Flippin’ heck, exclamations before the BSA

Flippin heck, some people seem to get upset easily about language used. (I must admit that flippin’ heck wasn’t the first phrase that came to mind when reading about this but I decided to tone down the headline).

NZH: Mike Hosking’s outburst deemed not offensive by Broadcasting Standards Authority

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has ruled that two similar terms of using the Lord’s name in vain were neither blasphemous nor offensive.

‘Using the Lord’s name in vain’? I might come back to that.

The first complaint came after the 1 News Vote 17 Leaders Debate where moderator Mike Hosking questioned Bill English and Jacinda Ardern.

Hosking was quizzing National Party Leader Bill English about a damaged fuel pipeline in Auckland that affected flights out if its airport.

In frustration at English’s response, Hosking uttered the words “for God’s sake”. He used the phrase to express his own and voters’ frustration at the Government’s response to the ordeal.

The authority found the alleged harm did not outweigh the important right to freedom of expression, especially in the lead-up to a general election.

They said the variations of “God”, “Christ” and “Jesus Christ” are commonly used as exclamations.

Yes, they are. And it seems extraordinary to me that someone would make an official complaint about the use of “for God’s sake”, but they had a right to complain about what irked them.

And the BSA was correct to dismiss the complaint.

The second complaint came after a farmer used the expression “for Christ’s sake” when talking about a report on 1 News on the outbreak of a cattle disease in South Canterbury.

The authority found that there was a public interest and high value in hearing an authentic voice from a New Zealand farmer as part of the report.

It noted that the farmer used the expression to express his frustration and strong support of the affected farm owner.

The BSA rejected that complaint too. As they should have done.

Back to ‘Using the Lord’s name in vain’. This sounds like a strange sort of expression to me, but apparently it’s a big deal for some.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (KJV; also “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God” (NRSV) and variants) is one of the Ten Commandments.

It is a prohibition of blasphemy, specifically, the misuse or “taking in vain” of the name of the God of IsraelExodus20:7 reads:

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (KJV).[1]

Based on this commandment, Second Temple Judaism by the Hellenistic period developed a taboo of pronouncing the name of God at all.


There doesn’t seem to have been many instances of people being struck down for saying ‘for God’s sake’ or ‘for Christ’s sake’, and I don’t think either sound as bad as ‘for fuck’s sake’.

Does ‘for god’s sake’ get around the blasphemous thing? You can’t tell the difference in speech, but God and god are different things. Even God is different things in different religions.

  1. (in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.
  2. (in certain other religions) a superhuman being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.
  3. A greatly admired or influential person.


So is it presumptuous to claim a particular use of god/God.

Hosking breached broadcasting standards

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has ruled the Mike Hosking breached standards when he incorrectly stated on Seven Sharp” you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate” during the election campaign, and the following night he churlishly dismissed criticism.

On 23 August 2017 he stated:

…so is the fact that you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate, so what are you going to do now? I’m joking.

That wasn’t a fact, it was false, and he was widely criticised for saying it. The following evening he said:

Now, small clarification for you. Now last night in a throwaway line I appear to have confused the Māori Party around the rules of voting and MMP. Now what I was suggesting, what I was meaning, was that the Māori Party, as their representation stands, is an electorate party. In other words they are only in Parliament because they won an electorate seat. Therefore what I said in referring to voting for them, was to vote for them in a Māori electorate you had to be on the Māori roll, which is true.

Now, the fact that anyone can vote for them as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years for goodness’ sake and it went without saying. So hopefully that clears all of that up.

That was a pathetic response. He blamed the Māori Party for being confused, he gave a lame explanation, and then effectively blamed anyone who didn’t know the fact that anyone could vote for the Māori Party.

If you are not on the Māori roll you can’t vote for a Māori electorate candidate, but you can’t vote for any candidate in any electorate except for the electorate you are enrolled in.

Hosking’s comment was sloppy at best – it appeared to be ignorant. And his response the following night was pathetic and irresponsible.

It was poor of TVNZ to allow this to happen as well – they accept the BSA decision and will broadcast an apology this week.

