks 12%
  30. Bloody 12%
  31. Bugger 11%

This got me wondering where personally I would draw the line. But thinking about it, I wouldn’t have a line.

In the right context, in a program like Californication, on late at night, I’d say all 31 of those words can be acceptable.

But most of the top 21 words I would deem unacceptable on Morning Report on National Radio.

What is also interesting is what words are more acceptable in 2009 than in 1999. The major changes are:

  1. Fuck +19%
  2. Prick +16%
  3. Bitch +16%
  4. Whore +15%
  5. Arsehole +14%
  6. Bastard +13%
  7. Mother Fucker +12%
  8. Cock +12%
  9. Balls +12%
  10. Piss +12%
  11. Wanker +11%
  12. Bullshit +11%

The context of words is also, for me, important. Saying you had a cunt of a day, is different to calling someone a cunt. The fuck word hardly even registers with me, but “fuck you” is usually very offensive.

As a pollster, I note the 2009 poll was done online, and previous ones were done face to face. You have to feel sorry for the polling staff who had to knock on doors and read out a list of swear words and ask people their responses to them 🙂

Incidentally I guess this post will get the blog blocked by many Government Departments for a week or so, as they use swear word filters.

UPDATE: The full results are interesting. It turns out they tested the 31 swear words in 10 different scenarios, being:

  1. People being interviewed or asked to give opinions in news, documentaries and current events programmes on TV or radio
  2. In a television drama screened after 8.30pm (e.g. Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds)
  3. In a television drama or comedy screened between 7pm and 8.30pm (e.g. Shortland Street, Coronation Street, Two and a Half Men)
  4. Comedians in stand-up comedy programmes played on radio or shown on TV after 8.30pm
  5. In a reality television programme where a lot of the content is spontaneous and does not follow a script (e.g. Hell’s Kitchen, Border Patrol, The Apprentice)
  6. In a music video played on television
  7. When used by a caller to a talkback radio station
  8. When used by a radio host on a talkback radio station
  9. When used by a radio host in a breakfast programme
  10. When used in a song played on radio.

Only five words were deemed by a majority to be unacceptable in all 10 scenarios – cunt, nigger, mother fucker, jesus fucking christ and cocksucker.

Only 7% of respondents said “cunt” was acceptable in all 10 scenarios. Even I don’t go that far. I would say “cunt” is acceptable in scenarios 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 but not 3, 7, 8 and 9.

Four words are deemed to be acceptable by a majority on all 10 scenarios – bugger, bloody, bollocks and crap.

I found amusing on page 31, the list of other words that respondents offered up as unacceptable. They included:

Fuckety fucking fucker

Heh I like that phrase.

Ask Hone Harawira as he seems to have a dictionary of inappropriate words

Heh. Someone also listed John Key as a swear-word.

baldhead (the derogitory term for a white New Zealander)

Is it? Never heard of that one.


Ha. Someone is think skinned.

“Brian Tamaki” Anything Paul Henry Says


Honky, Hairyback, Redneck, Grognard, Nerd, Buttmunch, toerag, Porch monkey, User, American, cheesebucket.

Goodness, that respondents had a long list.

cum oven mcnugget

I can’t work out if the respondents means those words individually are offensive, or as one phrase.

On BattleStar Galatica they use “frackin” or “frack” which means they get to air the programme earlier than 8.30pm. It is obvious that it is just a substitute for the other ‘F’ word and I don’t think it’s acceptable.

Oh what a killjoy, They should frack off.