Looking back, it's hard to imagine what all the fuss was about.
The 1999 "bugger" ad, featuring a farmer's frustration at the mess caused by his new Toyota truck, attracted 120 complaints.
Ten years on, shows like expletive-laden mob drama The Sopranos and the cussing coven of Sex and The City have made the B-word seem tame.
TVNZ programme buyer Andrew Shaw, who brought The Sopranos and ultra-realistic Western Deadwood to our screens, said audiences are intelligent enough to appreciate when swearing is dramatically justified.
"There is a time and a place for it, and good programme makers and broadcasters know when it is."
So, it seems, do the viewers. The latest Broadcasting Standards Authority survey on attitudes to offensive language confirmed a softening towards swearing.
More than two-thirds of people surveyed in 2006 were offended by the C-word, but only 58 per cent baulked at the F-word, down from 70 per cent in 2000. "Bugger" bothered only 16 per cent.
According to the BSA, even the C-word doesn't necessarily breach standards. It's all about context - the programme's timing, tone and target audience.
Last week, the BSA released decisions on 10 complaints about TV swearing in the second half of 2008, double the number from the previous six months.
"Perhaps people are grumpier," said BSA chief Dominic Sheehan.
"Historically we've noticed peaks and troughs for what happens to be the flavour of the day."
Only two complaints were upheld: one against TV One's historical drama Rome and the other against Tom Cruise's movie Eyes Wide Shut.
Rhonda Findlay of Foxton objected to the use of the "C-word" in Rome and the BSA agreed it was gratuitous and could have been edited out without affecting the storyline. No action was taken against TVNZ.
Findlay also complained about the same word in the film Closer. In this case the BSA found it was not used for shock value but was important to plot and character development. The film was broadcast at the adults'-only time of 8.30pm, classified AO, and preceded by a verbal and written warning.
The "F-word", and variations, remained the most frequently complained-about cusses last year.
One complaint that was upheld was against TV3's Nightline, which featured an interview with American band Linkin Park. The 2007 item began with a disclaimer from the interviewer, who confessed he had told band members that New Zealand censorship rules were far less strict than those in the US. The interview was littered with F-words, B-words and everything in between.
The interviewer helpfully finished the item with the comment: "Please send your complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority."
When Graham Anderson of Dunedin did, the BSA agreed the language used was gratuitous and intentionally provocative.
TV3's owner TVWorks apologised to Anderson voluntarily and no further action was taken.
Even bleeping offends some. BSA rejected a complaint about British reality show A Place in Spain, screened on TV One, which featured a Welsh snail farmer exclaiming "Jesus f***ing Christ". The f-word was bleeped out but the complainant believed this heightened its effect.
"It's that whole idea of blasphemy and swearwords combining," says Sheehan.
Clare Bradley, legal counsel for TV3 and C4 parent company Media Works, said opinions about swearing were "fairly entrenched".
Society for the Promotion of Community Standards president John Mills said he was pleased people were complaining about swearing on TV.
But the BSA's low rate of upholding complaints concerns him and he would like it to take a tougher stance.
"I think that most New Zealanders would probably support a call for a tightening up as long as it didn't interfere with sensible freedom of expression."
* The most offensive words on TV
The most offensive words - and the percentage of people who found them unacceptable. (2000 figure in brackets)
C*** 70 (79)
N***** 70 (72)
M*********** 68 (78)
C********* 64 (new entry)
F*** 58 (70)
C*** 50 (58)
W**** 46 (55)
A******* 41 (49)
J**** C***** 40 (41)
B**** 38 (42)
Source: Freedom and Fetters: broadcasting standards in New Zealand, BSA, 2006
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: Nicola Shepheard