Dealing with complaints Te Whakahaere Kōamuamu

Guidance for broadcasters on dealing with complaints

Dealing with complaints

If a viewer or listener believes that a programme has breached broadcasting standards, they can make a formal complaint to you. As a broadcaster, it is your responsibility to deal with these complaints and to have a good process for doing so. All broadcasters are subject to Parts I to III of the Broadcasting Act 1989 and the Broadcasting Standards Codebook. You must make sure your contact details are easily available for your audience on your website or have a complaints page on your website.


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Records of broadcasts

You are expected to keep recordings of all broadcasts for 35 days. When dealing with a complaint, you can review the broadcast and respond accurately.

If a complaint is referred to the BSA, we will require you to provide us with a copy of the relevant broadcast. It will help you argue your point of view and ensures that the BSA properly understands the content, context and tone of the broadcast.

Formal complaints

A formal complaint is a written complaint claiming that a specific programme has breached one or more of the broadcasting standards found in the Codebook.  It must identify the programme (date/time/title/channel or station) and one or more broadcasting standards that have been breached.

You may receive complaints by email or post, or through a form on your website.

All formal complaints must be dealt with by the broadcaster within 20 working days.

You must consider all formal complaints lodged within 20 working days after the broadcast complained about. Broadcasters are not required to consider complaints that are not lodged within the 20 working day timeframe unless the complainant has:

  • resubmitted the complaint within 30 working days after the programme was broadcast; and
  • offers reasonable proof that the original complaint was lodged in writing within the 20 working days timeframe.


Complaints procedure

As most complaints must first be made to the broadcaster, you need to ensure that you have a proper procedure in place to deal with any complaints in the required timeframe.

Check that the complaint was lodged within 20 working days of the programme being broadcast.

The only exception to this rule is if the complaint is one that has been resubmitted within 30 working days after the programme was broadcast. In that case, the person making the complaint (the complainant) must provide reasonable proof that the original complaint was made within the 20 day time frame.

You must respond to the complaint in writing within 20 working days of the complaint being made. We recommend these steps:

  1. Consider the complaint – in your view did the programme complained about breach the standards raised in the complaint. If not, why not. See our commentary on the standards.
  2. Decide whether the complaint should be upheld or not. Complaints can be upheld in full or in part if appropriate.
  3. If the complaint is upheld, decide what action you should take to remedy the breach, if any, and write to the complainant to tell them about the decision you have reached and the action you will take in response to the complaint.
  4. If the complaint is not upheld, you need to write to the complainant to tell them the decision you have reached and the reasons why in your view standards were not breached.
  5. You must also tell the complainant about their right to refer their complaint to the BSA to seek an investigation and review of your decision. The best way to do this is to use a standard paragraph at the end of the written decision. For example:
    If you are dissatisfied with this decision or the actions taken you have the right in accordance with section 8 of the Broadcasting Act 1989 to refer your complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, (online at or at P.O. Box 9213, Wellington) for the purpose of an investigation and review of the decision. You have 20 working days after receipt of this decision to refer your complaint to the BSA.

If you have good reasons and you need longer than 20 working days to respond to a complaint, you can extend the timeframe to 40 working days. You must let the complainant know you are using the extension within 20 working days of receiving the complaint and you must give reasons why.

Referral of a complaint to the BSA


If the person making the complaint is unhappy with your decision, or you do not respond within 20 working days, they can refer the complaint to us.

The referral cannot raise new issues or standards that were not part of their original complaint to you. Even if you upheld the complaint originally, the person who made it may wish to complain about the action you took in response.

When we receive a complaint:

  1. We will write to inform you that a complaint has been received by the BSA.
  2. We will ask you to provide a copy of the broadcast complained about and invite you to make comments on the complaint.
  3. Your comments will be sent to the complainant for their final comment. You will be given an opportunity to respond to this.
  4. The BSA staff will then get the complaint ready to be determined by the Authority.

We aim to offer an efficient complaints process so please meet the timelines required by us.

BSA Decision

The Authority will read all of the relevant correspondence and watch or listen to the programme.

If the complaint is not upheld, a written decision will be sent to you and the complainant.

If the complaint is upheld, the Authority may wish to make an order. You and the complainant will be provided with a draft decision and both have the opportunity to provide your views on suitable orders.

A final decision will then be issued by the BSA which states whether an order has been made. The orders come from the Broadcasting Act. These can range from an order to broadcast a corrective statement (relatively common) to requiring you to stop broadcasting for a set amount of time (very rare).

All decisions are published on the BSA website shortly after all parties have been notified. Sometimes decisions may also be accompanied by a media release.

The decision can be appealed to the High Court and is subject to judicial review.

Please contact us if you require further information about dealing with formal complaints or the BSA’s procedures by phoning us on 0800 366 996 or emailing