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 AM Show contained a number of items about Labour Party candidate Willie Jackson’s position on the recently released Labour Party candidate List (the List), and featured interviews with Labour Party leader Andrew Little and Willie Jackson. It was reported several times that Mr Jackson was disappointed with his position of 21 on the List, as Mr Little had ‘promised’ Mr Jackson a top-10 position. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this was inaccurate and unfair. The segments amounted to robust political expression, which is of particular importance in the lead-up to a general election, and carried high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression. Viewers were likely to have understood the comments as political speculation, rather than definitive statements of fact, which is common in the context of political reporting. The audience was provided with ample information on the issue, including Mr Little’s and Mr Jackson’s viewpoints in response. Therefore viewers would have been able to form their own informed opinion on the issue and would not have been misled. Mr Little and Mr Jackson were given extensive opportunities to comment and could reasonably expect scrutiny in relation to their public roles as politicians, so they were not treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
An item on 1 News reported on an influx of refugees and migrants crossing the border from the United States of America (US) into Canada to claim refugee status. The reporter said that this influx was due to uncertainty after the election of Donald Trump as President, and a ‘loophole’ in the law which meant that ‘if a person can make it onto Canadian soil, they’re able to claim asylum’. The Authority found that the term ‘loophole’ was a reasonable description of a gap in the 2004 Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, in which refugee claimants seeking entry into Canada by crossing the border illegally would not be turned back to the US (as the first safe country), but rather arrested and allowed to claim refugee status in Canada. The reporter’s use of the term ‘loophole’ did not imply that those crossing the border were ‘taking advantage of a technicality’; rather it gave context to the decision of migrants and refugees to take drastic and dangerous measures to claim asylum.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
During a ‘Vote Smart’ segment on The Project, host Jesse Mulligan discussed what he considered to be the ‘horribl[e] underfund[ing]’ of the Department of Conservation (DoC). Mr Mulligan said, ‘DoC doesn’t have a big lobby group to argue their case. You know when Big Dairy puts their hand out, they get offered up to $400 million to spend on irrigation. That’s DoC’s whole budget, but it’s being spent on growing dairy, which, if anything, makes the conservation job even harder’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comparison made between DoC and Crown Irrigation was inaccurate and misleading as the funding models of these two entities are different. The comment was not a statement of fact which triggered the requirements of the accuracy standard. Rather, it was distinguishable as opinion and analysis about the differences in lobbying power between different industries, and what Mr Mulligan considered to be DoC’s difficulty in obtaining greater funding. The Authority did not consider viewers would have been misled in the manner alleged by the complainant, taking into account the purpose of the segment as a whole, which was to draw viewers’ attention to an issue Mr Mulligan believed to be important in the context of the upcoming general election. The item carried public interest in this respect and the Authority did not consider any harm had been caused by the broadcast which outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Newshub reported on renewed efforts by the New Zealand Government to secure a free trade deal with Russia, after negotiations were ‘put on hold when Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea two years ago’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the term ‘invaded’ was inaccurate as no invasion had in fact occurred. The Authority acknowledged that a range of terms were used across national and international media coverage to describe Russia’s actions in Crimea. It emphasised the importance of using precise and correct language when reporting on contentious and complex international conflicts, where the potential to misinform audiences is great. However, taking into account the definition of ‘invade’, the findings of the International Criminal Court and the context of this particular news item, the Authority found overall that the broadcast did not breach the accuracy standard. The item was primarily about current trade developments and did not purport to be a detailed examination of Russia’s actions in Crimea in 2014. A variety of topics were covered during the short item, and some economies of language were necessary to convey the events of the complex Crimea conflict to viewers in a way that could be easily understood.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Programme Information
An item referred to during 1 News Coming Up reported on a meeting between the President of the United States of America, President Trump, and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. During the update, the newsreader said, ‘So, what did Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau say about Trump’s Muslim ban?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the term ‘Muslim ban’ was inaccurate, in the context of the brief ‘coming up’ teaser which aimed to convey a lot of information in a short period of time. In this particular case it was acceptable shorthand referring to Executive Order 13769, and briefly highlighted a topic of discussion between the two leaders. The Authority did not consider that the use of the term – which was not used in the full news item – would have materially affected viewers’ understanding of the main thrust of the report.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
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 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
On 14 November 2016, in a 1 News special update, the newsreader updated viewers on events surrounding a 7.8 magnitude earthquake centred near Kaikoura that occurred just after midnight that day. The newsreader stated, ‘there has been another quake-related death at Mt Lyford; that is after someone suffered a heart attack’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the partner of the person who died at Mt Lyford that this statement was inaccurate given that his partner had died from earthquake-related injuries, but not a heart attack. The Authority acknowledged these were distressing circumstances for the complainant. It also emphasised, however, the high public interest in the broadcast and the role of the media in providing information to New Zealanders following a significant natural disaster. The Authority found the broadcaster made reasonable efforts in the circumstances to ensure the accuracy of the statement by relying on information provided to it by emergency services. While precise verification was not available at the time of this broadcast, TVNZ ceased referring to a heart attack as the cause of death once it became aware earlier information provided to it may not have been correct. The fairness standard was not applicable in the circumstances.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness (Action Taken)
