Paul Henry's employers have upheld a complaint against him over comments he made about singer Susan Boyle but he will not be facing punishment.

The Breakfast presenter referred to Boyle as "retarded" last month, sparking complaints. Boyle was born with minor brain damage and has learning difficulties.

TVNZ has upheld the complaints on the grounds of "good taste and decency" but spokeswoman Megan Richards said there would be no punishment for Henry.

"We see this process about establishing boundaries, not about punishing or banning words," Richards said.

Henry said he never intended to cause offence.

"It upsets me greatly that anyone would imagine I had intended to cause offence or hurt over this or any issue.

"I am sorry that some people have taken what I said in a way that I never intended," he said in a statement.

The TVNZ complaints committee found that although Henry meant his comments to be "humorous", they found that the language and manner of Henry would have offended a "significant number of viewers".

TVNZ's head of news Anthony Flannery said the decision showed that the right of freedom of expression carried responsibilities, especially in regard to vulnerable sectors of society.

Flannery defended Henry, saying there was a place for his "boundary-pushing style and sense of humour in broadcasting."

"It should also be remembered that in 600 hours of live television each year there have been very few times when he has overstepped the mark.

"However we acknowledge that this was one such occasion, and we apologise to those who were hurt and distressed by it," Flannery said in a statement.

Henry has previously been taken to the Broadcasting Standards Authority when he made comments about a Greenpeace spokeswoman having facial hair.

The complaint was not upheld by the BSA who found that TVNZ had already taken sufficient action.

But today's announcement from TVNZ may not be the end of the Boyle matter for Henry.

Under the Broadcasting Act, people who make formal complaints to the broadcaster are entitled to refer the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the initial finding.

BSA head Dominic Sheehan said complainants have until late January to lodge a formal complaint with the authority.

He said no complaints have been received so far but it is "early days".

Sheehan said complainants normally have 20 working days to lodge a complaint from the time they receive TVNZ's determination but they have an extra 15 days over the Christmas period to allow for the holiday season.

- NZ HERALD STAFF