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.
Four of the fields that appear at the top of individual decisions – Channel/Station, Programme, Standards, Standards Breached – have links that call up other decisions with the same information.
Please note that you will need to select specific standard/s, as well as a broadcasting code, to return decision results.
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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).
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 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
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 Morning Report featured an interview with a Social Policy Advisor at the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), who discussed CAB’s experience assisting the public with income support applications to Work & Income New Zealand (WINZ). The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) that this interview was unbalanced, unfair and inaccurate. The Authority found that because of the nature of the item – which comprised a brief interview with one individual, who approached a widely reported issue from a clearly identified perspective – audiences would not have expected to hear MSD’s response to the comments made. While the interviewee’s comments were critical, MSD could expect to be subject to scrutiny, and listeners were likely to be broadly aware of MSD’s position in relation to this issue. In this context, and given the nature of the item, listeners would not have been left with an unfairly negative impression of MSD, and the broadcaster was not required to seek comment in response. Finally, it was clear that the interviewee’s comments represented her own opinion, based on the experiences of CAB clients, which were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy
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
An item on The Project featured an interview with a ‘political consultant and former National [Party] staffer’. The interviewee provided her perspective on why the National Party received more votes than the Labour Party in the 2017 General Election and the disparity between the election result and poll results prior to the election. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcaster’s choice of political commentator was biased and the programme was misleading by suggesting she was an ‘independent political commentator’. The introduction to the segment did not imply that the interviewee was an independent political commentator, but clearly referred to her as a former National Party staffer. As such it created an audience expectation that the interview would be approaching the topic of National’s initial electoral success from a particular perspective. Therefore viewers would not have been misled.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
A panel discussion following the Newshub Leaders Debate featured comments from political commentator, Matthew Hooton, regarding Labour’s tax policies, including that Jacinda Ardern was ‘not telling the truth about her plans for tax’ and that she was ‘refusing to tell’ New Zealanders about the party’s tax plan. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these comments were unfounded and biased, and that Ms Ardern should have been given a right of reply. The Authority found that, in the interests of balance, Ms Ardern was given a reasonable opportunity throughout the debate and during questioning from panel members, to explain Labour’s proposed approach to a review of the tax system and to address the perception that New Zealanders would not have the opportunity to view Labour’s full policy before voting. In relation to the fairness standard, the Authority found that it is an important function of the media to comment critically on party policy and this type of speech has high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, particularly during at election time. Party leaders should expect to be subject to robust criticism and the Authority was satisfied Mr Hooton’s comments, while critical, did not go beyond what can be expected during the election period, nor did they result in Ms Ardern being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
A segment on Seven Sharp featured an interview between Mike Hosking and Jacinda Ardern on the day Ms Ardern became leader of the Labour Party. Mr Hosking questioned Ms Ardern about the state of the Labour Party and her leadership credentials, and also commented on what he believed to be the ‘chaotic’ state of the Labour Party and its chances of winning the 2017 General Election. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the segment was unbalanced and inaccurate, finding that the broadcaster provided sufficient balance by allowing Ms Ardern a reasonable amount of time to answer the interview questions. The Authority also noted the significant amount of coverage the leadership change received during the period of current interest. This segment amounted to robust political discourse that was to be expected during an election period, and the Authority concluded that upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of expression and political speech.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
A campaign clip for the Ban 1080 Party (an election programme for the purposes of the Election Programmes Code) was broadcast on 10 September 2017 on Māori Television. The clip featured a voiceover discussing the purported use and effects of sodium fluoroacetate (1080 poison) on New Zealand’s flora, fauna and waterways, accompanied by footage of animal carcasses and 1080 baits in water. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the election programme was misleading and breached the Election Programmes Code and the Free-To-Air Television Code. The Authority found that the election programme did not contain statements of fact that were misleading, inaccurate, or indistinguishable from opinion. The claims made within the context of the broadcast were statements of political advocacy and opinion, made for the purpose of encouraging voters to vote for the Ban 1080 Party. The Authority emphasised the importance and value of political expression, particularly in the lead up to a general election, and in this context it did not consider the high threshold for finding a breach of standards was met.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Distinguishing Factual Information from Opinion or Advocacy, Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Balance