An item on 1 News reported on an upcoming boxing match between Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz for the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) heavyweight champion title. The presenter introduced the item by saying, ‘Well, the fight is set to make history whichever way it goes. There’s never been a New Zealand or Mexican world heavyweight champion’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s statement was inaccurate because a New Zealander, Robert ‘Bob’ Fitzsimmons, was the first heavyweight champion in 1897. The complaint related to a technical interpretation of Fitzsimmons’ nationality, which was not a material point of fact that was likely to mislead viewers in the context of this news item. In any event, the Authority noted that Robert Fitzsimmons was born in the United Kingdom and had lived in a number of other countries, and it was therefore not unreasonable for the presenter to refer to Joseph Parker as the first potential New Zealand heavyweight champion.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
Seven Sharp featured a story about two local residents, labelled ‘herb detectives’, who were determined to track down the man they believed was responsible for stealing their herbs. The reporter and the ‘herb detectives’ visited the local market looking for the alleged thief and spoke to a woman, Shunfang Shen, who was selling herbs. The reporter asked Mrs Shen where her herbs were from, and one of the residents said, ‘It looked very much like my mint.’ The Authority upheld a complaint from Mrs Shen that the action taken by TVNZ, in upholding her complaint that the item was inaccurate and unfair, was insufficient. The Authority acknowledged that TVNZ attempted to remedy the breach of standards, including by broadcasting a correction several days after the item. However, the Authority found it would have been straightforward for this correction to also include an apology to Mrs Shen, which would have addressed her concerns. The item clearly had the potential to be particularly damaging to Mrs Shen’s reputation in her local community, and her livelihood. She was an innocent bystander and, due to her limited English, was unable to meaningfully respond to the reporter’s questions or defend herself. The Authority found that no order was warranted, as the decision publicly notified the breach of standards.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy (Action Taken); No Order
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
Newshub broadcast a story about the outcome of a review by Michael Heron QC of Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) fisheries prosecution decisions. The reporter referred to the resignations of two senior MPI officials, implying that the resignations were connected to the outcome of the Heron review. The Authority upheld the complaint that the broadcast was unfair. The item reflected negatively on the two individuals’ professional reputations and had the potential to adversely affect them. In the interests of fairness, the broadcaster should have given the individuals affected a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations, which did not occur. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached the accuracy standard, as it found the broadcaster had made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy by relying on sources which it satisfied itself were credible. The allegations were presented alongside MPI’s position that the resignations were not connected to the Heron review, so viewers would not have been misled.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy
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
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
An item on Story opened with the news that Air Chathams had recently launched a new flight route from Auckland to Whanganui, following Air New Zealand’s announcement that it would discontinue its flights to the city. The item featured a reporter who visited Whanganui and spoke with the Mayor, residents and business-owners about their experiences and the good and the bad side of living and working in Whanganui. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was unbalanced, inaccurate and unfairly portrayed Whanganui and its residents. The introduction to the item was a parody of a popular, long-running Lemon and Paeroa television advertisement, which most viewers would have recognised, and while some of the reporter’s comments were critical of Whanganui, these were balanced with many positive comments made by residents and the item’s presenters.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Accuracy
Various items on Breakfast featured a weather reporter providing weather forecasts from Airbnb accommodation, as part of a competition for viewers to win Airbnb vouchers. During the items, the reporter interviewed three New Zealanders who rented out their accommodation through Airbnb, as well as an Airbnb representative, about the service. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these items failed to cover key information about Airbnb, resulting in inaccurate and unbalanced broadcasts that were also in breach of the law and order standard. The items were in the nature of advertorials, being programme content that was not news, current affairs, or factual programming to which the accuracy and balance standards applied. In any event, the Authority considered that the level of information provided about Airbnb was appropriate to the series of segments as a whole, which encouraged viewers to enter the Airbnb competition by providing a light-hearted look at the type of accommodation available on Airbnb and how New Zealanders got involved. The items did not purport to be in-depth investigations of Airbnb and its repercussions on the economy, and did not promote illegal activity.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order
An item on Paul Henry about Independence Day celebrations in the USA featured an interview with the USA’s Ambassador to New Zealand. Prior to the interview, Paul Henry referred to the USA claiming ‘its independence from England’. He later quoted Margaret Thatcher, referring to her as the ‘Prime Minister of England’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Henry’s statements were inaccurate and discriminatory in that he should have referred to Great Britain or the United Kingdom, rather than England. The item was focused primarily on Independence Day celebrations and the statements would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the item as a whole. There was also no suggestion that Mr Henry intended to discriminate or denigrate against people of the United Kingdom who were not English.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Fair Go reported on the stories of two families (A and B) and their experiences with The Welcome Home Foundation (now called the Home Funding Group) (together, HFG). Both families claimed that they lost money through their involvement with HFG, which provided financial support and the ability to hold money ‘on trust’ towards a deposit for a home. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the director of HFG, Luke Atkins, that the broadcast breached the accuracy, fairness and balance standards. While one aspect of the item was found to be inaccurate by the broadcaster, the Authority found that the action taken in the circumstances was sufficient. Mr Atkins was provided with many opportunities to respond to Fair Go’s questions, and provided a press release setting out his point of view which was fairly summarised during the item and also made available online. The Authority found that, overall, viewers were given sufficient information to make up their own minds about HFG.
Not Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken), Fairness, Balance