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).
Saturday Morning featured a segment in which presenter Kim Hill interviewed former MP and spokesperson for lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, Dr Don Brash, about the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand, specifically in RNZ broadcasting, without translation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority found that, while Ms Hill asked Dr Brash challenging and critical questions, Dr Brash had a reasonable opportunity to put forward his competing point of view, and listeners would not have been left misinformed with regard to Dr Brash’s position. Given the level of public interest in the interview, Dr Brash’s position and his experience with the media, the Authority also found Ms Hill’s interview style did not result in Dr Brash being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency
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 discussed revelations that the pension of New Zealand First Leader, Rt Hon Winston Peters, had been overpaid for up to seven years. The segment featured excerpts of a phone interview with Mr Peters, details about Mr Peters’ press release and subsequent comments made by Mr Peters about the overpayments. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority did not consider that it was necessary to obtain a copy of the full phone interview transcript in order to determine whether the broadcast was inaccurate and unfair (as requested by the complainant). The Authority found Mr Peters’ view in response to the story was adequately presented in the broadcast, and neither the reporter’s comments nor the presentation of the phone interview in the item resulted in Mr Peters being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Programme Information
A segment on Newshub during the election period featured a political reporter discussing the potential factors behind the Labour Party’s drop in the Newshub election poll. During the segment the reporter stated that the National Party’s claim that Labour would increase income tax if elected was a ‘lie’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment was unfair and biased. The Authority emphasised that it is an important function of the media to comment critically on party policies and actions and that this type of speech has high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, particularly during election time. Political parties should expect to be subject to robust criticism and the Authority was satisfied the political reporter’s comment did not go beyond what could be expected during the election period. The Authority did not consider the comment amounted to ‘political bias’ as alleged in the complaint, or that it resulted in the National Party being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
A panel discussion following the Newshub Leaders Debate featured comments from political commentator, Matthew Hooton, regarding Labour’s tax policies, including that Jacinda Ardern was ‘not telling the truth about her plans for tax’ and that she was ‘refusing to tell’ New Zealanders about the party’s tax plan. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these comments were unfounded and biased, and that Ms Ardern should have been given a right of reply. The Authority found that, in the interests of balance, Ms Ardern was given a reasonable opportunity throughout the debate and during questioning from panel members, to explain Labour’s proposed approach to a review of the tax system and to address the perception that New Zealanders would not have the opportunity to view Labour’s full policy before voting. In relation to the fairness standard, the Authority found that it is an important function of the media to comment critically on party policy and this type of speech has high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, particularly during at election time. Party leaders should expect to be subject to robust criticism and the Authority was satisfied Mr Hooton’s comments, while critical, did not go beyond what can be expected during the election period, nor did they result in Ms Ardern being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
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 Newshub reported on the Government’s upcoming review of KiwiRail’s operational and funding models. The item featured interviews with Transport Minister, Simon Bridges, NZ First leader, Winston Peters, and Prime Minister Bill English. The reporter commented that KiwiRail had been a ‘black hole’ for tax payers and ‘a giant problem for this Government’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced and unfair to KiwiRail. Given the nature of the item, which was a straightforward news report about the Government’s proposed review, viewers would not have expected to be provided with information about the historic benefits of rail or the history of KiwiRail. The Authority also found that, although the reporter’s use of language could be considered critical, the item did not result in KiwiRail being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
[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
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 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