In this section of the website you can search all our decisions from 1989/90 to the present. The decisions appear in descending order.
Decisions from 1994 appear in HTML. Decisions from 1989/90 to 1993 are attached as PDFs.
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Three National News, Nightline. Complaint about screening of some shots of vehicles entering and leaving the Trust's property with references to a police raid earlier that year and to charges of sex crimes against children. Direct factual conflict between the parties' versions. Declined to determine (privacy, balance, accuracy, fairness).
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item on 1 News, about claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) that staff had been abused and attacked by anti-1080 protestors, breached broadcasting standards. The Authority found the item was unlikely to mislead or misinform audiences, as it contained comments from various parties including a DOC representative, an anti-1080 campaigner and a National Party MP. The Authority highlighted the importance of the reporting on issues of public importance in an accurate and balanced manner, finding that the broadcaster did so on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy, Fairness
An episode of The AM Show featured an interview with Hon. Kelvin Davis regarding the Government’s scheduled series of nationwide Hui with Māori. The programme also discussed legal action taken by prisoners against the Department of Corrections over strip searches, and a short clip of comments by host Duncan Garner on this issue was included in a promo for The AM Show broadcast that evening. A complaint was made that Mr Garner’s comments in relation to the first topic amounted to racist ‘slurs’ against Māori and were dismissive of the Crown’s efforts to fulfil its Treaty obligations, and that the discussion of the second topic trivialised prisoners’ ‘serious abusive treatment’. The Authority did not uphold either aspect of the complaint. The Authority found that, while some of the comments made by Mr Garner could be considered controversial and provocative, this was robust political discourse which carried public interest, and did not go beyond audience expectations. Comments were also made by the other hosts and panel guests which gave a countering view. In this context upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Balance
The Authority upheld a complaint under the accuracy standard about an item on 1 News, which discussed the Auckland Council’s vote on the draft proposal for the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax (the Tax). The Authority found the segment, through the omission of key information about the ongoing consultation and the presenter’s use of the terms ‘green light’ and ‘done deal’, was likely to mislead viewers into thinking the proposal voted on by the Council was final and that there was no further period of public consultation. The importance of keeping audiences informed on issues of public and political significance was emphasised by the Authority. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard, finding the item achieved balance through the presentation of a wide range of views from politicians and members of the public who were for and against the implementation of the Tax.
Upheld: Accuracy. Not Upheld: Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a discussion on Breakfast, about controversial comments made by Israel Folau, was in breach of the balance broadcasting standard. During the discussion, weather reporter, Matty McLean, gave his opinion on the comments, saying that he found them to be harmful. The Authority recognised that Mr Folau’s comments sparked ongoing public debate about the right to freedom of expression and harm. The discussion on Breakfast therefore amounted to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance under the standard. However, the Authority considered Mr McLean was clearly expressing his opinion on the issue and was entitled to do so, given Breakfast’s well-established programme format which includes the hosts expressing their views on current events. Differing perspectives on the topic were also available in surrounding media, so viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of the significant points of view on this issue. For these reasons, the Authority considered that upholding this complaint would represent an unjustified and unreasonable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance
During Breakfast, host Hayley Holt had a conversation with the 1 News US Correspondent about recent school protests in America seeking gun reform. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Ms Holt’s statement that ‘[w]e, I – here in New Zealand, we think they should ban all guns of course’ was unbalanced and likely to mislead viewers. The Authority found that Ms Holt’s statement was one of generalised opinion and analysis, not a statement of fact. The Authority also noted that this segment solely focused on gun control issues in the USA, not New Zealand, and in this context Ms Holt’s brief comment did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
An item on The Project discussed the End of Life Choice Bill (the Bill) before the Select Committee of Parliament. The item featured interviews with advocates for and against the legalisation of euthanasia in Aotearoa. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced or that the use of certain terms such as ‘euthanasia’ was inaccurate. The Authority recognised the legalisation of euthanasia is an important and ongoing issue of public importance in New Zealand. The Authority found that overall the item was sufficiently balanced and was unlikely to mislead or misinform viewers, so any restriction on the broadcaster’s freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
A brief item on 1 News discussed a protest in Christchurch against Vero Insurance (Vero) regarding outstanding insurance claims. The item contained footage of the protestors and the newsreader stated that ‘[One of the protestors] says Vero has kept them locked in a virtual prison for seven years.’ The broadcaster upheld a complaint from Vero under the balance and fairness standards, as Vero ought to have been given an opportunity to comment. Vero referred the complaint to the Authority on the basis it was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster in response to its original complaint, and it also maintained that the accuracy standard was breached. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding the statement complained about was a statement of opinion and therefore the accuracy standard did not apply. The Authority considered that a broadcast statement on this occasion would have been disproportionate to the breach, and therefore it did not uphold the complaint that the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient.
