The Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice covers programmes on all free-to-air television channels in New Zealand.
‘Free-to-air’ means television that you don’t need to pay a subscription for. It includes channels such as TV One, TV2, TV3, FOUR, Māori Television, Reo, Prime and various regional television stations.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) is responsible for administering the standards regime, determining formal complaints and encouraging broadcasters to develop and observe appropriate Codes of Broadcasting Practice.
This Code of Broadcasting Practice has been prepared by the New Zealand Television Broadcasters’ Council on behalf of TV One, TV2, TV3, FOUR, Māori Television and other free-to-air services.
In the application of this Code, the ethic of social responsibility is recognised both by broadcasters and the Authority.
Under section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, there is a right to freedom of expression. When the Authority makes decisions on complaints, it will consider and apply the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
Broadcasters and the BSA also acknowledge that New Zealand is party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The requirements of the Code are set out in each standard. Each standard has a number of associated guidelines. These guidelines do not, of themselves, impose requirements on a broadcaster. They are included to provide interpretative assistance for broadcasters and the public, and indicate factors that the broadcaster should consider when assessing whether a programme complies with a particular standard.
A programme which does not adhere to the letter of a particular guideline may not be in breach, depending on the programme's overall compliance with the relevant standard.
Formal complaints allege that the broadcaster has failed in its responsibility to maintain one or more of the broadcasting standards set out in Standards 1 to 11 below.
Formal complaints must be:
The one exception is an allegation of breach of privacy (Standard 3:) which may be made directly to the BSA without first being referred to the broadcaster. This can be done through the BSA website.
Formal complaints should specify:
Free-to-Air broadcasters are also required to comply with the Programme Code covering Election Programmes such as Opening and Closing Addresses and Advertisements. A copy of the Election Programmes Code is available on this website. Complaints under this Code are made direct to the BSA.
Apart from programme promotions and broadcast political advertising, the BSA has no jurisdiction over advertisements. Complaints about advertisements should be made to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board.
Copies of all broadcasting Codes are available from the BSA and from this website.
The following standards apply to free-to-air television programmes broadcast in New Zealand.
1a Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency, bearing in mind the
context in which any content occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. programme
classification, target audience, type of programme and use of warnings etc.
1b The use of visual and verbal warnings should be considered when content is likely to disturb or
offend a significant number of viewers except in the case of news and current affairs, where
verbal warnings only will be considered. Warnings should be specific in nature, while avoiding
detail which may itself distress or offend viewers.
2a Caution should be exercised in broadcasting items which explain the techniques of crime
in a manner which invites imitation.
2b Factual programmes should not glamorise criminal activity or condone the actions of criminals.
2c Except where justified in the public interest, ingenious devices or unfamiliar methods for inflicting
pain, injury or death should not be shown.
2d The realistic portrayal of anti-social behaviour, including violent and serious crime and the abuse of
liquor and drugs, should not be shown in a way that glamorises these activities.
2e Programmes should not glamorise suicide and should not give detailed descriptions about
methods of suicide.
3a When considering an individual’s privacy, broadcasters shall apply the privacy principles developed
by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (see Appendix 2).
4a No set formula can be advanced for the allocation of time to interested parties on controversial
issues of public importance. Significant viewpoints should be presented fairly in the context of
the programme. This can only be done by judging each case on its merits.
4b The assessment of whether a reasonable range of views has been presented takes account of
some or all of the following:
5a The accuracy standard does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable
as analysis, comment or opinion.
5b In the event that a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it at the
earliest appropriate opportunity.
5c News must be impartial.
6a A consideration of what is fair will depend upon the genre of the programme (e.g. factual, dramatic,
comedic or satirical programmes).
6b Broadcasters should exercise care in editing programme material to ensure that the extracts used
are not a distortion of the original event or the overall views expressed.
6c Except as justified in the public interest:
6d Broadcasters should respect the right of individuals to express their own opinions.
6e Individuals and particularly children and young people, taking part or referred to should not be
exploited, humiliated or unfairly identified.
6f Where the programme deals with distressing circumstances (e.g. grief and bereavement) discretion
and sensitivity are expected.
7a This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:
8a Broadcasters should use established classification codes:
8b All promos (including promos for news and current affairs) should be classified to comply with the
“host programme” (the programme in which they screen):
8c Except as justified in the public interest, news flashes screening outside regular news and current
affairs programmes, particularly during children’s viewing time, should avoid unnecessary,
distressing or alarming material or should provide a prior warning about the material.
8d Advertisements and infomercials should be clearly distinguishable from other programme material.
8e Broadcasters should ensure that there is no collusion between broadcasters and contestants that
results in unfair advantage to any contestant.
8f Broadcasters should not use the process known as “subliminal perception” or any other technique
which attempts to convey information to the viewer by transmitting messages below or near the
threshold of normal awareness.
9a Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme or promo may have on children during
their normally accepted viewing times – usually up to 8.30pm – and avoid screening material that
would disturb or alarm them.
9b When scheduling AO material to commence at 8.30pm, broadcasters should ensure that strong adult
material is not shown soon after the watershed.
9c Broadcasters should have regard to the fact that children tend to:
Accordingly, special attention should be given to providing appropriate warnings during these periods.
9d Programmes containing disturbing social and domestic friction or sequences in which people –
especially children – or animals may be humiliated or badly treated, should be handled with care
9e Children’s cartoons should avoid gratuitous violence – especially violence involving humans or
human-like creatures – unless it would be clear to the child viewer that the themes are fanciful
10a Any violence shown should be justified in the context of screening and not be gratuitous.
10b Broadcasters should be mindful of the cumulative effect of violent incidents and themes:
10c Programmes in which rape or sexual violence is a theme should be treated with care:
10d In news, current affairs and factual programmes, where disturbing or alarming material is often
shown to reflect a world in which violence occurs, the material should be justified in the
10e In sports programmes violent incidents during or surrounding play should not be repeated gratuitously:
Liquor Promotion comprises:
11a Liquor Promotion must not appear in programmes specifically directed at children.
11b Broadcasters must ensure that Liquor Promotion does not dominate programmes.
11c Broadcasters must avoid advocacy of excessive liquor consumption.
11d Broadcasters are not required to exclude promotion from coverage of an actual event or
situation being broadcast where promotion is a normal feature of the event or situation but
must take guideline 11b into account.
11e Sponsorship of a programme must be confined to the brand, name or logo and must not
include a sponsor's sales message:
To assist programme makers, sports organisations and sponsors, television broadcasters have published
guidelines for restrictions on liquor promotion in the coverage of sports events.
A child means a boy or girl under the age of 14 years (Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989).
Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but should not contain material likely to alarm or distress them.
G programmes may be screened at any time.
Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult.
PGR programmes may be screened between 9am and 4pm, and after 7pm until 6am.
Programmes containing adult themes and directed primarily at mature audiences.
AO programmes may be screened between midday and 3pm on weekdays (except during school and public holidays as designated by the Ministry of Education) and after 8.30pm until 5am.
Programmes containing stronger material or special elements which fall outside the AO classification. These programmes may contain a greater degree of sexual activity, potentially offensive language, realistic violence, sexual violence, or horrific encounters.
1. News and Current Affairs programmes, which may be scheduled at any time and may, on occasion,
pre-empt other scheduled broadcasts, are not, because of their distinct nature, subject to censorship
or to the strictures of the classification system:
2. Sports and Live Programming cannot be classified due to the ‘live’ nature of the broadcast.
The broadcaster should take all reasonable steps to ensure that the content of the programme
conforms with the underlying timeband in which the programme is broadcast.
1. It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the
disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
2. It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of some kinds of public
facts. The ‘public’ facts contemplated concern events (such as criminal behaviour) which have, in
effect, become private again, for example through the passage of time. Nevertheless, the public
disclosure of public facts will have to be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
3. (a) It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of material obtained by
intentionally interfering, in the nature of prying, with that individual’s interest in solitude or seclusion.
The intrusion must be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
(b) In general, an individual’s interest in solitude or seclusion does not prohibit recording, filming, or
photographing that individual in a public place (‘the public place exemption’).
(c) The public place exemption does not apply when the individual whose privacy has allegedly been
infringed was particularly vulnerable, and where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective
4. The protection of privacy includes the protection against the disclosure by the broadcaster, without
consent, of the name and/or address and/or telephone number of an identifiable individual, in
circumstances where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
5. It is a defence to a privacy complaint that the individual whose privacy is allegedly infringed by the
disclosure complained about gave his or her informed consent to the disclosure. A guardian of a child
can consent on behalf of that child.
6. Children’s vulnerability must be a prime concern to broadcasters, even when informed consent has
been obtained. Where a broadcast breaches a child’s privacy, broadcasters shall satisfy themselves
that the broadcast is in the child’s best interests, regardless of whether consent has been obtained.
7. For the purpose of these Principles only, a ‘child’ is defined as someone under the age of 16 years. An
individual aged 16 years or over can consent to broadcasts that would otherwise breach their privacy.
8. Disclosing the matter in the ‘public interest’, defined as of legitimate concern or interest to the public,
is a defence to a privacy complaint.