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).
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 interview was broadcast on Saturday Morning with the President of Catholics for Choice (CFC). He spoke about CFC’s position, and his own views, on contraception, marriage equality and abortion, contrasting these views with the Catholic Church’s stance on these topics. The Authority did not uphold a complaint made by Right to Life that a representative of the Catholic Church should have been given the opportunity to respond to the ‘allegations’ made by the CFC President. The item was introduced and presented from the narrow perspective of CFC, which did not represent the views of all Catholics or of the Church hierarchy, and this was made clear during the interview. The Authority considered that most listeners would have been broadly aware of the Catholic Church’s stance in relation to the topics discussed and a rebuttal was not required to balance the interview. The Authority also did not uphold the fairness complaint, as the connection between CFC, Family Planning and Planned Parenthood was clearly outlined at the beginning of the item, and the item did not result in unfairness to the Catholic Church.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
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)
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 broadcast 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
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
An item on Story explored the issue of unconscious bias. During the introduction, footage of members of the public walking down the street was shown. Each individual was zoomed in and highlighted with special effects. The Authority upheld a complaint from JW, one of the individuals shown, that she was unfairly ‘showcased’ during the segment. Rather than being a face in the crowd, the edited footage used filming techniques that singled out the complainant and drew her into the issue under discussion without her knowledge or consent. This unduly impacted on her dignity and was unfair. The Authority recognised that bias is a sensitive issue and has the potential to cause hurt and offence. It is also an important social issue. In this context, without undermining the value of the item as a whole, the Authority considered more care should have been taken in the way the footage was edited to avoid the singling out of individuals who were unaware they would be featured. The Authority did not consider that JW had a reasonable expectation of privacy when she was filmed on a busy public street. Nor did the item reach the high threshold necessary to encourage viewers to treat differently, or devalue the reputation of, any section of the community.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Privacy, Discrimination and Denigration; No Order
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
An item on Fair Go reported on complaints by two families about the allegedly unsatisfactory supply and installation of their swimming pools, purchased from The Spa and Pool Factory (SPF). During the item, the reporter also noted that the Auckland Council was investigating SPF regarding ‘potentially fraudulent documentation’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the director of SPF that the item was inaccurate, unfair and in breach of his privacy. The broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure that the programme was accurate and did not mislead viewers, going directly to Mr Radisich and to Auckland Council to seek their comments on the issues raised. In relation to the alleged breach of privacy, no information about which Mr Radisich had a reasonable expectation of privacy was disclosed during the item, and the way the information was presented would not be considered highly offensive to an objective reasonable person. Finally, Fair Go appropriately sought comment from Mr Radisich, the sole director of SPF, to ensure his perspective was captured and that he was treated fairly.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Privacy, Fairness
A Seven Sharp item discussed the reasons that outgoing New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd was not seeking re-election. These included that Mr Judd had suffered abuse and become ‘deeply unpopular’ because of his campaign to increase Māori representation on the New Plymouth District Council, in particular by proposing that a Māori ward be established on the Council. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s editorial comments following the item were unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. In making its decision, the Authority acknowledged the influential position of the presenters, but found that alternative views were conveyed during the item and in subsequent items during the period of current interest. The presenters’ comments were their opinion and analysis of the issues discussed, rather than statements of fact, so they were not subject to the accuracy standard. The item was not unfair to Mr Judd, as any criticism of his views or actions was in relation to his public, elected role, in which he could reasonably be expected to be subject to scrutiny. Mr Judd was presented positively throughout the item and the presenters’ disagreement with his position did not result in him being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
An item on ONE News Tonight reported on a pro-rail rally in Whangarei, which occurred in reaction to KiwiRail’s decision to discontinue part of the North Rail Link. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. The item included a variety of significant viewpoints on KiwiRail’s decision, and it did not imply that the Government’s or KiwiRail’s views on the issue were more valid than other views. In the context of a brief news report, the pro-rail rally was accurately conveyed, and no individual or organisation was identified by the complainant as being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
A ONE News item discussed two changes proposed as part of a review of Child Youth and Family Services (CYFS): first, dealing with 17-year-old offenders within the youth justice system rather than the adult justice system; and second, lifting the age that people can remain in CYFS care. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that footage of young skateboarders and riders shown during the item implicitly associated them with youth crime, which was unfair. The skateboarders and riders did not take part and were not referred to during the item at a level that triggered the fairness standard. The footage simply associated them with typical activities for people their age and was in the nature of visual wallpaper. It did not associate young skateboarders and riders with youth crime.
Not Upheld: Fairness
An item on Sunday exposed the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of the dairy industry in the Waikato region. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was an unbalanced and inaccurate depiction of dairy farming, and breached a number of other broadcasting standards. The Authority found the item was sufficiently balanced, as the perspective of the dairy industry was given both within the item and within the period of current interest. The item was not inaccurate or misleading in the ways alleged by the complainant; rather, it focused on instances of bad practice within the dairy industry and did not suggest these were commonplace. Furthermore, the item did not breach the privacy of a local farming family, as they were not identifiable or otherwise referred to in the footage. The broadcaster exercised adequate care and discretion when showing footage of cruelty against bobby calves.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Privacy, Violence, Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness
A Prime News item reported on the trial of a former Nazi guard at Auschwitz and referred to the camp as a ‘Polish camp’. The complainant alleged this statement was inaccurate because it was not a ‘Polish camp’, but was rather a Nazi camp located in Poland. The Authority recognised that the labelling of concentration camps as part of the Nazi regime remains a sensitive issue and one of historical importance, which broadcasters should be mindful of when choosing the language to be used. Nevertheless, in the context of the item the Authority did not consider that viewers would have been misled.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
An episode of 3D investigated alleged bullying within the New Zealand Fire Service, particularly within volunteer brigades. The episode relied in part on testimony from particular individuals who alleged they had been victims of bullying, and in part on a report, which purported to identify bullying as a significant problem within NZFS. NZFS challenged the credibility of the report and argued that the programme breached the accuracy, fairness and balance standards. The Authority did not uphold the complaint. It found that the programme clearly stated there were questions about the status of the report – which in any event only formed part of the basis of the story – so viewers would not have been misled. NZFS’s response to the allegations was presented at length throughout the programme, including during an extensive interview with the then acting Chief Executive/National Commander of NZFS, which satisfied the requirements of the fairness and balance standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues, Fairness
An item on Sunday exposed the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of New Zealand’s dairy industry. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item was unfair to the complainant and breached his and his employee’s privacy, and that the item was inaccurate and lacked balance. Neither RZ nor his employee was identifiable during the footage and they were not participants, or referred to, in the item. The item was also sufficiently balanced, as the perspective of the dairy industry was given both within the item and within the period of current interest. Comments in the item that the complainant alleged were inaccurate were clearly opinion and analysis and thus not subject to the accuracy standard, and the item was not otherwise misleading.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Controversial Issues, Accuracy