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This code applied from 1 July 2008 to 31 March 2016. You can view or download the current Radio Code here.

Previous Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice

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The Broadcasting Act 1989 requires every broadcaster to be responsible for maintaining in programmes and their presentation, standards which are consistent with:

  1. The observance of good taste and decency
  2. The maintenance of law and order
  3. The privacy of the individual
  4. The principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view, either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest
  5. Any approved Code of Broadcasting Practice applied to programmes.

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.

This Code of Broadcasting Practice, approved by the BSA, has been prepared by the Radio Broadcasters Association (on behalf of commercial broadcasters) and Radio New Zealand. The Code aims to ensure compliance with the law, prevention of misleading or deceptive practices, and social responsibility.

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.

Audio Recording

Radio broadcasters acknowledge their obligation to retain, for 35 days after the date of broadcast, the audio of all open line and talkback programmes, news and current affairs coverage.

About This Code

The requirements of the Code are set out in each standard. Each standard has a number of associated guidelines. These guidelines do not of themselves impose requirements on a broadcaster. They are included to provide interpretative assistance for broadcasters and the public, and indicate factors that the broadcaster should consider when assessing whether a programme complies with a particular standard.

A programme which does not adhere to the letter of a particular guideline may not be in breach, depending on the programme's overall compliance with the relevant standard.

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 set out in Standards 1 to 9 below.

  1. Standard 1: Good Taste and Decency
  2. Standard 2: Law and Order
  3. Standard 3: Privacy
  4. Standard 4: Controversial Issues - Viewpoints
  5. Standard 5: Accuracy
  6. Standard 6: Fairness
  7. Standard 7: Discrimination and Denigration
  8. Standard 8: Responsible Programming
  9. Standard 9: Liquor

How to Make a Formal Complaint

Formal complaints must be:

  • made in writing; and
  • lodged with the broadcaster concerned within 20 working days of the broadcast.

The one exception is an allegation of breach of privacy (Standard 3) which may be made directly to the BSA without first being referred to the broadcaster.

Formal complaints should specify:

  • the name of the programme
  • the date and approximate time of broadcast
  • the standard(s) alleged to have been breached and the reasons why.

Radio broadcasters are also required to comply with the Programme Code covering Election Programmes such as Opening and Closing Addresses and Advertisements. A copy of this Code is on the BSA’s website.

Apart from programme promotions and broadcast political advertising, the BSA has no jurisdiction over advertisements. Complaints about advertisements should be made to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board.

Copies of all broadcasting Codes are available from the BSA and from its website.

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

Standard 1: Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.


1a Broadcasters will take into account current norms of good taste and decency, bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs and the wider context of the broadcast e.g. time of day, target audience.

Standard 2: Law and Order

Broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order.


2a Caution should be exercised in broadcasting items which explain the technique of crime in a manner which invites imitation.

Standard 3: Privacy

Broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.


3a When determining privacy complaints broadcasters shall apply the privacy developed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (see Appendix).

Standard 4: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints

When discussing controversial issues of public importance in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.



The assessment of whether a reasonable range of views has been allowed for takes account of some or all of the following:

  • the programme introduction;
  • the approach of the programme (e.g. taking a particular perspective);
  • whether listeners could reasonably be expected to be aware of views expressed in other coverage;
  • the programme type (e.g. talk or talkback which may be subject to a lesser requirement to present a range of views)

Standard 5: Accuracy

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:

  • is accurate in relation to all material points of fact; and/or

  • does not mislead.


5a The accuracy standard does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion.
5b Talkback radio will not usually be subject to the accuracy standard, except where the presenter makes an unqualified statement of fact.
5c In the event that a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it at the earliest appropriate opportunity.

Standard 6: Fairness

Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.


6a A consideration of what is fair will depend upon the genre of the programme (e.g. talk/talk back radio, or factual, dramatic, comedic and satirical programmes).
6b Broadcasters should exercise care in editing programme material to ensure that the extracts used are not a distortion of the original event or the overall views expressed.
6c Contributors and participants in any programme should be dealt with fairly and should, except as required in the public interest, be informed of the nature of their participation.
6d Broadcasters should respect the right of individuals to express their own opinions.
6e Children and young people taking part or referred to should not be exploited, humiliated or unnecessarily identified.
6f No telephone conversation should be recorded or broadcast unless the recipient has been advised that it is being recorded for possible broadcast, or is aware (or ought reasonably to have been aware) that the conversation is being broadcast. Exceptions may apply depending upon the context of the broadcast, including the legitimate use of humour.

