TVNZ has received a surge in good taste and decency standard complaints about Seven Sharp since Jeremy Wells and Hilary Barry became the hosts this year.

Figures released to the Herald on Sunday from February 5 to September 5, showed 118 good taste and decency complaints compared to 37 for the same period last year when Toni Street and Mike Hosking were hosts.

In total 146 formal complaints were received, compared with 128 last year.

Wells and Barry took over from the long-time hosts on February 5.


Wells has been a prominent figure in New Zealand broadcasting since the 1990s and his career is well-documented as a satirist.

On several occasions during his time on Seven Sharp, Wells has slipped in innuendo, often of a sexual nature.

One example was on August 29 when the show aired a segment about Predator Free NZ proposing a cat ban.

The segment began with Wells telling Barry and the audience how he loves his family cat, named Pussy.

"My cat Pussy is a real beauty. I love Pussy, in fact, my whole family love Pussy, particularly the kids," Wells said.

However, Seven Sharp executive producer Alistair Wilkinson explained most of the complaints the show receives are about the content aired, not the hosts.

"We get a range of feedback, some of it is complaint, some of it is comment, but generally it seems to be about the content more than the presenters," Wilkinson said.

TVNZ would not go into detail on what complaints had been made against individuals as some of it targeted them personally.


Wilkinson said TVNZ and Seven Sharp took complaints seriously but the combination of Wells and Barry on the show was a winner.

"My job is to get [Seven Sharp] in as many homes as I can and to be invited back the next night," he said.

"If I felt we were alienating the audience through satire or sense of humour, I'd sit down with the team and change things up but my feeling is we're on the right track.

"Year on year we're up which means we've got a bigger slice of the viewing pie. From that point of view we're on to a winning formula."

Wilkinson said Seven Sharp was focused on having a "conversation with people" and providing viewers with information but also a bit of humour, with Wells and Barry setting the tone.

"I've been in TV a long time and my observation is people who are most successful on screen are the people who are themselves.

"So what you get from Jeremy and Hillary on screen is more or less what they're like around the newsroom.

"Our approach is to do it live ... when it works it's gold," Wilkinson said.

Figures also reveal the show has received an increase of 15 complaints for discrimination and degeneration for the same period.

Fourteen more complaints were received over children's interests this year while 45 fewer accuracy complaints were received and eight fewer balance complaints.

The TVNZ Complaints Committee has not upheld any complaints this year and has not referred any to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Complaints are generally made to the broadcaster first, which addresses it, but some are made straight to the BSA.

Last year one complaint was upheld by the BSA over "inaccurate and misleading" comments made by Hosking about who could vote for the Māori Party in the lead-up to the election.

Ratings for the show are also down with an average of 409,000 people tuning in each night to watch the show in its entirety compared with 455,000 when Hosking and Street were hosts.