Broadcaster John Campbell's use of word 'dick' not denigrating, authority rules

A man with the surname Dick who complained TV host John Campbells use of the term was denigrating to vulnerable children has had his complaint dismissed.
Alan Dick complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority following a segment on TVNZs Breakfast in August 2020, which referred to a speech by Donald Trump Jr, the son of then-United States president Donald Trump.

Campbell used the word dick three times in reference to Trump Jr, who had used his speech to praise his fathers efforts in fighting Covid-19.

The White House
US President Donald Trump gives his final speech from the White House.

Hes a bit of a dick... When I say a bit of a dick, hes a total dick, Campbell said.

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The segment aired on a Wednesday, just after 6am.

Alan Dick complained the broadcast breached the standards of good taste and decency, childrens interests, and discrimination and denigration, according to a March decision from the authority.

He said the repeated use of the word dick as an insult subjected those with the surname to ridicule, including vulnerable children.

The broadcast was offensive because it [likened] a person to a sexual organ, he wrote.

I have no problem with Campbell referring to people as idiots but I strongly object to members of the Dick clan being labelled as idiots, or as penises.

The Dick surname is of Scottish origin and is not uncommon. I am aware of [three] vulnerable teenagers who have changed their surnames because of peer pressure and ridicule.

In response to the complaint, TVNZ said Breakfast is aimed at adult viewers and young children are unlikely to watch it by themselves.

The presenters commonly express themselves candidly and with humour, and Campbell is known for his irreverent comments, it said.

The current Breakfast team, from left: Indira Stewart, Jenny-May Clarkson, John Campbell and Matty McLean.

Dick is a common slang term and is at the low end of the offensive language spectrum, TVNZ said.

In a 2018 study by the authority, dick was ranked 26th of 31 terms found offensive by Kiwis.

In his decision, authority chairman Judge Bill Hastings said the broadcast did not make any mention of people with the surname Dick or encourage ridicule of those people.

Most audience members would have taken the word in the sense it is commonly understood, and interpreted it as referring to Trump Jr as an idiot, the decision said.

Mr Campbells comments were focused squarely on the actions of one high-profile public figure. He was not commenting on Dick as a surname, or ridiculing or encouraging ridicule of people with that surname.

The use of the term also was not discriminatory under the law, as people with the surname Dick are not recognised as a section of the community under the Human Rights Act, Judge Hastings said.

The segment was found not to have breached any broadcasting standards.


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