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).
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 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
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
An interview was broadcast on Saturday Morning with the President of Catholics for Choice (CFC). He spoke about CFC’s position, and his own views, on contraception, marriage equality and abortion, contrasting these views with the Catholic Church’s stance on these topics. The Authority did not uphold a complaint made by Right to Life that a representative of the Catholic Church should have been given the opportunity to respond to the ‘allegations’ made by the CFC President. The item was introduced and presented from the narrow perspective of CFC, which did not represent the views of all Catholics or of the Church hierarchy, and this was made clear during the interview. The Authority considered that most listeners would have been broadly aware of the Catholic Church’s stance in relation to the topics discussed and a rebuttal was not required to balance the interview. The Authority also did not uphold the fairness complaint, as the connection between CFC, Family Planning and Planned Parenthood was clearly outlined at the beginning of the item, and the item did not result in unfairness to the Catholic Church.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
A segment on Nine to Noon discussed raising the youth justice age. The presenter interviewed a human rights lawyer, a youth worker and the director of JustSpeak. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the segment was unbalanced. While the interviewees featured all supported raising the youth justice age, the presenter referred to the existence of alternative views on a number of occasions during the item. The issue was also canvassed in detail in other media coverage during the period of current interest, therefore audiences would be aware of a variety of perspectives beyond those put forward by the interviewees. It was not necessary, in the interests of balance, for the segment to feature a detailed examination of the opposition to raising the youth justice age, and listeners would not have been left uninformed on the issue as a result of the item.
Not Upheld: Balance
An item on 1 News reported on the Labour Party’s ‘Ready for Work’ policy, which offered unemployed young people employment on the minimum wage in environmental and community projects for six months. The item reported that, according to Labour, the scheme would cost $60 million per year for 10,000 participants. However, the $60-million sum was actually ‘based on participants taking up the scheme for just four months, not the promised six’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was based on inaccurate and unsubstantiated conclusions made by the reporter featured in the item, which was misleading and damaged the credibility of the Labour Party. The reporter’s comments, while critical, were not inaccurate or misleading, and it is an important function of the media to comment critically on political party policy in the lead up to an election period. Labour was given sufficient opportunity to consider the reporter’s comments and to put forward its views, both during the 1 News item and in considerable coverage in other media at the time.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance
An item on Story discussed the accountability of judges in New Zealand. The item referenced a number of high profile criminal judgments by a named District Court Judge that were overturned on appeal, and included a comparison between New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States on the appointment, term and removal of judges. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item placed undue emphasis on the decisions of the featured Judge, failed to contrast New Zealand with comparable jurisdictions, failed to cover key information about the judicial complaints service and featured an offensive gesture. The media play an important role in raising issues, such as alleged poor performance of judges, which have an impact on our communities, and this item was in the public interest. The choice to compare New Zealand with judicial systems in the United States and Switzerland was an editorial one open to the broadcaster, and did not result in audiences being misled or misinformed. Finally, the gesture used by the presenter in this item was an innocuous thumb gesture, and not a throat-cutting gesture as alleged by the complainant.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency
An item on Fair Go reported on a family who had purchased land in Papamoa only to find that the section had an actual size of 258m2, rather than the 296m2 shown on the property title and in their Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA). The item found that the surveyor was responsible for the incorrect description on the title. However, the item also discussed an extract from an email sent to the purchaser by the real estate agent involved, Wayne Skinner, asking for a notation on the SPA seeking verification of the land site to be removed. The Authority upheld a complaint that the item was unfair and misleading, finding that the reporting of the email extract gave the impression that Mr Skinner had chosen to intentionally remove the purchaser’s right to have the title checked, and did not reflect the other protections available to the purchaser in the SPA. The negative impression created by the item was disproportionate and unfair to Mr Skinner, and undue focus was given to him in the context of the item as a whole. The item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the balance standard.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy; Not Upheld: Balance
