The Broadcasting Standards Authority failed to recognise context when it ruled TVNZ had breached broadcasting standards, the High Court has found.
The BSA upheld a complaint against TVNZ in April this year for using the F-word during its current affairs programme Sunday, broadcast at 7.30pm on November 14, 2010.
The programme featured an item on the anniversary of the Aramoana massacre, and used the F-word twice in an interview with the police officer who shot and killed gunman David Gray.
The Authority had ruled the majority of viewers would consider the F-word unacceptable before 8.30pm and that TVNZ had breached the standards of good taste and decency, and children's standards.
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TVNZ appealed the decision to the High Court.
Justice Simon France said the Authority's 3-1 majority decision had been "plainly wrong", as it had placed too much emphasis on the time at which the programme aired, and not the context in which the F-word was said.
"It does a disservice to the programme to isolate this word which, when used in context, did not stand out, and on the second occasion was very quietly said."
Justice France allowed the appeal, quashing the Authority's decision and ruling that TVNZ had not breached the relevant broadcasting standards.