In this Bulletin: Note from the CE, Litmus Testing 2016 report, Watch this space: upcoming BSA workshops, Latest Decisions, Media News  
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July 2016

Number 64
Note from the Chief Executive

Kia ora

Welcome to the July edition of the BSA’s Bulletin.  In this edition, we set out our decisions from June and July and identify our recent key activities. Several key themes emerge from these recent decisions. Notably, broadcast audiences continue to be concerned about the importance of balance in coverage of controversial issues of public importance, whether it be long-running international issues such as climate change or issues of local importance, such as the flag referendum. As some of the recent decisions illustrate, the nature of the issue, whether alternative viewpoints are available within the programme itself or in other media, and audience levels of awareness about the issue will continue to be relevant considerations for the Authority in determining complaints under the Balance standard.

Complaints have also indicated that audiences are sensitive to broadcasts which they consider discriminate against, or denigrate, a section of the community. What groups constitute a 'section of the community' are consistent those listed in the Human Rights Act 1992, and include race, gender, disability and religious belief. Under broadcasting standards, the importance of freedom of expression and the high threshold required to limit it means a high level of condemnation  will be necessary to determine that the Discrimination and Denigration broadcasting standard has been breached. Recent decisions found that broadcasts which could not be said to reflect negatively on the nominated section of the community as a whole, and programmes which contained legitimate humour or widely accepted colloquial phrases, did not breach this standard.

Key events

This month we released our Litmus Testing report on the good taste and decency standard, which you can read more about below.

Lastly, we are very happy to welcome Catie Murray as a new Legal Advisor to the BSA team.

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


Belinda Moffat

BSA News

Litmus Testing 2016 report
This month we released new research on the public's attitudes to standards of good taste and decency.
The research revealed that New Zealander's perceptions of good taste and decency have changed over time, with several key themes emerging, including:
  • Some New Zealanders now have a higher tolerance of bad language and sexual content than in previous years. Participants believed this was strongly influenced by greater exposure to broad and diverse content through the internet.
  • New Zealanders have heightened sensitivity to material containing potentially sexist or racist content. Participants in the litmus testing were less accepting of content that appeared to denigrate or demean someone based on their race or gender.
The litmus testing research was conducted by Nielsen for the BSA and involved 28 members of the public in Ashburton, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland who were invited to ‘litmus test’ five BSA decisions in focus group sessions.

The testing is used to gauge community attitudes and to assess how BSA decisions align with public opinion. The research outcomes will be taken into consideration by the BSA in its determination of complaints from the public that standards of broadcasting practice have been breached.

You can read the full report on the 2016 Litmus Testing here.
Watch this space: upcoming BSA Codebook workshops
We are in the process of holding a series of workshops on the new Codebook which will take place over the coming months.  If you would like to attend a workshop, or would like to see certain topics covered, please get in touch

Latest Decisions

Complaints about Free-to-Air TV Broadcasts
MX and FX and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2015-094

An episode of Neighbours at War featured a dispute between a group of neighbours over a right of way. Two sets of neighbours alleged that their neighbours, a couple (Mr and Mrs X), had been threatening and harassing them. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from Mr and Mrs X that the episode was unfair and breached their privacy. The Authority also determined that the broadcaster did not take sufficient action having upheld one aspect of the complainants’ original fairness complaint. The programme contained potentially damaging allegations against the complainants and did not present their side of the story. The programme also broadcast footage of incidents between Mr and Mrs X and their neighbours on the right of way obtained by one neighbour’s friend and a security camera belonging to another neighbour, which was a highly offensive intrusion into their interest in solitude and seclusion. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the fairness and privacy complaints, and did not find that the item was inaccurate or misleading.

Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Fairness, Privacy; Not Upheld: Accuracy

Order: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation to the complainants $500

Read our media release on this decision here

Turver and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-032

A Seven Sharp item discussed the upcoming flag referendum and featured an interview with an Australian advocate for changing the flag. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that presenter Mike Hosking ‘encouraged the New Zealand public to vote a certain way by reiterating his own prejudices and then using an Australian broadcaster to support his own views’. While Mr Hosking made his view in support of changing the flag known, the alternative view was adequately presented during the item. Given the widespread coverage of the flag referendum, viewers could also reasonably be expected to be aware of significant perspectives on the issue, and would not have been deceived or disadvantaged as a result of this item.

Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Responsible Programming

Read our media release on this decision here.

Hawker and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-025

An item on Seven Sharp discussed whether celebrity endorsement of any particular flag would sway public voting in the New Zealand flag referendum. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast of the personal views of certain celebrities who supported changing the flag resulted in an unbalanced and partial programme. While the item featured several celebrities in support of the alternative flag, it also mentioned some who supported the current flag. In the context of the item this was a sufficient acknowledgement of significant viewpoints on the issue. Furthermore, viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of the different perspectives on the flag referendum issue.

Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy

Read our media release on this decision here.

Seqirus (NZ) Ltd and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2016-015

3D reported on the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, and the stories of several girls and their families who believed that they had suffered serious health problems after being vaccinated. It also reported on the as-yet-unexplained sudden deaths of two girls who had recently received the vaccine. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the maker of Gardasil alleging that the programme misleadingly suggested that Gardasil was unsafe and thus deceived and disadvantaged the public when there was no evidential basis for doing so. The story was well-reported, was measured in its presentation and gave viewers a range of information, which enabled them to make up their own minds about the vaccine. The Authority emphasised the high public interest in the story and in giving a platform for minority voices to be heard.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Responsible Programming

Read our media release on this decision

Wallace and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2016-037

During an episode of The Crowd Goes Wild, the hosts discussed the results of the US Masters golf tournament. Host Mark Richardson, referring to English golfer Danny Willett (who ultimately won the tournament), commented in relation to footage of Mr Willett playing a hole, ‘you’re leading the Masters – how’re you going to handle this, you pommy git? Right, so pretty well then, old chap I see’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the phrase ‘pommy git’ was openly racist and derogatory. The hosts of The Crowd Goes Wild are known for their style of presentation and humour, which is often irreverent and ‘tongue-in-cheek’. The comments were not ‘nasty’ or ‘derogatory’ and were not intended to reflect negatively on English people generally. In these circumstances, the use of the term ‘pommy git’ did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency and did not reach the high threshold for encouraging the denigration of, or discrimination against, all English people as a section of the community.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration

Pereira and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-034

In an episode of an American sitcom Dr. Ken, Dr Ken met his wife’s successful former boyfriend, Dr Kevin O’Connell, and was jealous. At the end of the episode, Dr O’Connell was portrayed as being drunk and asking Dr Ken’s staff for a lift home. The three staff all replied in unison, ‘I’ll do it!’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the scene normalised rape and portrayed rape against men as a ‘laughing matter’. In the context of a fictional sitcom, which was intended to be humorous, the scene did not carry any level of invective, and could not be said to have encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of, men as a section of the community.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration

Hoogenboom and Television New Zealand ltd - 2016-033

An item on Breakfast reported on a shoot-out during an anti-terror raid in Brussels. During the item, the Europe Correspondent stated, ‘We’ve now heard that one suspect has been neutralised’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the term ‘neutralised’ was not accurate, appropriate or neutral language. The Authority found the choice of language was not a material point of fact in the item, which focused on an anti-terror raid linked to the Paris terror attacks. Further, the term ‘neutralised’ is at times used in the context of reporting on police or counter-terrorism action. The use of this term was not biased against, and did not imply fault on the part of, the Belgian Police.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues

Foggo and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-030

A ONE News item discussed two changes proposed as part of a review of Child Youth and Family Services (CYFS): first, dealing with 17-year-old offenders within the youth justice system rather than the adult justice system; and second, lifting the age that people can remain in CYFS care. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that footage of young skateboarders and riders shown during the item implicitly associated them with youth crime, which was unfair. The skateboarders and riders did not take part and were not referred to during the item at a level that triggered the fairness standard. The footage simply associated them with typical activities for people their age and was in the nature of visual wallpaper. It did not associate young skateboarders and riders with youth crime.

Not Upheld: Fairness

McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-021

An item on ONE News reported that a recent avalanche in the Austrian Alps had killed five skiers. The presenter stated the avalanche was ‘reported to be two kilometres wide and five kilometres high’. A second item on ONE News discussed plans for a new dairy factory in Northland. The reporter said, ‘He’s [farmer interviewed] been in the dairy industry for two years and has record low pay-outs, the latest forecast at around four dollars’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the reference to the avalanche being ‘five kilometres high’ and the reference in the dairy item to a ‘Fonterra pay-out of $4 per annum’ were inaccurate and misleading. The precise size of the avalanche was not a material point of fact in the item and the statement referencing four dollars clearly referred to the interviewed farmer’s pay-out and not to the total annual pay-out made by Fonterra.

Not Upheld: Accuracy

Holubicki and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2016-020

Prime News item reported on the trial of a former Nazi guard at Auschwitz and referred to the camp as a ‘Polish camp’. The complainant alleged this statement was inaccurate because it was not a ‘Polish camp’, but was rather a Nazi camp located in Poland. The Authority recognised that the labelling of concentration camps as part of the Nazi regime remains a sensitive issue and one of historical importance, which broadcasters should be mindful of when choosing the language to be used. Nevertheless, in the context of the item the Authority did not consider that viewers would have been misled.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness

Grieve and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2016-019

An item on 3 News reported that 2015 was the planet’s hottest year on record. The reporter stated that ‘the impacts of that record high are close to home’ and interviewed two New Zealand climate scientists about the finding. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that it was inaccurate and unbalanced for the reporter to imply that recent severe weather events in New Zealand were caused by global warming. The scientists who gave their views in the item were respected local experts, and the inclusion of comment from them localised the findings for viewers in terms of what they might mean for New Zealanders. In terms of the balance standard, global warming is an ongoing contentious issue which is widely discussed so viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of the range of perspectives on global warming.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues

Field and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-012

ONE News reported on the recent death of a woman in Remuera and said her alleged attacker (who had name suppression) had appeared in the Auckland District Court that day. The reporter described the alleged attacker as a ‘24-year-old Pacific Island man’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the reference to the alleged attacker’s race was offensive and racist. The Authority acknowledged that the reporter’s commentary, which included racial identification, could be seen as unnecessary given that the ethnicity of the alleged attacker was no longer critical following his arrest. However, the reporter’s description of the man was factual, and the comments did not reach the high threshold for finding that the item encouraged discrimination against, or denigration of, Pacific Islanders as a section of the community.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration

Karavasil and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-010

ONE News reported on the case of a Palmerston North schoolgirl who had been abducted earlier in the day, and subsequently located and reunited with her family. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item breached the privacy of the girl and her sisters. The item did not disclose any private information about the girl; the details given were in the public domain at the time of the broadcast and carried high public interest, as they may have assisted with the search for her abductor. The girl’s sisters were not identifiable in the item and therefore their privacy was not breached.

Not Upheld: Privacy

Complaints about Radio Broadcasts
Mitchell and Te Reo Irirangi O Te Arawa - 2015-104

The Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust has a regular broadcasting programme on Te Arawa FM, which is paid for by the Trust and enables the Trust to ‘share its views on issues affecting the Trust with its beneficiaries’. The programme featured an interview with the Trust’s deputy chairman, in which he made a number of negative comments about Te Komiti Nui o Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Whakaue Tribal Lands Incorporation and its former chairman. The Authority upheld a complaint that the programme was unbalanced, as it contained a discussion of issues that were controversial and of public importance to Te Arawa’s audience, but did not present any significant countering viewpoints to those expressed by the interviewee. The Authority also upheld the complaint that the former chairman of NWTLI, the complainant, was treated unfairly. While the former chairman was not expressly named, listeners would have realised who was being spoken about, and he ought to have been given a fair opportunity to comment in response to the criticism of him. The comments which were also alleged to be inaccurate were clearly statements of analysis, comment or opinion. Accordingly, the accuracy standard did not apply.

Upheld: Controversial Issues, Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy

No Order

You can read our media release on this decision

Lerner and New Zealand Media and Entertainment - 2016-039

During an editorial segment on KPMG Early Edition, host Rachel Smalley discussed the standing down of British Labour MP Naz Shah after accusations of anti-Semitism. Ms Smalley went on to question why criticism of Israel is often viewed as criticism of the Jewish faith, referring to comments she made during a broadcast in 2014 which were critical of Israel and the ‘abuse’ she received in response. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that Ms Smalley’s reference to her previous comments was misleading – partly because she did not refer to the Authority’s finding that one of her previous statements was inaccurate – and that the item was unbalanced. The Authority found that Ms Smalley conveyed the main message of her earlier comments without repeating the original inaccuracy, so it was not misleading for her to not mention the Authority’s previous finding. In relation to balance, the Authority considered the broadcaster was not required to present alternative views taking into account the nature of the item. Regular listeners would not have expected a balanced examination of the issue but would rather have recognised that this was an editorial piece from the particular perspective of the host.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance

Cowsill and New Zealand Media and Entertainment - 2016-031

During Leighton Smith the host discussed Wicked Campers with a caller and commented, ‘Now I’m interested to know what your reaction is to my suggestion that if you see one of these, you know, if you’re offended by one of these vans, run a screwdriver down through the so-called artwork’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments were irresponsible and encouraged listeners to break the law. It did not consider Mr Smith was seriously advocating damaging the campervans or that listeners would have been incited to commit unlawful acts, taking into account the target audience and the nature of the programme.

Not Upheld: Law and Order

Sharman and New Zealand Media and Entertainment - 2016-026

Several weeks before Waitangi Day, during Mike’s Minute on Newstalk ZB, host Mike Hosking made comments critical of Ngāpuhi leader Kingi Taurua and his stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Mr Hosking also suggested that the Prime Minister should ‘flag Waitangi’ because it is an ‘annual ritual of abuse and anger and ignorance’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item encouraged discrimination against Māori and Ngāpuhi and was unbalanced. While the Authority recognised that Mr Hosking’s comments could be considered by some to be insensitive, they were clearly his opinion and protected under the right to freedom of expression. The comments were not framed as reflecting on Māori generally and did not reach the high threshold necessary to encourage discrimination or denigration. Additionally, the item did not contain a ‘discussion’ of controversial issues but rather was clearly presented as an opinion piece. Therefore the broadcaster was not required to present alternative viewpoints. In any event, the host did make reference to countering views, such as those of Kingi Taurua.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Controversial Issues

Malcolm and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2016-018

In its Morning Report programme RNZ replaced the Pacific and Te Manu Korihi bulletins with ‘feature or lead stories’, including those with a Māori focus. The Authority declined to determine a complaint about this scheduling change, finding it raised matters of editorial discretion and personal preference rather than broadcasting standards.

Declined to Determine: Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming

Henderson and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2016-014

Seven items on Morning Report contained references to greenhouse gas emissions, specifically agricultural emissions and the outcomes of discussions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21). The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging it was inaccurate and unbalanced to state or infer that livestock emissions amount to half of New Zealand’s total emissions. The Authority found that references to the amount of livestock emissions in several of the items were not material points of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. In relation to the other items the Authority was satisfied that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy as it drew on a range of reputable sources and scientific evidence in support of the statements made.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues

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

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 

Maori Language Week: Understanding te reo you may hear on TV

New free-to-air TV channel Bravo

Commerce Commission reveals the main points of interest in the proposed SKY-Vodafone merger

Classification Office releases new research about  public perceptions of the classification system for films, videos and other publications 

Live streaming of news on Facebook

New Zealand's greatest TV commercials of all time

Mike McRoberts on the ever-changing media landscape

NZ On Air announces changes to the way it funds music 


Calls for local content quota obligations for streaming services 

Video on demand to reach two thirds of online population in 2016


Ofcom study shows under 25s TV viewing has fallen by a quarter since 2010

Merger between BBC's News Channel and World News ruled out

BBC launches news app 

Netflix binge watching habits

Did you know... ? 

The BSA received 124 complaints between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016.
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