Not Upheld: Balance (Action Taken), Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy
Two items on 1 News reported on extreme weather events in New Zealand, with an item on 8 January 2018 focused on the release of NIWA’s 2017 Annual Report and a 12 January 2018 item reporting on clean-up efforts on the West Coast, following torrential rain and flooding. Brief references were made during these items to the impacts of climate change in New Zealand and particularly on extreme weather events. The Authority did not uphold complaints that these items were inaccurate and unbalanced because climate change was not occurring in New Zealand and the number and intensity of extreme weather events was also not increasing. Given the focus of the items, which was not climate change but the release of the NIWA Report and flooding, the Authority found that the brief references to climate change were not material for the purposes of the accuracy standard, and as such would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the items as a whole. The items reported on newsworthy developments in the general area of New Zealand’s weather and climate and did not ‘discuss’ the issue of climate change, so they did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard. The Authority found that the harm alleged to have been caused in this case, namely a misinformed public, therefore did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression and any limitation on that right was unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
An item on 1 News reported on an alleged ‘mistake’ by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which the reporter, Andrea Vance, said ‘cost the taxpayer a quarter of a million dollars’. The item referred to MFAT’s action in waiving the diplomatic immunity of an MFAT employee – the complainant – to allow child custody and matrimonial proceedings to be heard in an overseas court. According to Ms Vance, MFAT’s actions were disputed by the complainant’s ex-partner, resulting in MFAT issuing an apology and payment of ‘legal bills’ to both the complainant and the complainant’s ex-partner. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from the MFAT employee that the item was inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair. It was important, in the interests of ensuring viewers were properly informed and were not misled, for the broadcaster to have provided alternative perspectives on the issue of legal costs, namely that MFAT denied payment of the complainant’s costs. Further, it should have been made clear to viewers that a legal expert featured in the item did not have specific knowledge of the complainant’s case and was commenting only generally on the applicable law. The Authority noted the public interest in this item and the efforts made by the broadcaster to protect the identities of those involved, and did not uphold the complaint under the remaining standards.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Children’s Interests, Programme Information.
An item on The Project discussed the building of a new gambling venue in Tokoroa set to contain 30 gambling machines (‘pokies’). The segment was critical of the South Waikato District Council’s (SWDC) role in the authorisation of this new venue, and also one of the Councillors’ roles as both a Councillor and manager of one of the clubs involved in the creation of the proposed new venue. The following evening one of the programme hosts issued an on-air apology to the Councillor, clarifying inaccurate statements made about their involvement in the decision-making process. The Authority upheld SWDC’s complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks did not sufficiently remedy the harm caused by the breaches. The Authority found that the statement the following night did not remedy the harm caused to SWDC by the broadcast, only the Councillor. The Authority also upheld the complaint that the host’s statement that the SWDC ‘get a cut of the profits’ from the gambling machines was inaccurate, as the SWDC do not directly receive any percentage of the profits.
Upheld: Balance (Action Taken), Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy. Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.
