In this Bulletin: Message from the CE, Latest Decisions, BSA News, Media News  
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March 2017

Number 70
Message from the Chief Executive

Kia ora

This is an Election year with polling day scheduled for 23 September 2017. That means that in the period 23 August – 22 September 2017 the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice will apply to election programmes. Today we have uploaded our refreshed election guidance notes to our website. We have worked with the Electoral Commission, the Press Council and the Advertising Standards Authority to prepare these, to ensure there is clear guidance available for broadcasters, political parties and candidates, and the public, regarding complaints about election material.
The BSA’s role in respect of election-related material is to address complaints about the content of ‘election programmes’ broadcast on television or radio, and assess whether they breach the Election Programmes Code.  The Court of Appeal recently released its ‘Planet Key’ decision, which held that election programmes are only those broadcast for political parties or candidates, and not programmes initiated by broadcasters or other third parties (The Electoral Commission v Watson & Jones, CA239/2015 [2016] NZCA 512). Broadcast programmes that touch on election matters, but which do not fall within the definition of Election Programme, will be subject to the usual standards for Free-to-Air Television, Radio and Pay Television in the Codebook.
To further assist broadcasters, we will be joining the Electoral Commission, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Press Council to host a seminar for broadcasters on these issues in Auckland on 19 April 2017. Please note this date into your diaries and more information will be available soon.
In addition to our work on election material, the Authority has also released 11 decisions since our last Bullletin, which are listed below. Key themes emerging in these cases include concerns about balance and accuracy, including the importance of using precise language when discussing controversial issues.

I hope you enjoy this Bulletin and we welcome any feedback you may have.

Ngā mihi

Belinda Moffat
Chief Executive

Latest Decisions

Complaints about Free-to-Air Television Broadcasts

Two items broadcast on Te Karere reported on Green MP Marama Davidson’s experiences as part of the ‘Women’s Boat to Gaza’ protest, which aimed to draw attention to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The Authority upheld a complaint that the reporter’s reference during the first item to the ‘illegal’ Israeli blockade was inaccurate. The legality of the blockade was a contentious and unresolved issue, with two UN reports taking conflicting positions on the point. The Authority therefore considered that the broadcaster should have qualified its statement with reference to the disputed legality of the blockade, rather than referring to it unequivocally as illegal. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard that pro-Israeli viewpoints were omitted from the broadcast, noting that a later broadcast of Te Karere returned to Ms Davidson’s story, and featured an Israeli advocate who provided alternative viewpoints to those expressed in the earlier broadcasts, which was sufficient. While the Authority accepted that precise language was required in relation to ongoing international disputes such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it determined that its decision provided adequate guidance to broadcasters and made no order.

Upheld: Accuracy; Not Upheld: Balance

No Order

An item on Story discussed the accountability of judges in New Zealand. The item referenced a number of high profile criminal judgments by a named District Court Judge that were overturned on appeal, and included a comparison between New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States on the appointment, term and removal of judges. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item placed undue emphasis on the decisions of the featured Judge, failed to contrast New Zealand with comparable jurisdictions, failed to cover key information about the judicial complaints service and featured an offensive gesture. The media play an important role in raising issues, such as alleged poor performance of judges, which have an impact on our communities, and this item was in the public interest. The choice to compare New Zealand with judicial systems in the United States and Switzerland was an editorial one open to the broadcaster, and did not result in audiences being misled or misinformed. Finally, the gesture used by the presenter in this item was an innocuous thumb gesture, and not a throat-cutting gesture as alleged by the complainant.

Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency

Read our media release on this decision here.

Promos for South Park, Tosh.O and Bombshell: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior screened during the wildlife programme Africa’s Fishing Leopards, which was classified G. The promos contained potentially offensive language, which was censored, and verbal references to an ‘act of terror’ and ‘murder’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that it was inappropriate to broadcast promos for AO-classified programmes during G-programmes, as they contained adult themes. The Authority noted that it is acceptable to screen promos for AO programmes during G programmes, provided that the promo complies with the classification of the host programme. It found that in this case, the use of censored coarse language did not breach standards, but noted that in order to maintain a G classification, broadcasters must take care to adequately edit any AO or PGR content. The promos did not contain any other material which was adult in nature or would have adversely affected child viewers. The balance standard does not apply to the promotion of fictional or comedy programmes (only news, current affairs and factual programmes).