During the Leighton Smith Show, presenter Leighton Smith, in relation to a headline regarding Pope Francis’ warning to then President-elect Donald Trump, ‘do not back away from UN climate pact’, said, ‘I don’t want to offend, certainly not insult, any Catholics listening, but how did you end up with this tosser?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment was derogatory, crude and demeaning. Mr Smith was entitled to express his opinion on the Pope’s stance on climate change and while his comment was considered offensive by the complainant, in the context of a talkback radio show, the Authority did not consider it undermined current norms of good taste and decency. The comment did not breach the other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant, as it reflected Mr Smith’s opinion, did not discriminate or denigrate against a section of the community, and as a public figure speaking publicly on a controversial issue, Pope Francis could have expected commentary and criticism and was therefore not treated unfairly by Mr Smith.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
An episode of the documentary series, The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta, titled ‘Selling Ourselves Short’, focused on the topic of New Zealand’s economy, comparing our standard of living today with the 1960s-70s. The episode examined some of New Zealand’s traditional and upcoming export industries, such as dairy farming, forestry, pharmaceuticals, technology and fashion, and featured interviews with farmers, business owners, economists and academics. At the beginning of the episode, Mr Latta stated, ‘We’re rated as one of the best places in the world to do business and we’re not corrupt.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Latta’s statement was inaccurate and that the episode was unbalanced because it did not address New Zealand’s ‘extensive corruption’ as a reason for our underperforming economy. Mr Latta’s statement was not a material point of fact in the context of the episode as a whole and his brief mention of corruption did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
Two items broadcast on Te Karere reported on Green MP Marama Davidson’s experiences as part of the ‘Women’s Boat to Gaza’ protest, which aimed to draw attention to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The Authority upheld a complaint that the reporter’s reference during the first item to the ‘illegal’ Israeli blockade was inaccurate. The legality of the blockade was a contentious and unresolved issue, with two UN reports taking conflicting positions on the point. The Authority therefore considered that the broadcaster should have qualified its statement with reference to the disputed legality of the blockade, rather than referring to it unequivocally as illegal. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard that pro-Israeli viewpoints were omitted from the broadcast, noting that a later broadcast of Te Karere returned to Ms Davidson’s story, and featured an Israeli advocate who provided alternative viewpoints to those expressed in the earlier broadcasts, which was sufficient. While the Authority accepted that precise language was required in relation to ongoing international disputes such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it determined that its decision provided adequate guidance to broadcasters and made no order.
Upheld: Accuracy; Not Upheld: Balance; No Order
Promos for South Park, Tosh.O and Bombshell: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior screened during the wildlife programme Africa’s Fishing Leopards, which was classified G. The promos contained potentially offensive language, which was censored, and verbal references to an ‘act of terror’ and ‘murder’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that it was inappropriate to broadcast promos for AO-classified programmes during G-programmes, as they contained adult themes. The Authority noted that it is acceptable to screen promos for AO programmes during G programmes, provided that the promo complies with the classification of the host programme. It found that in this case, the use of censored coarse language did not breach standards, but noted that in order to maintain a G classification, broadcasters must take care to adequately edit any AO or PGR content. The promos did not contain any other material which was adult in nature or would have adversely affected child viewers. The balance standard does not apply to the promotion of fictional or comedy programmes (only news, current affairs and factual programmes).
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests, Balance
A ONE News item reported on a protest organised by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, which carried a petition in the name of a deceased child, demanding changes to the rules around plea bargaining. The reporter stated, ‘the protestors chose disgraced ex-MP David Garrett to deliver that message to MPs… Garrett resigned from Parliament six years ago for stealing the identity of a dead infant…’ The Authority did not uphold Mr Garrett’s complaint that this statement was misleading, as it implied the incident being referred to occurred six years ago, as well as being unbalanced and unfair to him. The Authority found the comment was not misleading, but emphasised that Mr Garrett’s resignation occurred six years ago, which was correct. The Authority acknowledged that individuals ought to be entitled to move on with their lives without past indiscretions remaining the subject of media attention, but found that the reference to Mr Garrett’s history was an inevitable consequence of his decision to participate in a material way in this particular public protest. As Mr Garrett’s involvement in the protest was not the focus of the item, his view or other balancing material was not required.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance