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The Election Programmes Code only covers election programmes that are broadcast during the general election period. 'Election programmes' will most commonly be advertisements for political parties and/or candidates or opening/closing addresses. Only general elections or by-elections for members of the House of Representatives are covered. Local body elections are not covered by this Code.

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Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice

(HTML text in English)

  • Introduction

    The Broadcasting Act 1989 requires every broadcaster to be responsible for maintaining in programmes and their presentation, standards which are consistent with matters such as good taste and decency, law and order, and privacy.

    The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) is responsible for administering the standards regime, determining formal complaints and encouraging broadcasters to develop and observe appropriate Codes of Broadcasting Practice.

    The purpose of this Code of Broadcasting Practice is to emphasise important principles regulating the content of broadcast election programmes.

    Under section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, there is a right to freedom of expression. When the Authority makes decisions on complaints, it will consider and apply the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

  • About This Code

    Election programmes are subject to the same broadcasting standards as other programmes.

    Therefore, this Code should be read alongside the other Codes of Broadcasting Practice: Free-to-Air Television, Radio, and Pay Television. The Codes are also available free from the Broadcasting Standards Authority. 

    There is one exception to this: the requirement to present a range of significant viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance does not apply to election programmes (see section 79 of the Broadcasting Act).

    In recognition of the special context of general elections, broadcasting standards such as fairness and accuracy will be applied to election programmes in a manner that respects the importance of free political expression and debate.

    Complaints about election programmes are made straight to the BSA.

  • What is an 'Election Programme'?

    ‘Election programme’ means a programme that:

    • encourages or persuades, or appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote, or not to vote, for a political party or the election of any person at an election; or

    • advocates support for, or opposes, a candidate or political party; or

    • notifies meetings held or to be held in connection with an election

    (see section 69 of the Broadcasting Act 1989)

    Election programmes can only be broadcast during an ‘election period’ (the period beginning with writ day (the day the Governor-General issues a writ requiring the Chief Electoral Officer to make all necessary arrangements to conduct a general election) and ending the day before polling day).

    Election Advertising in Print and Online

    Election advertising in non-broadcast media (such as print and online) is not covered by this code.

    Complaints about non-broadcast election advertising should be made to the Advertising Standards Authority.

    Other Information about Elections

    Other information about the regulation of elections should be sought from the Electoral Commission.

  • Grounds for a Formal Complaint

    Formal complaints allege that the broadcaster has failed in its responsibility to maintain one or more of the following broadcasting standards:

    1. Standard E1: Election Programmes Subject to Other Codes
    2. Standard E2: Distinguishing Factual Information from Opinion or Advocacy
    3. Standard E3: Denigration
    4. Standard E4: Misleading Programmes
    5. Standard E5: Opening and Closing Address
  • How to Make a Formal Complaint

    Formal complaints about an election programme must be:

    • made in writing; and
    • lodged directly with the BSA within 60 working days of the broadcast.

    Complaints should specify:

    • that the complaint is a formal complaint about an election programme
    • the name of the programme
    • the party or candidate featured in the broadcast
    • the radio station or television channel where the broadcast featured
    • the date and time of broadcast
    • the standard(s), from the relevant Broadcasting Code and/or this Code, alleged to have been breached and the reasons why.

    Copies of all Broadcasting Codes are available from the BSA and on this website.

    While complainants have 60 working days to lodge a complaint the nature of election programmes means that complaints are most effectively brought as soon after the broadcast as possible.

    The following standards apply to all election programmes broadcast in New Zealand.

  • Standard E1: Election Programmes Subject to Other Codes

    An election programme is subject to all relevant provisions of the Codes of Broadcasting Practice for television and radio except for the requirement to present a range of significant viewpoints on issues of public importance.

    Robust debate, advocacy and expression of political opinion are a desirable and essential part of a democratic society and broadcasting standards will be applied in a manner which respects this context.

  • Standard E2: Distinguishing Factual Information from Opinion or Advocacy

    An election programme may include debate, advocacy and opinion, but factual information should be clearly distinguishable from opinion or advocacy.

  • Standard E3: Denigration

    While an election programme may oppose a political party, or candidate, it may not include material which denigrates a political party or candidate.

  • Standard E4: Misleading Programmes

    An election programme may not imitate an existing programme, format or identifiable personality in a manner which is likely to mislead.

  • Standard E5: Opening and Closing Address

    A party opening or closing address must be clearly identifiable as a party political broadcast made by, or on behalf of, a specified political party.

  • Contacts

    Complaints about election programmes (for television and radio):

    Broadcasting Standards Authority
    PO Box 9213
    Wellington 6141
    telephone:  (04) 382 9508
    freephone:  0800 366 996
    fax:             (04) 382 9543

    Complaints about election advertising (for printed and online material, including billboards):

    Advertising Standards Complaints Board
    PO Box 10675
    Wellington 6143
    telephone: (04) 472 7852
    freephone: 0800 234 357

    Other election information:

    Electoral Commission
    PO Box 3220
    Wellington 6140
    telephone: (04) 495 0030