In this section of the website you can search all our decisions from 1989/90 to the present. The decisions appear in descending order.
Decisions from 1994 appear in HTML. Decisions from 1989/90 to 1993 are attached as PDFs.
Four of the fields that appear at the top of individual decisions – Channel/Station, Programme, Standards, Standards Breached – have links that call up other decisions with the same information.
Please note that you will need to select specific standard/s, as well as a broadcasting code, to return decision results.
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Three National News, Nightline. Complaint about screening of some shots of vehicles entering and leaving the Trust's property with references to a police raid earlier that year and to charges of sex crimes against children. Direct factual conflict between the parties' versions. Declined to determine (privacy, balance, accuracy, fairness).
During an episode of Shortland Street, characters Lincoln and Jack took Nicole out for drinks to take her mind off her attacker. Lincoln, who was previously in a relationship with a man, was shown taking an illegal drug which he gave to Nicole. Later in the episode, Lincoln and Nicole were shown in bed together. In the episode broadcast the following evening, Jack asked Lincoln about being gay and sleeping with Nicole. Lincoln replied that he did not have to ‘put a label on it’, saying, ‘I’m just me’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme’s portrayal of Lincoln’s sexuality, by a straight actor, could have damaging effects on young viewers or those struggling with their sexuality. The character explained that he preferred not to use labels and there was no suggestion that Lincoln’s sexual orientation changed under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that his sexual orientation was ‘a phase’. While the Authority acknowledged that ensuring diversity in casting was an important issue, the casting of straight actors to play gay or queer characters was a decision for the broadcaster. The actor’s portrayal of Lincoln was part of the programme’s fictional narrative, which in context was not in breach of standards. The Authority therefore did not identify any grounds which would justify restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression or dramatic license in this case.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on the Government’s intention to remove a benefit reduction sanction that can apply to sole beneficiary parents who do not name the remaining parent. The complainant alleged the item was unbalanced and misleading, as the report omitted details about the exemptions that can apply to the sanction, including that a parent will not have to name the other parent where the child or sole parent could be at risk of violence. The Authority found that the focus of this item was the Government’s desire to remove the sanction. The omission of details about the exemptions was therefore not material to the overall focus of the item, and did not mislead viewers. The Authority also found that the balance standard did not apply, as the item was a brief, straightforward news report on the possible legislative change, and did not purport to be an in-depth discussion of the detail and merits of the existing law and proposed change.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has declined to determine a complaint that an interviewee’s reference to ‘the Queen of England’, during an episode of Waka Huia, was inaccurate and discriminatory towards those in the United Kingdom who were not English. The complainant has previously referred a number of complaints about this issue to the Authority, which were either not upheld, with comprehensive reasons given for the Authority’s decision, or which the Authority declined to determine. The complainant’s appeal of a previous decision to the High Court on a similar issue was also dismissed. The Authority therefore declined to determine the complaint under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, on the grounds that it was trivial and vexatious.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a Newshub promo that stated ‘over 3 million Kiwis [get their news from Newshub]’ breached the accuracy standard. The complaint was that the promo did not indicate the reference to ‘over 3 million Kiwis’ was a ‘reach’ number (ie a statistical estimate on total audience numbers), and that the omission of information about the source and research methodology used to arrive at the 3-million figure resulted in the promo being misleading. The Authority found the use of the statistic in the promo was unlikely to mislead viewers or significantly affect their understanding of the promo as a whole, taking into account the nature of the promo as a piece of station branding or marketing, rather than a news or current affairs item.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
Two complaints regarding an episode of Shortland Street were not upheld. In the episode a new character appointed CEO of the Shortland Street hospital commented, ‘Puffed up, privileged Pakeha men drunk on control, terrified of change… we are the future, Esther, not them,’ referring to the hospital’s management. Complaints were made that this statement was sexist, racist and offensive to white men. The Authority reviewed the programme and relevant contextual factors, including established expectations of Shortland Street as a long-running, fictional soap opera/drama, and concluded the character’s statement did not breach broadcasting standards. It found upholding the complaints in this context would unreasonably limit the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News reporting on the separation of migrant families in the United States. The complaint was that references to President Donald Trump’s ‘immigration crackdown’ and ‘Trump’s policy’ of separating children from their parents were misleading, unbalanced and unfair as the relevant law pre-dated Trump’s presidency. The Authority concluded the broadcast did not breach the accuracy, balance or fairness standards, as the references reasonably reflected the Trump administration’s position regarding the enforcement of criminal prosecutions for illegal immigrants. The Authority emphasised the high level of public and political interest in the story and found that any limitation on the right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment on The Project that discussed whether bystanders should step in if they see parents treating their children in a way they do not agree with. At the beginning of the segment the presenters described an incident in which a father (the complainant) allegedly disciplined his son by denying him afternoon tea. Another parent reported this to Oranga Tamariki, who later found no cause for action and dismissed the complaint. The complainant argued the segment omitted important details about the incident, and was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority acknowledged the significant effect these events have had on the complainant and his family. However, the Authority found the incident, and the reporting of it to Oranga Tamariki, was used to frame the broader discussion about bystander intervention, rather than being the focus of the item. Therefore the item was unlikely to mislead viewers or result in harm at a level that justified restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about the action taken by a broadcaster in response to a complaint it received about incorrect reporting of casualties in an event in Gaza. Three news bulletins on 1 News and 1 News Midday reported inconsistent numbers of Palestinians killed and injured following protests in Gaza. The broadcaster upheld a complaint that two of the bulletins were inaccurate, however the complainant was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster in response to these breaches and referred the complaint to the Authority on this basis. The Authority found that TVNZ took sufficient action, noting the broadcaster apologised in its decision to the complainant and circulated a reminder to all newsroom staff about the importance of reporting this type of information correctly.
Not Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken)
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the use of the term ‘disputed’ in a Newshub item, to describe the land the United States (US) Embassy sits on in East Jerusalem, breached the accuracy standard. The broadcast covered a recent protest in Gaza over the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the US calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The Authority noted that the accuracy standard requires only that the broadcaster make ‘reasonable efforts’ to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast. In this case, the reporter used the term ‘disputed’ in the ordinary sense of the word, to identify the US Embassy’s location, which is the subject of dispute between Palestine and Israel. The Authority acknowledged the importance of terminology when reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict, particularly when describing the status of the land that was the subject of this broadcast. However, on this occasion, the Authority considered that, while the term ‘disputed’ was not the most appropriate term available, it was not inaccurate to the extent requiring the Authority to intervene and uphold the complaint. The Authority noted that when locations of political and historical significance are described, broadcasters should endeavour to use terms adopted by internationally recognised organisations such as the UN.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a story on Prime News, reporting on incorrect deductions that were made from a solo mother’s benefit, was inaccurate and resulted in Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) being treated unfairly. The featured mother was repaid $7,000 from WINZ after discovering that deductions had been made from her benefit in error, as she qualified for an exemption from a policy requiring her to identify the father of her child. The Authority considered that the item was a fair and accurate report on the issue. WINZ was the agency responsible for administering the woman’s benefit and for making the deductions under legislation. It was therefore reasonable for the broadcaster to refer to WINZ and to rely on comment from the Minister for Social Development in response. While the story may have been critical of the policy and of the incorrect deductions that were made, the Authority considered that upholding this complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and therefore did not uphold the complaint.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item on 1 News, about claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) that staff had been abused and attacked by anti-1080 protestors, breached broadcasting standards. The Authority found the item was unlikely to mislead or misinform audiences, as it contained comments from various parties including a DOC representative, an anti-1080 campaigner and a National Party MP. The Authority highlighted the importance of the reporting on issues of public importance in an accurate and balanced manner, finding that the broadcaster did so on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy, Fairness
An episode of The AM Show featured an interview with Hon. Kelvin Davis regarding the Government’s scheduled series of nationwide Hui with Māori. The programme also discussed legal action taken by prisoners against the Department of Corrections over strip searches, and a short clip of comments by host Duncan Garner on this issue was included in a promo for The AM Show broadcast that evening. A complaint was made that Mr Garner’s comments in relation to the first topic amounted to racist ‘slurs’ against Māori and were dismissive of the Crown’s efforts to fulfil its Treaty obligations, and that the discussion of the second topic trivialised prisoners’ ‘serious abusive treatment’. The Authority did not uphold either aspect of the complaint. The Authority found that, while some of the comments made by Mr Garner could be considered controversial and provocative, this was robust political discourse which carried public interest, and did not go beyond audience expectations. Comments were also made by the other hosts and panel guests which gave a countering view. In this context upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Balance
The Authority upheld a complaint under the accuracy standard about an item on 1 News, which discussed the Auckland Council’s vote on the draft proposal for the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax (the Tax). The Authority found the segment, through the omission of key information about the ongoing consultation and the presenter’s use of the terms ‘green light’ and ‘done deal’, was likely to mislead viewers into thinking the proposal voted on by the Council was final and that there was no further period of public consultation. The importance of keeping audiences informed on issues of public and political significance was emphasised by the Authority. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard, finding the item achieved balance through the presentation of a wide range of views from politicians and members of the public who were for and against the implementation of the Tax.
Upheld: Accuracy. Not Upheld: Balance
During Breakfast, host Hayley Holt had a conversation with the 1 News US Correspondent about recent school protests in America seeking gun reform. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Ms Holt’s statement that ‘[w]e, I – here in New Zealand, we think they should ban all guns of course’ was unbalanced and likely to mislead viewers. The Authority found that Ms Holt’s statement was one of generalised opinion and analysis, not a statement of fact. The Authority also noted that this segment solely focused on gun control issues in the USA, not New Zealand, and in this context Ms Holt’s brief comment did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
An item on Newshub explored concerns of members of the public and the Christchurch City Council regarding potential water contamination from a bore drilled by Cloud Ocean Water and pending judicial review action taken against Environment Canterbury (ECan) over their resource consent processes. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast was inaccurate and unfair to Cloud Ocean Water. The Authority found that Cloud Ocean Water’s responses to questions from Newshub prior to the broadcast were fairly reflected in the item, and that viewers were unlikely to be misled regarding the nature of Cloud Ocean Water’s involvement in the resource consent process or the judicial review.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
Over two evenings, on 20 and 21 January 2018, Newshub reported on the delayed launch of a rocket from the Māhia Peninsula, due to a boat being in the exclusion zone around the launch site. The first item strongly implied that Hastings District Councillor Damon Harvey was responsible for the delayed launch, referring to a tweet, featuring a photo of the launch site, that the reporter said was tweeted by Mr Harvey ‘around the same time’ as the launch delay. The second item included a short comment from an interview with Mr Harvey. The Authority found parts of these broadcasts were inaccurate and misleading, and were unfair to Mr Harvey. The broadcaster relied on social media content as a basis for the story without taking reasonable steps to inform the complainants of their contribution to the programme, or to verify that the content was what the reporter claimed. As a result, viewers were misled about who was responsible for the launch delay. Mr Harvey’s interview comments were also edited in a way that was misleading and unfair, so he was not given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the story.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness. Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement on air, online and in print; Section 16(1) $2,000 legal costs to complainant; Section 16(4) $1,000 costs to the Crown
An item on 1 News reported on the trial of Colin Mitchell, who was found guilty of the kidnapping and sexually motivated attack of a young woman. During the item, the reporter stated: ‘DNA evidence from [Mr Mitchell’s] toothbrush matched that found on and inside the pair of gloves left at the quarry; 800,000 million times more likely to have come from Mitchell than anyone else’ [our emphasis]. The Authority declined to determine a complaint that the reporter’s statement was inaccurate because it did not take into account the possibility that Mr Mitchell had an identical twin, or that DNA evidence could have been falsified or planted. The Authority found the complaint was frivolous and trivial.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy
An item on The Project discussed the End of Life Choice Bill (the Bill) before the Select Committee of Parliament. The item featured interviews with advocates for and against the legalisation of euthanasia in Aotearoa. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced or that the use of certain terms such as ‘euthanasia’ was inaccurate. The Authority recognised the legalisation of euthanasia is an important and ongoing issue of public importance in New Zealand. The Authority found that overall the item was sufficiently balanced and was unlikely to mislead or misinform viewers, so any restriction on the broadcaster’s freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
A brief item on 1 News discussed a protest in Christchurch against Vero Insurance (Vero) regarding outstanding insurance claims. The item contained footage of the protestors and the newsreader stated that ‘[One of the protestors] says Vero has kept them locked in a virtual prison for seven years.’ The broadcaster upheld a complaint from Vero under the balance and fairness standards, as Vero ought to have been given an opportunity to comment. Vero referred the complaint to the Authority on the basis it was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster in response to its original complaint, and it also maintained that the accuracy standard was breached. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding the statement complained about was a statement of opinion and therefore the accuracy standard did not apply. The Authority considered that a broadcast statement on this occasion would have been disproportionate to the breach, and therefore it did not uphold the complaint that the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient.
Not Upheld: Balance (Action Taken), Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy
An episode of The Project featured an item about several aspects of the gun control debate in New Zealand, including the Police Association’s call to introduce a firearm registry and tighter restrictions on firearm ownership and importation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was materially inaccurate in relation to the number of firearms being legally imported every year into New Zealand. The Authority also found that it was not misleading to use Police Association survey statistics (rather than NZ Police data) in the broadcast as the source of the statistics was clearly identified. Overall, the Authority was satisfied that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the item was accurate and not misleading, so the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression in this case.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
Two items on 1 News reported on extreme weather events in New Zealand, with an item on 8 January 2018 focused on the release of NIWA’s 2017 Annual Report and a 12 January 2018 item reporting on clean-up efforts on the West Coast, following torrential rain and flooding. Brief references were made during these items to the impacts of climate change in New Zealand and particularly on extreme weather events. The Authority did not uphold complaints that these items were inaccurate and unbalanced because climate change was not occurring in New Zealand and the number and intensity of extreme weather events was also not increasing. Given the focus of the items, which was not climate change but the release of the NIWA Report and flooding, the Authority found that the brief references to climate change were not material for the purposes of the accuracy standard, and as such would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the items as a whole. The items reported on newsworthy developments in the general area of New Zealand’s weather and climate and did not ‘discuss’ the issue of climate change, so they did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard. The Authority found that the harm alleged to have been caused in this case, namely a misinformed public, therefore did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression and any limitation on that right was unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
During the Saturday Morning programme on RNZ National, Kim Hill interviewed Dr Don Brash about his views on the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand. At one point in the interview Ms Hill put to Dr Brash, ‘Is this a political position on your part? I mean, we know your political position, for example, which says that the government has no responsibility to address the overrepresentation of Māori in negative social stats’. Dr Brash asked Ms Hill when he had said that, to which Ms Hill replied, ‘I’m quoting you. I think it was about seven years ago’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Ms Hill’s statement was materially inaccurate. While Ms Hill’s reference to Dr Brash’s views may have been loose or approximate, overall it was not material to listeners’ understanding of the item as a whole, which focused on Dr Brash’s opinion about the use of te reo Māori without translation, particularly in RNZ broadcasting. Further, Dr Brash was given sufficient time during the 32-minute interview to rebut Ms Hill’s statement and to clarify his position. The Authority therefore found that the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression in this case.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on 1 News reported on an alleged ‘mistake’ by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which the reporter, Andrea Vance, said ‘cost the taxpayer a quarter of a million dollars’. The item referred to MFAT’s action in waiving the diplomatic immunity of an MFAT employee – the complainant – to allow child custody and matrimonial proceedings to be heard in an overseas court. According to Ms Vance, MFAT’s actions were disputed by the complainant’s ex-partner, resulting in MFAT issuing an apology and payment of ‘legal bills’ to both the complainant and the complainant’s ex-partner. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from the MFAT employee that the item was inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair. It was important, in the interests of ensuring viewers were properly informed and were not misled, for the broadcaster to have provided alternative perspectives on the issue of legal costs, namely that MFAT denied payment of the complainant’s costs. Further, it should have been made clear to viewers that a legal expert featured in the item did not have specific knowledge of the complainant’s case and was commenting only generally on the applicable law. The Authority noted the public interest in this item and the efforts made by the broadcaster to protect the identities of those involved, and did not uphold the complaint under the remaining standards.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Children’s Interests, Programme Information.
During a 1 News Coming Up teaser, presenter Simon Dallow referred to an upcoming item on 1 News, saying: ‘Plus a warning for mums to be; research showing C-section babies face long-term health issues.’ The full item reported on research findings from the University of Edinburgh that babies born through caesarean section were ‘far more likely to suffer from obesity and asthma’, but went on to explain that it was not the caesarean section which caused the health problems, as these could be due to the mother’s health, and further research is needed. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the teaser was sensationalist and misleading, in breach of the accuracy standard. Due to the short duration of the teaser, which was designed to pique viewers’ interest and attract viewers to the later news bulletin, it was necessary for Mr Dallow to briefly summarise the main point of the research, and was not reasonable, at this point, to provide a full explanation of the research and its implications. Viewers understand the nature of news teasers, and were able to watch the full item to get the full story, so they were unlikely to be materially misled by the short teaser.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information