BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Grieve and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2013-018

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Robin Grieve
One News
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – introducing an item about events on Waitangi Day, the presenter referred to the Treaty of Waitangi as “the nation’s founding document” – description of Treaty allegedly inaccurate

Standard 5 (accuracy) – reporter’s description of the Treaty as “the nation’s founding document” was not a material statement of fact to which the accuracy standard applied – description would not have misled viewers about the status of the Treaty – item not inaccurate or misleading – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  A One News item broadcast on Waitangi Day, 6 February 2013, covered the Prime Minister’s visit to, and reception at, Waitangi that day. It was introduced by a reporter in a live cross, as follows:

Kia ora from the Treaty grounds at Waitangi, where the nation’s founding document was first signed 173 years ago. Our national day has also been celebrated right across the country and we’ll look at how New Zealanders enjoy their day off.

[2]  Robin Grieve made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that it was inaccurate to describe the Treaty of Waitangi as “the nation’s founding document”.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard (Standard 5) as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the item inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  The accuracy standard (Standard 5) states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[6]  Mr Grieve argued that, by describing the Treaty as “the nation’s founding document”, the news item elevated its importance and misled viewers to believe the Treaty was universally accepted as the official founding document of New Zealand, when in fact its status was highly contentious.

[7]  While acknowledging that different views of the Treaty have caused significant ongoing debate, TVNZ stood by the accuracy of the reporter’s statement, saying the Treaty was widely accepted and thought of as New Zealand’s founding document. It referred to New Zealand History Online, produced by the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which uses this description.2

[8]  The reporter’s description of the Treaty as “the nation’s founding document” was not material in the context of the relatively brief news report, which focused on the events at Waitangi that day, and specifically, the Prime Minister’s attendance at the Waitangi Day commemorations, which have often been the focus of protest by Māori activists. The item did not purport to be a debate about the legal status of the Treaty, and the reporter’s comment was made in passing, without emphasis or discussion, so it would not have misled viewers about the place of the Treaty in New Zealand society.

[9]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
25 July 2013


The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1           Robin Grieve’s formal complaint – 8 February 2013

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 7 March 2013

3          Mr Grieve’s referral to the Authority – 8 April 2013

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 23 May 2013

Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036