The first segment of The AM Show’s daily panel, featuring panel guests Dr Don Brash and Newshub reporter Wilhelmina Shrimpton, discussed Dr Brash’s views on the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand, specifically in RNZ broadcasting without translation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this panel discussion lacked balance and was unfair to Dr Brash. The Authority found that, while the panel discussion was robust and Dr Brash’s opinion was tested by the panel, Dr Brash was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to present his point of view in the time allowed. Given the level of public interest in the issue discussed, Dr Brash’s position as a public figure and his experience with the media, the Authority found that the panel discussion did not result in Dr Brash being treated unfairly and viewers would not have been left misinformed as to his position on the issue.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on 1 News reported on the Government’s response to protests about seismic surveying, or ‘blasting’, in New Zealand waters. The item featured an interview with a representative of Greenpeace, who said that the Government could act now to stop seismic blasting, as the practice was harmful and could ‘interfere with [whales’ and dolphins’] communication and breeding… deafen them… and separate calves from their mothers’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was inaccurate and unbalanced because it presented Greenpeace’s views as fact. The item was focused on the Government’s response to the practice of seismic surveying, and not on the alleged harm to marine life, and it was clear throughout where the reporter was referring to Greenpeace’s views (which, as the expression of comment or opinion, were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard). The item was therefore unlikely to mislead viewers, or significantly affect their understanding of the item as a whole. Balancing comment on this issue was therefore not required to be presented in the interests of ensuring viewers were fully informed, and views contrary to Greenpeace were available in surrounding media coverage.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
Saturday Morning featured a segment in which presenter Kim Hill interviewed former MP and spokesperson for lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, Dr Don Brash, about the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand, specifically in RNZ broadcasting, without translation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority found that, while Ms Hill asked Dr Brash challenging and critical questions, Dr Brash had a reasonable opportunity to put forward his competing point of view, and listeners would not have been left misinformed with regard to Dr Brash’s position. Given the level of public interest in the interview, Dr Brash’s position and his experience with the media, the Authority also found Ms Hill’s interview style did not result in Dr Brash being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency
During Afternoon Talk with Wendyl Nissen, Ms Nissen interviewed Police Association President, Chris Cahill. Mr Cahill discussed a recent survey which indicated an increase in police being threatened by firearms. Mr Cahill expressed his views on the potential causes of this increase, the links between the increase and the increase of methamphetamine in New Zealand, the arming of police officers, the use of MSSA (military-style, semi-automatic) firearms, and firearm registration. The Authority did not uphold two complaints that the interview breached the balance standard. The Authority found that the broadcast was a light-touch interview, albeit on a serious topic, which created an audience expectation that the interview was approaching the firearms issues from Mr Cahill’s perspective and that it did not purport to be an in-depth balanced examination of the issues raised. The Authority did not find any statements made during the interview to be materially inaccurate, nor did it find the interview to be unfair to any person or organisation.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
Over two evenings on 6 and 7 November 2017, 1 News explored issues of climate change in the lead up to the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23), presided over by Fiji. During the 6 November 2017 broadcast, a segment titled ‘Rising Sea Levels’ focused on the relocation of Vunidogoloa in Fiji two kilometres inland. The ‘threat’ of ‘rising sea levels’ was revisited during an item on 7 November 2017, which focused on Kiribati purchasing higher ground in Fiji. The Authority did not uphold complaints from two complainants that these broadcasts were inaccurate and unbalanced on the basis there had been little or no rise in sea levels in Fiji or Kiribati. These items focused on Fiji’s position that it was particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels. These items sought to provide a ‘human face’ to those issues, providing the personal perspectives of those affected. Balancing the right to freedom of expression with the harm alleged to have been caused, and given the nature of the items and their narrow focus on personal stories, the Authority found that the statements complained about would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the items as a whole and did not amount to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance, and therefore did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
A 1 News segment on 14 November 2017 discussed the effect of an expanding Chinese economy on global carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. In a pre-recorded item from the BBC, with reference to the release of CO2, a BBC Correspondent said that ‘the gas traps heat in the atmosphere’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was inaccurate or unbalanced. The Authority found that the broadcaster was entitled to rely on internationally reputable sources to support the BBC Correspondent’s statement on the issues addressed in the segment. The Authority also found that the broadcaster’s reliance on this leading scientific theory to the exclusion of others in the broadcast was unlikely to leave viewers significantly misinformed. It noted that climate change is an ongoing and constantly discussed controversial issue of public importance and therefore audiences no longer have to be presented with all significant viewpoints in one broadcast.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order
An item on Newshub reported on ‘cash for job’ work scams in New Zealand. The reporter described the experiences of one worker, who alleged he had been exploited by his employer and told to pay $30,000 for his job as a technician at an internet café. GL, who was named and whose photo was shown during the item, was said to have ‘demanded’ $15,000 from the worker as part of the scam. GL complained that the item was inaccurate and unfair, because he did not demand or receive any payment from the worker and he was not given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him. The majority of the Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast and that the complainant was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations. The majority recognised the high public interest in the item, which reported on an important issue to New Zealanders, and the essential role of investigative journalism in exposing this type of conduct to the public. The minority view was that, while the issue of cash for job work scams was an important story to be told, there was insufficient evidence available to the reporter to identify GL as an example of a cash for job scam. These were serious allegations that had the potential to significantly damage the complainant’s reputation, and the story’s important message about the rise of such scams could have been conveyed without identifying him. The Authority was unanimous in its decision to not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint.
Not Upheld by Majority: Fairness, Accuracy.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Law and Order.