During a sports news segment on Breakfast, the sports presenter was discussing American golfer Jordan Spieth’s victory at the British Open Championship. At the end of the segment the presenter remarked, ‘Yeah, they don’t have very good humour the British, do they? They probably didn’t get [Mr Spieth’s] speech.’ A complaint was made that this comment was ‘racist and untrue’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding the comment was not malicious and was unlikely to cause widespread offence, therefore any potential harm caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy
An item on Newshub reported on the Government’s upcoming review of KiwiRail’s operational and funding models. The item featured interviews with Transport Minister, Simon Bridges, NZ First leader, Winston Peters, and Prime Minister Bill English. The reporter commented that KiwiRail had been a ‘black hole’ for tax payers and ‘a giant problem for this Government’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced and unfair to KiwiRail. Given the nature of the item, which was a straightforward news report about the Government’s proposed review, viewers would not have expected to be provided with information about the historic benefits of rail or the history of KiwiRail. The Authority also found that, although the reporter’s use of language could be considered critical, the item did not result in KiwiRail being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An episode of I Am Innocent focused on the story of Y, a science teacher, who was accused and charged with indecently assaulting a female student (‘X’) in 2012. The charges against Y were withdrawn around August-September 2013. The episode featured interviews with Y and others, all of whom spoke supportively about him. Ms Johnson complained that the broadcast breached broadcasting standards, including that comments made during the programme about X and her mother resulted in their unfair treatment. The Authority upheld this aspect of Ms Johnson’s complaint, finding that the programme created a negative impression of X and her mother. While the Authority acknowledged the broadcaster’s attempts to contact X and her mother, in order for them to be treated fairly, they needed to be given the opportunity to respond specifically to the negative comments made about their character and personal lives, and if they elected not to respond, consideration ought to have been given to whether the comments should be removed or edited. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of Ms Johnson’s complaint, finding that the programme did not mislead viewers and was accurate in relation to all material points of fact. As X was not identified, no breach of privacy occurred, and the programme did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance which required balancing views.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy, Privacy, Balance. No Order.
An item on The Nation examined the arguments of those in support of amending the legislation governing abortions in New Zealand. The item included interviews with women who had been through the process of obtaining an abortion, and featured comments from various other advocates for changing the law. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was unbalanced because it did not include arguments opposed to the law change and decriminalising abortion in New Zealand. While the item discussed a controversial issue of public importance (triggering the requirements of the balance standard), it was narrowly focused on technical aspects of the current law governing how abortions are administered in New Zealand, and clearly approached the topic from the perspective of those in support of changes to the process for obtaining an abortion. The item did not examine the moral and ethical reasons for and against abortion itself, but rather the legislation which governs the process of procuring an abortion. As such, viewers would not have expected to be presented with the full range of views on abortion, including moral reasons against decriminalising abortion.
Not Upheld: Balance
An episode of Sunday, titled ‘The Price of Milk’, followed a reporter as he visited two dairy farms in the Hauraki Plains. The reporter spent time with two farmers, A and B, to hear their perspectives on their work and the issues facing the industry. B operated a ‘low-intensive’ farm, with a focus on soil health and mixed pasture, while A used more traditional farming methods. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the two farms were not representative of dairy farms in New Zealand, which was misleading, unbalanced, and unfair to the farmers involved and to the wider industry. The item was clearly approached from the narrow perspective of the two featured farmers, who provided their views based on their own experiences. As such, viewers would not have expected their perspectives, or their farms or farming practices, to be representative of the industry as a whole. The Authority found that, while some aspects of the programme may have been challenging for viewers, this did not reflect negatively on those featured, or on the wider industry. Given the item’s narrow perspective, it did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of pubic importance, and was therefore not subject to the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance
An episode of Sunday, titled ‘The Price of Milk’, followed a reporter as he visited two dairy farms in the Hauraki Plains. The reporter spent time with two farmers, A and B, to hear their perspectives on their work and the issues facing the industry, such as the impact of dairy farming on New Zealand waterways, abuse of bobby calves and financial struggles. B operated a ‘low-intensive’ farm, with a focus on soil health and mixed pasture, while A used more traditional farming methods. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was misleading, unbalanced and treated one of the farmers, A, unfairly. The item was clearly approached from the narrow perspective of the two particular farmers, and was focused on hearing their views about the issues canvassed in the item. As such, viewers would not have expected the item to represent all farmers or farming styles. The Authority did not agree that the item made a direct comparison between the two farms, favouring one over the other, and considered that all participants were portrayed positively in the item. Given the item’s narrow perspective, it did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance, and was therefore not subject to the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance
An item on 1 News reported on Prime Minister Bill English’s experience during Waitangi Day, including a phone call with the President of the United States of America, President Trump. During an introduction to the item, the newsreader referred to President Trump’s ‘anti-Muslim travel ban’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the newsreader’s statement was inaccurate and unbalanced. The focus of this item was not the precise terms of Executive Order 13679 or its implications, but rather Bill English’s experiences on his first Waitangi Day as Prime Minister, during which his phone discussion with President Trump took place. In this context, the newsreader’s shorthand description of the Order was acceptable. The Authority pointed out, however, that broadcasters should take care when adopting commonly used shorthand terms, as this may not always be sufficient to meet standards of accuracy. The Authority did not uphold the balance complaint, as the brief reference did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance triggering the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
Four items on Newshub featured stories related to the United Kingdom and/or the British Royal Family. The Authority did not uphold complaints that the Newshub items and the reporters’ comments were biased, unfair and derogatory towards the United Kingdom and/or members of the British Royal Family. The Authority found that the news reports did not contain any material which discriminated against or denigrated any section of the community, or which could be said to be unfair to members of the British Royal Family. The items also did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance which triggered the requirement for balancing perspectives to be given, and did not raise accuracy or programme information issues.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness, Balance, Accuracy, Programme Information
An item on 1 News reported on John Key’s resignation and the legacy he would leave behind after his term as Prime Minister. The item covered a number of significant events during Mr Key’s time in office, including his involvement in deploying troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes, and the flag referendum (among others). The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was misleading and unfair in describing Mr Key’s legacy. The selection of events to include in, and the overall tone of, the item were matters of editorial discretion open to the broadcaster. In the context of a brief summary of highlights from Mr Key’s career, the audience would not have expected an in-depth discussion or analysis of the events discussed. The item, while at times critical, did not stray into personal abuse of Mr Key and the item was accurate in describing events that occurred during Mr Key’s term as Prime Minister.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy
An item on Newshub reported on the conviction and sentencing of a New Zealand woman, A, for the murder of her 20-year-old severely autistic and intellectually disabled daughter, B. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item ‘sympathised with the murderer over the victim’ and ‘morally absolved [A]’. The broadcast was a factual news item which reported on the outcome of criminal proceedings involving A, and largely reflected the Judge’s statements at sentencing. It was focused on the circumstances of A’s particular case and did not contain a discussion of the wider issues of violence against disabled people or family violence, and therefore did not require balancing perspectives on these issues. While the item could be seen to report A’s sentence with some sympathy, it was based on the Judge’s findings and did not promote or condone harm against disabled people. In the context of a factual news report about the outcome of A’s case, the item also did not reach the threshold for encouraging discrimination against, or the denigration of, people with disabilities. Notwithstanding its findings, the Authority acknowledged the complainant’s concerns about important societal issues, such as the status of disabled people in our community and the proper understanding of disabilities.
Not Upheld: Balance, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on 1 News reported on the then President-Elect Donald Trump’s meeting with rapper Kanye West, and President-Elect Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. At the end of the item, the newsreader stated, ‘And Trump has also chosen a climate change denier, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, to become his Secretary of Energy’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the term ‘climate change denier’ was deeply offensive to all climate change sceptics, particularly because it linked them to ‘Holocaust deniers’, and was inaccurate and unbalanced. ‘Climate change sceptics’ are not a recognised section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies. In any event, the term was used in this item merely to describe a particular perspective on the issue of climate change. The term did not amount to a material point of fact in the item, nor did it amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance. Therefore the requirements of the accuracy and balance standards were not triggered.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Balance
An item on 1 News reported on the humanitarian crisis in Damascus following disruption of water supplies, caused by fighting between the Syrian army and rebel forces. During the item, the reporter said, ‘The outage came after the government attacked rebels holding the city’s main water source’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was biased and misleading by allegedly attributing blame for the water outages to President Bashar al-Assad, rather than the rebel forces. In the context of a brief item focused on the humanitarian impact of the conflict, the statement made by the reporter was a reasonable description of what occurred, and the omission of further information or different sources would not have left viewers misled or uninformed about the events covered by the item.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance