BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Nicholson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-037

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Angela Nicholson
The Go Show

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Go Show – showed young girl visiting the zoo with her mother – mother told her that apes were the closest animals to humans so they were “relatives” – allegedly unbalanced

Standard 4 (balance) – programme did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance requiring balance – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   A segment on The Go Show – a New Zealand-made children’s series – involved a young girl visiting the zoo with her mother who, she said, had told her that they “might meet up with our relatives”. The pair visited a number of enclosures and the young girl asked several times when they would see their relatives. When they arrived at the orang-utan enclosure, the young girl said:

[My mother] told me how apes were our relatives because they were the closest animal to humans. So if you go to the zoo, remember to visit your relatives the apes.

[2]   The programme was broadcast on TV2 at 6.30am on 29 March 2007.


[3]   Angela Nicholson made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about the segment involving the mother and daughter visiting the zoo. She stated that evolution “seemed to be the lesson” for the segment. In Ms Nicholson’s view, the programme should have mentioned “the other widely held belief of creation”.


[4]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 4 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVNZ stated that, strictly speaking, Standard 4 (balance) could not be applied to Ms Nicholson’s complaint because the standard was restricted to “news, current affairs and factual programmes”. It also noted that the standard only operated when “controversial issues of public importance were discussed”.

[6]   In the broadcaster’s view, a children’s programme telling a story about a visit to the zoo could not be considered a controversial issue of public importance. Although the story implied an acceptance of evolution, it said, there was no discussion which called for balance. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s decision, Ms Nicholson referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She argued that The Go Show was a “factual programme” for the purposes of Standard 4 as it was an educational show.

[8]   The complainant acknowledged that a visit to the zoo was not a controversial issue of public importance. However, she said, her complaint was about the teaching of evolution which was a controversial issue. Ms Nicholson maintained that the programme should have presented the story of creation as an alternative perspective.

Authority's Determination

[9]   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.

[10]   The Authority agrees with TVNZ that Standard 4 (balance) did not apply to the segment complained about. It was not a discussion about evolution and creation, but simply showed a young girl’s visit to the zoo where she referred to apes being “the closest animal to humans”. In the Authority’s view, the programme did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance requiring balance. As the requirement for balance did not apply, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
27 June 2007


The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1            Angela Nicholson’s formal complaint – 29 March 2007
2           TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 17 April 2007
3           Ms Nicholson’s referral to the Authority – 26 April 2007
4           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 30 April 2007