Not Upheld: Children’s Interests, Balance

Read our media release on this decision here.

Hurrell and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2016-094

Promos for 60 Minutes, The Brokenwood Mysteries, Poldark and 11.22.63 were broadcast on Prime, during an unclassified All Blacks rugby match against Ireland. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that it was inappropriate to broadcast promos for PGR and AO programmes during G-rated host programmes. The Authority noted that the All Blacks match was unclassified, meaning any promos needed to be classified either G or PGR to comply with broadcasting standards. While the promos featured or alluded to adult themes, the depiction of those themes was consistent with the G classification. The promos were unlikely to disturb or offend viewers, including any child viewers who were watching the rugby.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency

Read our media release on this decision here.

An episode of the documentary series, The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta, titled ‘The New New Zealand’, focused on the topic of immigration. The episode looked at common perceptions of immigration in New Zealand and featured interviews with the Chief Executive of Immigration New Zealand, an immigration consultant, two academic consultants and the Chief Economist at Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL), as well as a number of immigrants to New Zealand from China, India and the UK. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that alternative points of view were omitted from the item. This episode of The Hard Stuff carried high public interest and had high value in terms of the exercise of freedom of expression. It was sufficient, in the context of a series presented as being from a particular host’s perspective, for the episode to raise and acknowledge alternative viewpoints, without providing extensive details of those views. The Authority found that the programme was sufficiently balanced for viewers to make up their own minds about the validity of the arguments offered in favour of, and against, immigration.

Not Upheld: Balance

ONE News item reported on a protest organised by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, which carried a petition in the name of a deceased child, demanding changes to the rules around plea bargaining. The reporter stated, ‘the protestors chose disgraced ex-MP David Garrett to deliver that message to MPs... Garrett resigned from Parliament six years ago for stealing the identity of a dead infant...’ The Authority did not uphold Mr Garrett’s complaint that this statement was misleading, as it implied the incident being referred to occurred six years ago, as well as being unbalanced and unfair to him. The Authority found the comment was not misleading, but emphasised that Mr Garrett’s resignation occurred six years ago, which was correct. The Authority acknowledged that individuals ought to be entitled to move on with their lives without past indiscretions remaining the subject of media attention, but found that the reference to Mr Garrett’s history was an inevitable consequence of his decision to participate in a material way in this particular public protest. As Mr Garrett’s involvement in the protest was not the focus of the item, his view or other balancing material was not required.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance

An episode of the documentary series, The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta, titled ‘Selling Ourselves Short’, focused on the topic of New Zealand’s economy, comparing our standard of living today with the 1960s-70s. The episode examined some of New Zealand’s traditional and upcoming export industries, such as dairy farming, forestry, pharmaceuticals, technology and fashion, and featured interviews with farmers, business owners, economists and academics. At the beginning of the episode, Mr Latta stated, ‘We’re rated as one of the best places in the world to do business and we’re not corrupt.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Latta’s statement was inaccurate and that the episode was unbalanced because it did not address New Zealand’s ‘extensive corruption’ as a reason for our underperforming economy. Mr Latta’s statement was not a material point of fact in the context of the episode as a whole and his brief mention of corruption did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the requirements of the balance standard.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness

Complaints about Radio Broadcasts
Saunders and NZME Radio Ltd - 2016-089

During the Leighton Smith Show, presenter Leighton Smith, in relation to a headline regarding Pope Francis’ warning to then President-elect Donald Trump, ‘do not back away from UN climate pact’, said, ‘I don’t want to offend, certainly not insult, any Catholics listening, but how did you end up with this tosser?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment was derogatory, crude and demeaning. Mr Smith was entitled to express his opinion on the Pope’s stance on climate change and while his comment was considered offensive by the complainant, in the context of a talkback radio show, the Authority did not consider it undermined current norms of good taste and decency. The comment did not breach the other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant, as it reflected Mr Smith’s opinion, did not discriminate or denigrate against a section of the community, and as a public figure speaking publicly on a controversial issue, Pope Francis could have expected commentary and criticism and was therefore not treated unfairly by Mr Smith.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

