New Zealand Law Society

Navigation menu

“Woolly woofter’ not offensive says broadcasting watchdog

25 July 2019

The Broadcasing Standards Authority (BSA) has not upheld a complaint that the use of the term ‘woolly woofter’ on a live television programme was offensive.

During a segment on The AM Show on Three on 3 December 2018, host Duncan Garner referred to an individual as a ‘woolly woofter’. A complaint said the use of the term breached broadcasting standards, as it was homophobic and offensive.

However, the BSA found that, while some viewers may have found the term inappropriate or offensive, the use of the term was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or seriously violate community norms. It said that, in the context of the programme, upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

MediaWorks said ‘Woolly woofter’ is a term typically used colloquially in New Zealand as a mild and light-hearted insult for a cowardly or simpering person.

“The terms ‘woolly woofter’ and ‘poofter’ were not tested in our 2018 Language That May Offend in Broadcasting research, although ‘poofter’ was mentioned by 13 respondents as an expression they may find unacceptable from a gender or sexual orientation perspective,” the decision noted.

“However, the term ‘woolly woofter’ is not particularly explicit (in comparison to many of the other terms considered in our research). Other definitions of the term include someone who is ‘afraid or scared to do something’ or an idiot.Having regard to this research we consider, while the use of the word may offend some people, it is unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress.”

Last updated on the 16th September 2019