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In most cases if you want to make a formal complaint about a programme broadcast in New Zealand you need to complain first to the relevant broadcaster within 20 working days of the broadcast. The broadcaster has 20 working days to reply to your complaint. If you are unsatisfied with the broadcaster's response you can then refer the complaint to the BSA for review. You can do this even if the broadcaster has upheld your complaint if you are unhappy with the action they took or didn't take. Complaints about breaches of privacy or election programmes can be made directly to the BSA.

The BSA will consider your referral and issue a decision to either uphold or not uphold your complaint. If we uphold the complaint we may issue an order that requires the broadcaster to take some form of action.

You or the broadcaster have the right to appeal any BSA decision to the High Court. You must give notice of that appeal within one calendar month of the decision.

More specific detail on how to submit a complaint can be found in Making a Complaint.

You can also view a flow chart that sets out in complaints process in a graphic form.


If the BSA decides that a broadcaster has breached standards it can make various orders. The broadcaster must comply with the order the BSA has issued. If they do not they could be liable for a fine. A full explanation of these powers can be found in What can the BSA do?

  • Publish a statement
  • Pay costs the Crown
  • Pay costs to the complainant for a breach of privacy
  • Pay costs (e.g. legal costs)
  • Refrain from broadcasting
  • Refrain from broadcasting any advertising

For a formal explanation of the BSA's powers you should refer to the Broadcasting Act 1989.

The BSA has issued a Practice Note that explains the approach it will likely take when awarding costs to a complainant.