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 constituency 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).
You may complain directly to the BSA if you think that an election programme has breached the Election Programmes Code. (Note: Only general elections or by-elections for members of the House of Representatives are covered. Local body elections are not covered by this 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 are subject to the relevant broadcasting standards for Radio, Free-to-Air TV or Pay TV, and you may complain about them to the relevant broadcaster (unless it’s a complaint about privacy, which can be made directly to the BSA).
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, in the election period.
The Electoral Commission handles complaints relating to the timing of the broadcast of an election programme.
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.
For the 2017 Election, the election period runs from 23 August 2017 until midnight on 22 September 2017.
The 'balance' standard does not apply to election programmes (see Broadcasting (Election Programmes and Election Advertising) Amendment Act 2017 (section 73)). That is because election programmes by their nature are messages designed to promote (or oppose) a particular party or candidate, so they cannot be expected to present a range of viewpoints.
You have 60 working days from the date of the broadcast (see Broadcasting Act 1989, section 9(2)). We encourage all complainants to make complaints as soon after the broadcast as possible.
No, we do not have the power to do that. The BSA will endeavour to process complaints about election programmes that are still playing (ie, political party or candidate campaign clips) as quickly as possible, so that the broadcaster can take appropriate action. If the complaint is upheld the BSA may also make other orders, such as requiring the broadcaster to issue a statement identifying the breach.
You need to provide the time, date and channel on which the election programme was broadcast, and identify the party or candidate featured. You must identify the standard(s) in the Election Programmes Code you think have been breached, and if you nominate Standard E1 (Election Programmes Subject to Other Codes), also the standards from the Radio, Free-to-Air TV or Pay TV Code that you believe have been breached. You need to explain why you think the broadcast breached each of the standards you nominate in your complaint.
The BSA will notify the relevant broadcaster and the relevant political party or candidate that a complaint has been received, and give them both an opportunity to comment. It will also ask the broadcaster for a copy of the programme. The BSA will endeavour to deal with any election programme complaint as quickly as possible, so the parties will be expected to respond on a short timescale. Once it has considered all parties’ submissions, the BSA will issue its decision to the parties, and will advise when the decision will be publicly released on its website.
If the BSA upholds a complaint about an election programme, the BSA can make any of its usual orders. In the event the 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
All complaints about the content of election advertisements that are not on television or radio – for instance, those on billboards, on the internet, at the movies, in print etc – should be sent to the Advertising Standards Authority:
Go to Advertising Standards Authority
The New Zealand Press Council is responsible for considering any complaints about the editorial content (as distinct from advertising) in NZ Press Council members’ publications. Generally, a complaint needs to be lodged with the editor/broadcaster before you can take the complaint to the Press Council. For a list of Press Council members see www.presscouncil.org.nz or phone 0800 969 357. The Press Council operates a fast-track procedure in the run-up to the election. For more information:
Go to NZ Press Council
The complaint should be made to the Electoral Commission. For more information about the Electoral Commission’s role, see its Handbooks – General Election 2017.
Go to Electoral Commission
The BSA’s previous decisions on election programme complaints are listed below.
All the links to BSA decisions below (HTML) open a new window.
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.