BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Signer and TVWorks Ltd - 2012-039

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Urs Signer
3 News
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3
Standards Breached

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – item reported on trials of the ‘Urewera Four’ – reporter referred to original Urewera terror raids and stated that “17 people were arrested and initially charged under the Terrorism Suppression Act” – broadcaster upheld complaint that this statement was inaccurate because no one had been charged under that Act – action taken by the broadcaster allegedly insufficient

Action Taken: Standard 5 (accuracy) – action taken by TVWorks was insufficient – error should have been corrected at earliest appropriate opportunity – upheld

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


[1]  An item on 3 News, broadcast at 6pm on 12 February 2012, reported on the trials of four individuals arising from the Urewera terror raids. Referring to the original police raids, carried out in 2007, the reporter said, “17 people were arrested and initially charged under the Terrorism Suppression Act, but those charges were replaced with others under the Arms Act.”

[2]  Urs Signer made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item was inaccurate, because no one had ever been charged under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

[3]  TVWorks acknowledged that Mr Signer had previously alerted it to this error, and said that initially erroneous material had been removed from its website and its internal archives. However, some of this material was overlooked which “caused a repeat of the incorrect statement in the broadcast of 12 February”, it said. TVWorks apologised to Mr Signer and assured him that “the repeat of the error has been taken very seriously”. TVWorks therefore upheld Mr Signer’s complaint that the item was inaccurate. In relation to the action taken, it said:

In order to prevent a further reoccurrence, a strongly worded email from the Auckland Bureau Chief was circulated to all 3 News centres around the country requesting that all archived material be checked for true and correct facts in relation to news reports pertaining to the trial and the outcome. We trust that since you have made this complaint, ongoing reports on the trial have made correct references to the charges. Again, we are very sorry for this error and thank you for bringing it to the attention of the news room.

[4]  Dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster having upheld his complaint, Mr Signer referred his complaint to this Authority.

[5]  The issue is whether, having upheld the complaint under Standard 5 (accuracy) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, the action taken by the broadcaster was sufficient.

[6]  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 action taken by the broadcaster, having upheld the complaint, sufficient?

[7]  In our view, the action taken by the broadcaster, in upholding the complaint, apologising to the complainant and sending an email to 3 News centres requesting that archived material be checked to prevent further inaccurate reporting, was insufficient in the circumstances.

[8]  Mr Signer had previously brought the error to TV3’s attention in September 2011. He lodged his formal complaint about this item the day after the 12 February broadcast, again alerting them to the inaccuracy in the report. We therefore consider that TVWorks should have corrected the error at the earliest appropriate opportunity, as required by guideline 5b to Standard 5 (and we note in this respect that TVWorks accepted in its decision that the statement amounted to a material error of fact).

[9]  Upholding the action taken complaint is a justified limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, taking into account the nature of the breach – that is, the error was repeated despite Mr Signer previously alerting TVWorks to the inaccuracy – and TVWorks’ failure to correct the error for viewers. The objective of the accuracy standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1 Viewers have the right to expect that news programmes are accurate and can be relied on as authoritative sources of information.

[10]  We therefore uphold the complaint that the action taken by TVWorks Ltd was insufficient.


For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken by TVWorks Ltd after upholding a breach of Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice with respect to an item broadcast on 3 News on 12 February 2012 was insufficient.

[11]  Having upheld the complaint, we may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. While we have found that the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient, subsequent events relating to the story and reporting of those events have superseded the 12 February item and the correct position has now been clarified. We therefore consider that the publication of this decision is sufficient to remedy the breach, and that no order is warranted.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
17 July 2012


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

1                  Urs Signer’s formal complaint – 13 February 2012

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 19 March 2012

3                 Mr Signer’s referral to the Authority – 4 April 2012

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 2 May 2012

1Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036