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 campaign clip for the Ban 1080 Party (an election programme for the purposes of the Election Programmes Code) was broadcast on 11 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 by inferring that there are dead possums and pigs in waterways as a result of 1080, and also by implying that 1080 is deliberately dropped into waterways. The Authority found that the claims made within the context of the broadcast, and the images used, amounted to expressions of political advocacy and opinion rather than fact, 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. In this context the Authority did not consider the high threshold for finding a breach of standards was met.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Distinguishing Factual Information from Opinion or Advocacy
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
An item on The Project interviewed Muslims in New Zealand about their views on Islamic extremism. The item featured a short excerpt of a phone interview with the complainant, who considers himself an ex-Muslim. The presenter said that the ‘stigma of Islamic extremism’ was ‘enough for him [the complainant] to turn on his own religion’. In the sound clip played the complainant said: ‘I changed my first name from Mohammad to Cyrus. I just don’t want to be related to Islam anymore’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from Mr Basham that this excerpt was misleading, by misrepresenting his reasons for leaving Islam. Taking the item as a whole, of which Mr Basham’s comment formed only a very brief part, the Authority found that audiences would not have been misled or materially misinformed at a level that warranted finding a breach of the standard. However, the Authority acknowledged that the complaint raised issues more appropriately considered under the fairness standard, and noted the importance of ensuring those featured in broadcasts are quoted correctly and that their words are not taken out of context.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
Peter Popoff Ministries is a religious programme hosted by controversial televangelist, Peter Popoff. This programme featured Popoff and his wife preaching and allegedly healing audience members, as well as testimonies from various attendees about miracles and financial rewards received from God after they bought Popoff’s ‘Miracle Spring Water’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme was ‘fraudulent’, as it took advantage of viewers who may be misled by the programme into losing money. The Authority acknowledged the complainant’s genuine and well‑intentioned concerns. However, it found that the accuracy standard did not apply to religious programming, such as Peter Popoff’s Ministries, and programme selection and scheduling decisions fell to the responsible broadcaster to determine.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
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 item on Newshub reported on Waitangi Day events around New Zealand, including Bill English’s first Waitangi Day as Prime Minister and his phone call with US President Donald Trump. The item also featured comment on English’s attendance at Waitangi Day celebrations in Auckland, rather than at Waitangi. Comment was provided by Mr English, as well as political editor Patrick Gower, who said: ‘Waitangi Day celebrations will go on the road… away from Waitangi, away from the cauldron that is Te Tii Marae’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item reflected the Government’s desire to control the image of, and de-politicise, Waitangi Day. The Authority acknowledged the national significance of Waitangi Day, and the views of the complainant as to how it should be celebrated. However, it found that Mr English’s and Mr Gower’s comments did not amount to material points of fact in the item, being analysis or commentary on the events of the day. This was a generally straightforward news item reporting on key events during Waitangi Day, and did not purport to provide in-depth commentary on historic controversies canvassed by the complaint.
Not Upheld: 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 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 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