BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-011

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Donald McDonald
One News
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item reporting on an iceberg close to colliding with an ice-shelf in Antarctica – size of the iceberg incorrectly reported as 2000 cubic metres, rather than kilometres – broadcaster upheld breach of Standard 5 but declined to broadcast a correction – complainant dissatisfied with action taken

Standard 5 (accuracy) – minor error – other descriptions in the item clarified magnitude of iceberg – action taken by broadcaster sufficient – future similar referrals by complainant potentially vexatious.

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] An item broadcast on One News at 6pm on 14 January 2005 reported that a huge iceberg was close to colliding with the ice-shelf on the coast of Antarctica. The item reported that the iceberg contained 2000 cubic metres of water.


[2] Donald McDonald complained to the broadcaster, Television New Zealand Ltd, pointing out that the iceberg contained closer to 2000 cubic miles of water, rather than the 2000 cubic metres as reported in the item.


[3] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] In its response to the complainant, TVNZ noted that Mr McDonald correctly stated that the figure given (2000 cubic metres of water) was inaccurate, and that the correct figure was in fact 2000 cubic kilometres of water. As a result, TVNZ upheld the complaint as a breach of Standard 5 (accuracy).

[5] TVNZ noted, however, that the item contained a number of other descriptions accurately reflecting the enormous size of the iceberg and therefore diminishing the seriousness of the error. These included references to “an iceberg so vast it’s officially the largest floating object in the world” and “a floating iceberg, 150 kilometres long”. While TVNZ recognised that a mistake had been made, it did not consider that a correction needed to be broadcast.

Referral to the Authority

[6] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated the points made in his original complaint to the broadcaster.

[7] He added that he considered that the descriptions, alleged by TVNZ to accurately reflect the size of the iceberg, were misleading and confusing.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[8] TVNZ reiterated that it saw no compelling reason for a correction to be broadcast, as it believed viewers had received sufficient information to grasp the size of the iceberg.

Authority's Determination

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

[10] In the Authority’s view, the error was minor as other descriptions in the item ensured that the magnitude of the iceberg was clear. In these circumstances, the action by TVNZ in upholding the complaint was appropriate and sufficient.

[11] The Authority notes that similar future referrals by Mr McDonald, where the broadcaster has provided a considered and appropriate response to a minor complaint, run the risk of being classed as trivial or vexatious.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
20 April 2005


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

  1. Donald McDonald’s Formal Complaint to TVNZ – 14 January 2005
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 8 February 2005
  3. Donald McDonald’s Referral to the Authority – 23 February 2005
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 1 March 2005