BSA Summary

During an item on Seven Sharp, broadcast on 23 August 2017 during the election period, the presenters discussed TVNZ’s ‘Vote Compass’, a tool available to assist the New Zealand public to make voting decisions. In response to comments by presenter Toni Street about the usefulness of the tool, presenter Mike Hosking said, ‘…so is the fact that you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate, so what are you going to do now? I’m joking.’

The following evening, Mr Hoskingattempted to clarify his comment by saying, ‘Now, the fact that anyone can vote for [the Māori Party] as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years…’

The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Hosking’s comments were inaccurate, finding that Mr Hosking’s statement about who was eligible to vote for the Māori Party was a material point of fact that was inaccurate and misleading.

Further, his comments the following evening were confusing and insufficient to correct the inaccurate information for viewers.

The Authority acknowledged the high value of political expression during an election period, but found that the potential harm in this case – providing inaccurate information which had the potential to influence voters, despite the alleged clarification – outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

Upheld: Accuracy; Order: section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.

Did the statement amount to a material point of fact?

…we have reached the view that Mr Hosking’s comment was presented as fact. We recognise that, as a presenter, Mr Hosking’s style and tendency to offer his opinions on a broad range of topics is well-known to viewers.

However, in this case, Mr Hosking’s comment in effect asserted that only those enrolled in a Māori electorate were able to vote for the Māori Party. This was a statement of fact capable of verification.

We also consider it was material in the context of the discussion about Vote Compass and the upcoming election, as it had the potential to influence viewers’ voting decisions.

We do not consider that TVNZ’s and Mr Hosking’s argument that this was a passing, ‘throwaway line’ or joke changed the nature of the statement as a factual assertion. Mr Hosking’s language (‘the fact that’) implied that this was an authoritative statement and we do not consider it was clear from the 23 August broadcast what Mr Hosking’s statement ‘I’m joking’, referred to.

We do not consider this, or Ms Street’s reaction, were sufficient to correct the inaccuracy or to reflect to viewers that Mr Hosking’s comment was not factual or meant to be taken seriously. This was particularly so in the context of an item that was seeking to promote the utility for voters of TVNZ’s Vote Compass election tool.

Was the statement inaccurate or misleading?

We therefore find that Mr Hosking’s comment was factually inaccurate and was likely to mislead viewers about whether they could vote for the Māori Party.

Did Mr Hosking’s comments the following evening correct the inaccuracy?

We consider that the clarification or explanation provided was flippant and too general to cure the inaccurate statement made the previous evening. Given the high public importance and the potential to influence voters, in circumstances where TVNZ accepted the comments were inaccurate, Mr Hoskingshould have made a clear, formal statement correcting his earlier inaccurate remark.

In order to clarify his previous comments, in our view, it was necessary for Mr Hosking to provide a clear explanation of the Māori roll, Māori seats and the rights of all voters to vote for the Māori Party when casting their party vote.

We consider Mr Hosking’s clarification was dismissive, in that he did not accept his statement was incorrect, instead suggesting it was the Māori Party who got ‘confused’, and voters should have known better than to be misled.


In light of the importance of free, frank and robust political speech during the election period, we are cautious to interfere unless a relatively high threshold is reached which justifies placing a limit on that speech. After careful consideration, however, we have found that the potential harm caused by this broadcast, in leaving viewers misinformed about their ability to vote for the Māori Party, outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

We consider that Mr Hosking’s statement during the 23 August 2017 broadcast was inaccurate and misleading, and that the clarification subsequently provided was confusing and insufficient to correct the inaccuracy.

This was an important issue, particularly during the election period, and had the potential to significantly affect voters’ understanding of the Māori roll and of New Zealand’s electoral system.

TVNZ has accepted the decision “and found no errors or misunderstandings by the Authority”.


Under section 13(1)(a) of the Act, the Authority orders Television New Zealand Ltd to broadcast a statement. The statement shall:

  • be broadcast at 7pm at the conclusion of 1 News
  • be broadcast on a date to be approved by the Authority, no later than Thursday 21 December 2017
  • contain a comprehensive summary of the upheld aspects of the Authority’s decision
  • be approved by the Authority prior to being broadcast.

