An election programme is defined in section 69(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 as a programme that is broadcast on television or radio during an ‘election period’ (see below) which:
Usually, an election programme will appear as a short promotional / campaign clip for a political party or candidate, broadcast on TV or on radio.
The Court of Appeal has held that election programmes are only those that are broadcast for political parties or candidates – and not programmes initiated by broadcasters or other third parties (The Electoral Commission v Watson & Jones, CA239/2015  NZCA 512, 20 October 2016).
Note: Only general elections or by-elections for members of the House of Representatives are covered. Local body elections are not covered by the Election Programmes Code.
No. News or current affairs programmes relating to elections (or any programmes broadcast to inform, enlighten, or entertain an audience) are not ‘election programmes’ for the purposes of broadcasting standards and are not subject to the Election Programmes Code (see Broadcasting (Election Programmes and Election Advertising) Amendment Act 2017, section 70(4)(a)).
However, news, current affairs and other programmes that cover the election or election issues will still be subject to the relevant broadcasting standards for Radio, Free-to-Air TV or Pay TV, and members of the public are able to complain about them to the relevant broadcaster (unless it’s a complaint about privacy, which can be made directly to the BSA).
There is no legal requirement for the on-air employee of a broadcaster to stop presenting their programme during the election campaign, just because they are an election candidate. However, the candidate will need to take care in how they engage on issues that might be relevant to the election. You, along with the employee, should use your own judgement, taking into account the ethical, legal and employment considerations and broadcasting standards. If a candidate plans to continue in their broadcasting role, broadcasting standards will apply and the candidate can expect to be the subject of careful public scrutiny.
It is an offence to broadcast an election programme for a party or candidate except during the election period. There are also restrictions around the times at which and the days on which an election programme can be broadcast.
The Electoral Commission handles complaints relating to the timing of election programme broadcasts.
The election period begins on 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 ends at midnight the day before polling day.
This year for the 2017 General Election, the election period runs from 23 August 2017 until midnight on 22 September 2017.
The BSA will notify you and the relevant political party/candidate that a complaint has been received, and give you both an opportunity to comment. It will also request a copy of, or link to, the broadcast (see below). The BSA will endeavour to deal with any election programme complaint as quickly as possible, so you should be prepared to respond with your views on a short timescale. The BSA will issue its decision to the parties, and will advise when the decision will be publicly released on its website.
As with all complaints, we will assess any complaint on the facts and against the standards in the relevant Code(s). We will endeavour to deal with any complaints as quickly as possible, so you should be prepared to respond to the BSA’s requests for information on a short timescale.
We also recognise that elections have a special context. The standards will be applied in a manner that respects the importance of free political expression and debate. See the introduction to the Election Programmes Code.
Please email it to us in electronic format – Windows Media Files for television and MP3 for radio. Alternatively you can send us a link to view the programme online.
The BSA cannot direct you to stop playing a programme that has been complained about so this will need to be your decision. You should assess this on a case by case basis but you may choose to have regard to the nature of the complaint, the effect of continuing to play the programme in terms of free and fair elections and the principles of freedom of expression. The political party or candidate that is responsible for the programme should also be consulted in any decision you choose to make.
If the BSA upholds a complaint about an election programme, the BSA can make any of its usual orders (eg order a broadcast statement, or costs to the Crown). In the event that a complaint is upheld the BSA also encourages the broadcaster and political party concerned to consider whether any changes ought to be made to the election programme, to mitigate the breach of broadcasting standards.
See BSA Orders
The BSA’s previous decisions on election programme complaints are listed below.
All the links to BSA decisions below (HTML) open a new tab.
Decisions prior to 1994 are available as PDFs only.
Disclaimer: Nothing here binds the BSA in determining the outcome of any future complaint. Each complaint is determined on the particular facts surrounding a broadcast.