Standard 7: Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.



This standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is:

  1. factual
  2. a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or
  3. legitimate humour, drama or satire.

Standard 8: Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.


8a Broadcasters should be mindful of the effect any programme content may have on children during their normally accepted listening times.
8b The time of transmission and the audience profile of the station are important considerations in the scheduling of programmes which contain violent themes.
8c If a programme is likely to disturb, an appropriate warning should be broadcast.
8d Advertisements and infomercials should be clearly distinguishable from other programme material.
8e Programmes should not be presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue distress.
8f Broadcasters should ensure that there is no collusion between broadcasters and contestants which results in the favouring of any contestant or contestants.

Standard 9: Liquor

Broadcasters should observe restrictions on the promotion of liquor appropriate to the programme genre being broadcast. Liquor Promotion should be socially responsible and must not encourage consumption by people who are under the legal age to purchase liquor.


Liquor Promotion comprises:

  • promotion of a liquor product, brand or outlet (‘promotion’)
  • liquor sponsorship of a programme (‘sponsorship’)
  • advocacy of liquor consumption (‘advocacy’)


9a Liquor Promotion must not occur in programmes specifically directed at children.
9b Broadcasters must ensure that Liquor Promotion does not dominate programmes.
9c Broadcasters are not required to exclude promotion from coverage of an actual event or situation being broadcast where promotion is a normal feature of the event or situation but must take guideline 9b into account.
9d Sponsorship of a programme must be confined to the brand, name or logo and must not include a sponsor's sales message.
9e Promos for a liquor-sponsored programme shall clearly and primarily promote the programme. The sponsor and sponsorship  may be featured only in a subordinate manner, be confined to the brand, name or logo and must not include a sponsor's sale message.
9f When scheduling liquor-sponsored programmes, broadcasters will also take into account the requirements of principle 4.4 and Guideline 4(c) of the Advertising Standards Authority's Code for Advertising Liquor (which requires broadcasters to take care to avoid the impression that liquor promotion is dominating the viewing period).
9g In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters must avoid advocacy of excessive liquor consumption.

Appendix: Advisory Opinion: Privacy Principles

1 It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
2 It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of some kinds of public facts. The ‘public’ facts contemplated concern events (such as criminal behaviour) which have, in effect, become private again, for example through the passage of time. Nevertheless, the public disclosure of public facts will have to be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
3 (a) It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of material obtained by intentionally interfering, in the nature of prying, with that individual’s interest in solitude or seclusion. The intrusion must be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

(b) In general, an individual’s interest in solitude or seclusion does not prohibit recording, filming, or photographing that individual in a public place (‘the public place exemption’).

(c) The public place exemption does not apply when the individual whose privacy has allegedly been infringed was particularly vulnerable, and where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
4 The protection of privacy includes the protection against the disclosure by the broadcaster, without consent, of the name and/or address and/or telephone number of an identifiable individual, in circumstances where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
5 It is a defence to a privacy complaint that the individual whose privacy is allegedly infringed by the disclosure complained about gave his or her informed consent to the disclosure. A guardian of a child can consent on behalf of that child.
6 Children’s vulnerability must be a prime concern to broadcasters, even when informed consent has been obtained. Where a broadcast breaches a child’s privacy, broadcasters shall satisfy themselves that the broadcast is in the child’s best interests, regardless of whether consent has been obtained.
7 For the purpose of these Principles only, a ‘child’ is defined as someone under the age of 16 years. An individual aged 16 years or over can consent to broadcasts that would otherwise breach their privacy.
8 Disclosing the matter in the ‘public interest’, defined as of legitimate concern or interest to the public, is a defence to a privacy complaint.


  • These principles are not necessarily the only privacy principles that the Authority will apply
  • The principles may well require elaboration and refinement when applied to a complaint
  • The specific facts of each complaint are especially important when privacy is an issue