RNZ: Hosking’s Māori party comments ‘inaccurate, misleading’

In a statement, TVNZ said it accepts the decision and will broadcast a statement this week.

“There was no intention to mislead viewers and Mike’s comments were presented as a throwaway line made in the context of a light-hearted exchange between the hosts.”

That’s an odd response given the BSA decision ruled against ‘throwaway line’:

We do not consider that TVNZ’s and Mr Hosking’s argument that this was a passing, ‘throwaway line’ or joke changed the nature of the statement as a factual assertion. Mr Hosking’s language (‘the fact that’) implied that this was an authoritative statement and we do not consider it was clear from the 23 August broadcast what Mr Hosking’s statement ‘I’m joking’, referred to. We do not consider this, or Ms Street’s reaction, were sufficient to correct the inaccuracy or to reflect to viewers that Mr Hosking’s comment was not factual or meant to be taken seriously. This was particularly so in the context of an item that was seeking to promote the utility for voters of TVNZ’s Vote Compass election tool.

And Hosking’s follow up comments were not throwaway, they were dismissive of his ignorance, instead blaming others.

Seven Sharp has finished for the year, and Hosking has quit the show, so may avoid fronting up and taking responsibility himself.

BSA decision: McCaughan and Television New Zealand Ltd – 2017-083 

A silent one that kicked up a stink

@comingupcharlie tweeted:

Pleased to see the BSA standing up for the common man who enjoys getting on the blower at 4.20am for some nuanced political debate.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

It’s not the flashest of metaphors, but it’s hardly a threat to broadcasting standards either.

I may be fairly old fashioned, I’m a fan of discreteness when it comes to farting, and even talking about farting. But it’s an entirely natural biological process so we can be a bit odd and over-sensitive.

I certainly wouldn’t complain about something like this to the BSA – that would be too embarrassing.

And I really don’t think the comments were a big deal either.

The BSA decision: Anderson and NZME Radio Ltd – 2017-066 (16 October 2017)

Funnily enough I looked for the BSA decision and this is the latest, also related to Turei: Garrett and Radio New Zealand Ltd – 2017-079 (28 November 2017)

[1]  A segment on Checkpoint featured John Campbell interviewing former Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei. The interview occurred just after Ms Turei had resigned as the Co-Leader of the Green Party amidst allegations of benefit and electoral fraud.

[2]  During the interview Mr Campbell questioned Ms Turei about the reasons behind her resignation as Green Party Co-Leader and the allegations that she received financial support from relatives while also receiving the domestic purposes benefit.

[3]  David Garrett complained that the item was unbalanced because Mr Campbell did not put the same questions to Ms Turei verbally that were put to her in writing earlier that day, and Mr Campbell’s interview style was biased, ‘unctuous and extremely caring’.

[19]  In response to Mr Garrett’s submissions regarding Mr Campbell’s interview style, we note that the balance standard is not intended to direct how questions should be asked. Rather, our task is to assess whether, overall, sufficient balance has been provided on the issue under discussion.

[20]  Taking into account the considerations we have outlined above, we find that overall the interview was consistent with audience expectations, given its focus and the way it was framed, and that listeners would not have been left uninformed as a result of this broadcast.

Again I’m surprised someone would lay a complaint. John Campbell is usually on air when I’m driving home after work. When he annoys me I just turn the radio off.

BSA reject Labour complaint

Last November after Labour released a youth work scheme policy 1 News journalist Andrea Vance questioned their costings. Labour conceded that they had not mentioned an assumption that a 6 month subsidy was costed for 4 months as they though that would be the average.

Despite their omission Phil Twyford attacked Vance on Twitter quite severely, and then Labour laid a complaint with the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

See Labour lay complaint over coverage of policy costings.

The BSA has released it’s finding in which they rejected Labour’s complaint: Jaspers and Television New Zealand Ltd – 2016-095 (19 April 2017)


An item on 1 News reported on the Labour Party’s ‘Ready for Work’ policy, which offered unemployed young people employment on the minimum wage in environmental and community projects for six months.

The item reported that, according to Labour, the scheme would cost $60 million per year for 10,000 participants. However, the $60-million sum was actually ‘based on participants taking up the scheme for just four months, not the promised six’.

