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.
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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).
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 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
During an item on Seven Sharp, broadcast on 23 August 2017 during the election period, the presenters discussed TVNZ’s ‘Vote Compass’, a tool available to assist the New Zealand public to make voting decisions. In response to comments by presenter Toni Street about the usefulness of the tool, presenter Mike Hosking said, ‘…so is the fact that you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate, so what are you going to do now? I’m joking.’ The following evening, Mr Hosking attempted to clarify his comment by saying, ‘Now, the fact that anyone can vote for [the Māori Party] as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years…’ The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Hosking’s comments were inaccurate, finding that Mr Hosking’s statement about who was eligible to vote for the Māori Party was a material point of fact that was inaccurate and misleading. Further, his comments the following evening were confusing and insufficient to correct the inaccurate information for viewers. The Authority acknowledged the high value of political expression during an election period, but found that the potential harm in this case – providing inaccurate information which had the potential to influence voters, despite the alleged clarification – outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Upheld: Accuracy; Order: section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.
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 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 Seven Sharp discussed the UK’s move to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, to encourage the use electric vehicles (EVs). Following the item, presenter Mike Hosking outlined the ‘hurdles’ to be overcome before a similar move could be made in New Zealand, stating that there was ‘no charging network’ in New Zealand and that the cost of EVs was ‘too high’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Hosking’s statements were inaccurate and misleading. Noting that the accuracy standard does not apply to statements of analysis, comment or opinion, the Authority found that, in this case, Mr Hosking’s statements on the cost-effectiveness of EVs, and the lack of charging network in New Zealand, represented his own opinion and analysis on the topic, which viewers would not have expected to be authoritative. While the complainant may have disagreed with Mr Hosking’s views, the Authority found that these were opinions which were open to Mr Hosking to express, noting that the free and frank expression of opinions is an important aspect of the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
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 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
[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 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