During an interview on Breakfast, presenter Hilary Barry and Hon Julie Anne Genter, Minister for Women, discussed the gender pay gap in New Zealand, the Minister’s views on possible causes of the pay gap, and what the Government intended to do to close the gap in the public and private sectors. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the discussion was unbalanced because it did not present alternative perspectives on the existence of the gender pay gap, or its causes. The Authority did not consider the item amounted to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance, noting there is evidence available that the gender pay gap exists, and the item did not purport to be an in-depth examination of the causes. The interview was also clearly presented from the perspective of the Minister for Women, advocating for women’s interests. In this context viewers would not have expected to receive countering views, and the omission of an ‘anti-feminist’ or ‘men’s rights’ perspective did not result in a breach of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Balance
An item on 1 News explored issues of climate change in the lead up to the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Bonn, Germany. During the introduction to the item, presenter Simon Dallow stated that ‘New Zealand emits a tiny fraction of the world’s greenhouse gases’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Dallow’s statement was unbalanced, as no information was provided to viewers about New Zealand’s high per capita greenhouse gas emissions. The precise levels of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions were not ‘discussed’ during this item, which is required in order for the balance standard to apply. The introductory segment covered a wide range of topics related to climate change and the item as a whole primarily focused on the impact of climate change on low-lying nations such as Fiji. While Mr Dallow referred to New Zealand’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement and the new Government’s response to climate change issues, his reference to greenhouse gas emissions was brief. In this context, viewers would not have expected the item to cover New Zealand’s precise levels of greenhouse gas emissions in-depth.
Not Upheld: Balance
During The AM Show, host Duncan Garner and then Newshub political editor Patrick Gower discussed various policies the new Labour Government was considering implementing, as well as legislation it planned to change or repeal. Discussing the ‘three strikes’ law, Mr Gower referred to one of the complainants, Mr Garrett, who was involved in introducing the law, and stated, ‘turned out that he had been stealing dead babies’ identities himself before he came into Parliament’. Mr Garner later clarified that it was ‘one dead baby’. The Authority upheld three complaints that the segment was inaccurate and unfair to Mr Garrett. While the broadcaster acknowledged the statement was inaccurate, the Authority found Mr Garner’s correction was dismissive and perfunctory, and insufficient to correct the error. The Authority also considered that the manner and tone in which Mr Garrett was brought up in the discussion, despite the passage of time since his offence, was unfair. The Authority did not make any order, finding publication of its decision was sufficient to publicly notify the breach of standards, and help to repair any harm caused to Mr Garrett.
Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken), Fairness. Not Upheld: Balance, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Newshub by political editor Patrick Gower reported on National Party Leader Bill English’s claim that the Labour Party would raise income tax if they won the 2017 General Election. Mr Gower stated that the National Party was ‘deliberately spreading misinformation’ about Labour’s income tax policy. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Gower deliberately misled the public prior to the election. The Authority emphasised the importance of freedom of political expression, particularly in an election year. The Authority considered significant viewpoints on the issue discussed were adequately presented in the broadcast and within the period of current interest, enabling the audience to form their own opinions. The Authority also found that the comments complained about were statements of analysis and opinion, rather than statements of fact, so the accuracy standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
An item on Newshub discussed revelations that the pension of New Zealand First Leader, Rt Hon Winston Peters, had been overpaid for up to seven years. The segment featured excerpts of a phone interview with Mr Peters, details about Mr Peters’ press release and subsequent comments made by Mr Peters about the overpayments. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority did not consider that it was necessary to obtain a copy of the full phone interview transcript in order to determine whether the broadcast was inaccurate and unfair (as requested by the complainant). The Authority found Mr Peters’ view in response to the story was adequately presented in the broadcast, and neither the reporter’s comments nor the presentation of the phone interview in the item resulted in Mr Peters being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Programme Information
A segment on Newshub during the election period featured a political reporter discussing the potential factors behind the Labour Party’s drop in the Newshub election poll. During the segment the reporter stated that the National Party’s claim that Labour would increase income tax if elected was a ‘lie’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment was unfair and biased. The Authority emphasised that it is an important function of the media to comment critically on party policies and actions and that this type of speech has high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, particularly during election time. Political parties should expect to be subject to robust criticism and the Authority was satisfied the political reporter’s comment did not go beyond what could be expected during the election period. The Authority did not consider the comment amounted to ‘political bias’ as alleged in the complaint, or that it resulted in the National Party being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness