BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-096

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Donald McDonald
One News
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News ­– item on Big Wednesday Lotto draw – presenter stated that ticket holders had a one in 2.7 million chance of winning – allegedly inaccurate

Standard 5 (accuracy) – item technically inaccurate – upholding the complaint would place an unjustified limitation on the broadcaster’s freedom of expression – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   A One News item, broadcast at 6pm on Wednesday 10 June 2009, reported on a Lotto “Big Wednesday” draw that had jackpotted to twenty million dollars. The presenter introduced the item by saying:

In just over an hour, some lucky punter could be twenty million dollars richer in what would be the country’s largest ever Lotto win. Big Wednesday’s jackpotted to include twenty million dollars cash, there’s only a one in 2.7 million chance of winning, though that hasn’t stopped people queuing and dreaming.


[2]   Donald McDonald made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item was inaccurate. He stated that the odds of winning Big Wednesday provided in the item were incorrect. He noted that Lotto’s gaming pamphlet stated that the odds of a person winning Big Wednesday were in fact one in 16,290,120 per line of numbers purchased.

[3]   The complainant provided the Authority with a copy of Lotto’s pamphlet.


[4]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 and guideline 5a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

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.

Guideline 5a

Significant errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVNZ stated that there had been an error in the script with respect to the Big Wednesday odds provided in the item, and that the figure given referred to the odds of winning Big Wednesday with a “lucky dip” ticket – which has 6 lines of numbers – as opposed to the per-line odds.

[6]   The broadcaster stated that a person had a one in 2,715,020 chance of winning Big Wednesday with each “lucky dip” ticket purchased and that this figure came from Lotto’s website. It said that these odds were quoted in the item because Big Wednesday “lucky dips” were the most commonly bought type of Big Wednesday ticket.

[7]   TVNZ argued that, while the error in the script caused the item to be somewhat ambiguous, the error was not material to the item, as the chances of buying the winning ticket were negligible on a per-ticket or per-line basis.

[8]   The broadcaster apologised for any confusion caused by omitting any reference to a “lucky dip” in the item and pointed out that the script was clarified for the other news broadcasts that night. It declined to uphold the accuracy complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the item was inaccurate and misleading.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10]   TVNZ pointed out that a person could not buy just one line of numbers for the Big Wednesday draw, and that a minimum of 4 lines had to be purchased if people opted to choose their own numbers instead of buying a “lucky dip”.

[11]   The broadcaster contended that the statistic provided by the complainant was a per-line statistic and that it was not relevant to the average Big Wednesday buyer, as they could not purchase just one line of numbers.

Authority’s Request for Further Information

[12]   The Authority noted that TVNZ had said that it had clarified the scripts for subsequent broadcasts that night. It asked the broadcaster to outline what clarifications had been made.

[13]   TVNZ stated that the subsequent broadcasts had actually had the reference to odds removed, as opposed to their scripts being clarified.

Authority's Determination

[14]   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.

[15]   The accuracy standard requires news, current affairs and factual programmes to be truthful and accurate on points of fact. To avoid confusion, the following table from Lotto’s Big Wednesday information pamphlet provides the odds for winning in each division.

Prize tier

Per line played

Chances of winning per lucky dip

Division One

1 in 16,290,120

1 in 2,715.020

Division Two

1 in 16,290,120

1 in 2,715.020

Division Three

1 in 34,808

1 in 5,801

Division Four

1 in 733

1 in 122

Division Five

1 in 45

1 in 7.5

Special Prize

1 in total number of tickets issued for each draw

1 in total number of tickets issued for each draw


1 in 42

1 in 7

[16]   In the Authority’s view, the odds given by the broadcaster were technically inaccurate because the script did not refer to the fact that they were the odds of winning if a person purchased a Lucky Dip ticket. However, it agrees with the broadcaster that the inaccuracy was not material to the item, as viewers would have understood that the odds of winning the first division prize were extremely remote. The Authority also notes that the broadcaster removed the reference from subsequent broadcasts.

[17]   In these circumstances, the Authority considers that upholding the complaint would place an unjustified restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

[18]   Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
20 October 2009


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

1.          Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 17 June 2009

2.          TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 13 July 2009

3.          Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 5 August 2009

4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 4 September 2009

5.          Mr McDonald’s final comment – 15 September 2009

6.          TVNZ’s final response – 16 September 2009

7.          TVNZ’s response to Authority’s request for further information – 29 September 2009