BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Jones and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2006-027

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Russell Jones
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
60 Minutes – “Sex and the City” – investigated street prostitution in Christchurch – particular concern about under-age prostitutes – allegedly unbalanced in that the item did not acknowledge the changes since the Prostitution Reform Act 2003

Standard 4 (balance) – the item dealt with street prostitution in Christchurch – a controversial issue of public importance dealt with in a balanced way – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] “Sex and the City” investigated street prostitution in Christchurch and focused on under-age prostitutes. The item, broadcast on TV3’s 60 Minutes at 7.30pm on 23 February 2006, referred to a number of incidents in Christchurch when street prostitutes had been the victims of violence. The item also included interviews with an older experienced prostitute and with a younger partially-disguised 18-year-old prostitute. It also included comment from other participants in and observers of the industry. The police, viewers were advised, had declined to participate.


[2] Russell Jones complained to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was unbalanced as it did not examine all the full relevant issues about the New Zealand sex industry. Furthermore, he contended that the item did not acknowledge the positive developments in the industry which had occurred since the enactment of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.


[3] CanWest assessed the complaint under Standard 4 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standard and guidelines provide:

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.


4a   Programmes which deal with political matters, current affairs, and questions of a controversial nature, must show balance and impartiality.

4b   No set formula can be advanced for the allocation of time to interested parties on controversial public issues. Broadcasters should aim to present all significant sides in as fair a way as possible, it being acknowledged that this can be done only by judging each case on its merits.

4c   Factual programmes, and programmes shown which approach a topic from a particular or personal perspective (for example, authorial documentaries and those shown on access television), may not be required to observe to the letter the requirements of standard4.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] CanWest said that the item, which focused on the activities of underage prostitutes in Christchurch, dealt with a controversial issue of public importance. Accordingly, it agreed that the balance standard was applicable.

[5] Pointing out that the item included interviews with prostitutes, and stating that it reflected all significant points of view, CanWest maintained the standard had been complied with. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[6] Dissatisfied with CanWest’s response, Mr Jones referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[7] Mr Jones said, in response to CanWest’s reference to the freedom of expression provision in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, that he was not happy as the broadcaster had used the Act “to get out of facing up to the complaint”.

Authority's Determination

[8] The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[9] The Authority considers that the focus of the item was the extent and visibility of street prostitution in Christchurch. The Authority accepts that this issue is a controversial one of public importance to which the balance standard applies.

[10] The complainant contended that the item was unbalanced in that it did not acknowledge the positive changes to the sex industry since the Prostitution Reform Act. The Authority considers that the item confined itself to the problem of street prostitution in Christchurch, and did not purport to examine either the wider issue of prostitution generally or the impact of the Prostitution Reform Act. In the Authority’s opinion, the impact of that Act did not need to be canvassed to give balance to the issue under discussion.

[11] In the Authority’s opinion, the item presented a range of views on the issue under discussion, from a number of people. Accordingly, it concludes that the broadcast complied with the requirements of Standard 4 (balance).


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
31 May 2006


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

  1. Russell Jones’ formal complaint – 2 March 2006
  2. CanWest TVWorks Ltd response – 29 March 2006
  3. Mr Jones’ referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 3 April 2006
  4. CanWest’s response – 11 April 2006