The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was based on inaccurate and unsubstantiated conclusions made by the reporter featured in the item, which was misleading and damaged the credibility of the Labour Party.

The reporter’s comments, while critical, were not inaccurate or misleading, and it is an important function of the media to comment critically on political party policy in the lead up to an election period.

Labour was given sufficient opportunity to consider the reporter’s comments and to put forward its views, both during the 1 News item and in considerable coverage in other media at the time.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance

So Vance was doing her job as a political journalist, Twyford blew a fuse on Twitter, and Labour took the rare step of complaining to the BSA.

Vance was exonerated.

Labour had egg on their face when their policy was examined, Twyford threw eggs at Vance, Labour complained about the eggs to the BSA, and Labour’s reputation has ended up scrambled.

BSA smacks Hosking’s hand, sort of

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has upheld four complaints against Mike Hosking but did not make any order, meaning this amounts to criticism without consequences.

Stuff: BSA rules against Mike Hosking

In April this year, a waitress said that she took offence to Key repeatedly tugging her ponytail when he came into the cafe she worked at.

Broadcaster Mike Hosking covered the topic at the time on the television programme Seven Sharp.

He said the waitress’ motivations for speaking out were “selfish” and “a puffed up self-involved pile of political bollocks”.

He also said the café owners were the “victims” of the situation.

He said: “To quote the waitress concerned today, ‘I felt New Zealand should know’. What a puffed up, self-involved pile of political bollocks. She had a problem at work. The owners were the people to consult, not a blogger.”

The Authority upheld the complaints that these comments were unfair to the waitress.

the Authority said the nature of this segment meant there was no opportunity for any response or defence to be given.

They also said that while public figures can be subjected to this sort of criticism, the waitress was not a public figure and should not have been scrutinised as such.

“[A] person who is not a public figure should be able to speak up and make assertions whether they are right or wrong without being treated unfairly and in an intimidatory way by a television presenter speaking from the platform of a powerful broadcaster”, the Authority said.

The Authority held publication of the decision was sufficient to mark the breach and did not make any order.

Hosking could do the decent thing and apologise on Seven Sharp tonight.

Holding the media to account

In our democracy the politicians and political parties need to be held to account. Every three years the voters get to do that. In between elections it is largely up to the media to hold them to account.

In this day of pervasive and invasive news coverage the media have a very powerful influence in politics. They have the power to make or break politicians, and to make or break parties.

Media coverage of the worm in the 2002 campaign is seen as a major reason for the level of success United Future had. And coverage of the cafe meeting between John Key and John Banks became a major influence on the 2011 campaign – it may have affected party votes, possibly to the extent of syrging NZ First over 5% and backn into Parliament.

What if the media get something wrong? What if they show or print an unfair or incorrect item?

If it’s about a big issue or a big party there can be a lot of noise about it in social media. If it’s about a small party and most commenters don’t care or like the negative coverage because it suits their purposes it won’t get significant scrutiny.

If an inaccurate or unfair item is printed you can write to the editor, your complaint may be published.

If an inaccurate or unfair item is broadcast what can you do about it?

You can officially complain to the broadcaster. I tried this once – during the last election campaign – and was pretty much sneered at, and nothing was done about it.

If the broadcaster doesn’t respond to an official complaint within twenty working days you can then lodge a complaint with the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

In due course the BSA will make a ruling. On the 10th May the BSA published decisions on complaints relating to broadcasts back in April last year, nearly a year ago! In the fast moving modern worlds of media coverage and politics that’s a pointless historic exercise.

If a politician makes a mistake they can immediate and extensive coverage, and they are often put under extreme pressure to respond, sometimes to the point of hounding and harrassing.

If a broadcaster makes a mistake or airs an obviously unfair item they can usually effectively ignore any complaints, unless competing media choose to highlight it.

Those on the receiving end of unfair coverage, the public and the politicians, have virtually no control over any redress, they remain at the mercy of the media.

In the modern age shouldn’t we have an effective means of holding the media to account? Or should we just accept that media’s unfettered power is just something we have to live with?