Gibbs and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2016-091

An item on Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman, titled ‘Abortion and Civil Liberties – the Thames Stand-Off’, discussed ‘pro-life’ protestors, Voice for Life, and their longstanding protests outside Thames Hospital. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter was biased and that his treatment of the ‘pro-life’ representative was negative, unfair and unbalanced in comparison to his treatment of the ‘pro-choice’ representative. The Authority found that Mr Chapman’s treatment of the interviewees did not result in an unbalanced broadcast, as both perspectives on the debate were adequately put forward during the programme. While Mr Chapman’s questioning of the ‘pro-life’ representative was robust, his criticisms related to the Voice for Life group as a whole, and he did not attack the interviewee personally or come across as abusive towards her, such that she was treated unfairly. The allegedly inaccurate statement made by Mr Chapman represented his interpretation of the issues discussed, and as such could be distinguished as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than a point of fact subject to the accuracy standard.

Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy

Boyce and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2016-096

Nine to Noon programme included a segment featuring UK correspondent Dame Ann Leslie. In response to the host’s question ‘What is on your mind this week?’, Dame Leslie commented on the British Labour Party, its leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Black Lives Matter UK organisation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Dame Leslie’s comments constituted an attack on Mr Corbyn, denigrated the BLM UK activists, and were inaccurate and unbalanced. Mr Corbyn and BLM UK were not treated unfairly, as both could reasonably expect to be subject to robust media scrutiny as a consequence of their public profile. While the item was a current affairs piece to which the balance standard applied, the issues were approached from Dame Leslie’s perspective and listeners would not have expected alternative views to be given. The statements complained about were clearly Dame Leslie’s opinion, and so were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard. The statements about the BLM UK activists did not reach the high level necessary to constitute discrimination or denigration.

Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Accuracy and Discrimination and Denigration

Ryan and NZME Radio Ltd - 2017-005

An audio clip promoting the ZM radio station stated that ZM played ‘hit after hit after goddamn hit’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the phrase ‘hit after goddamn hit’ was offensive to those who hold Christian or other religious beliefs and contrary to children’s interests. The Authority acknowledged that use of the term ‘goddamn’ may have caused offence to some listeners. However, in this case it was used as part of the station’s promotional messaging for playing continuous music and was not dwelt upon. Taking into account the right to freedom of expression, and the context of the broadcast, the term ‘goddamn’ could not be said to have encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against, all Christians or others who hold religious beliefs. The broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests, having regard to the station’s target audience and the expectations of its listeners.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Children’s Interests

Click here for all of the latest BSA decisions
Click here to search all BSA decisions

BSA News

Reminder: Broadcaster Participation in Social Media/Privacy Research

We are currently undertaking research into the privacy implications of the mainstream media's use of social media content.

We are interested in broadcasters' views on these issues. If you would like to participate in this research by completing a short questionnaire or by sending us comments, please contact us on

Upcoming Election Seminar for Broadcasters

BSA, Electoral Commission, Press Council and ASA
19 April 2017
Auckland CBD 

If you would like to attend, please contact 

BSA Team

This month we welcomed our new intern, Anna Brow, to the BSA team. Anna is a Law, Media and Communications graduate and is with the BSA for three months.

Media News

Each month we collect items from the media in New Zealand and overseas that are relevant to the broadcasting sector. A selection is below: 

New Zealand 

Prime-time party election broadcasts axed

New television channel to launch in New Zealand

Māori Television online viewship of Te Matatini 2017 increases 

So long TV3, MediaWorks announces new channel name

Media remain committed when disaster strikes


ABC ends Pacific shortwave service

Foxtel breaches rules about political matter


World wide web creator targets fake news

Ofcom supports new Welsh language standards

Did you know... ? 

Election programmes are only programmes broadcast for political parties or candidates. 
Copyright © 2017 Broadcasting Standards Authority, All rights reserved.

We welcome your feedback.

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Phone us on: 0800 366 996 or 04 382 9508

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Wellington 6141

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