BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Thompson and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2014-049

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Barry Thompson
3 News
MediaWorks TV Ltd
TV3 # 4

Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A 3 News item reported on the results of its latest political research poll. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the results were inaccurate because they were within the margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. Viewers are familiar with this mode of reporting, particularly in the lead-up to an election. The margin of error was clearly displayed onscreen, leaving the audience to form their own views about how much weight should be given to the poll.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


[1]  A 3 News item reported on the results of its latest political research poll. A political correspondent outlined the results of the poll in relation to party standings, seats in the house, and preferred Prime Minister. The item aired on TV3 on 30 March 2014.

[2]  Barry Thompson made a formal complaint to MediaWorks TV Ltd (MediaWorks), alleging that the results stated by the political correspondent ‘cannot be seen as being accurate’ as they were within the margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

[3]  The issue is whether the item breached the accuracy standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  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 item inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  The accuracy standard (Standard 5) states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[6]  The presenter introduced the item by saying:

There’s bad news for Labour leader David Cunliffe in the latest 3 News Reid Research Poll. Not only would John Key and National win, but David Cunliffe’s personal popularity has taken a dive. And there’s also a surprise for Kim Dotcom.

[7] The political correspondent went on to make comparisons between the results of the latest poll and previous polls, saying, for example, that:

  • the National Party’s popularity had increased by 1.4%, while the Labour Party’s standing had decreased by 2.3%
  • a 1.1% increase in the Act Party’s popularity ‘was a big result for its new leader Jamie Whyte’.

[8]  Mr Thompson argued that the ‘repeated reporting of the individual changes from one poll to another’ was misleading as ‘none of the changes came from outside of the margin of error’. He said that ‘the only honest thing to report in all the figures in this item would be to say that things don’t appear to have changed’. Mr Thompson also argued that the margin of error was shown ‘in relatively small figures in black’ and ‘not given as spoken content’.

[9]  MediaWorks argued that the margin of error ‘was shown graphically throughout the report and therefore was available for viewers to consider’. It said that ‘it is a margin… the poll figures sit within this, [and] all are significant’.

[10]  The item’s focus was reporting changes in voters’ perceptions of political parties and politicians in light of the upcoming general election. Viewers are familiar with this mode of reporting in news programming, particularly in the lead up to an election. The broadcaster was reporting the findings and trends arising from the latest poll. The margin of error was clearly displayed onscreen for the duration of the item, and did not need to be referenced or explained verbally. Viewers were left to form their own views about how much weight to give the poll in light of the margin of error.

[11]  Accordingly, we find that the item was accurate and would not have misled viewers, and we decline to uphold the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
21 August 2014


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

1            Barry Thompson’s formal complaint – 2 April 2014

2            MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 29 April 2014

3            Mr Thompson’s referral to the Authority – 10 May 2014

4            MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 6 June 2014

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