The Complaints Process
Download a Complaints Guide - Various Languages
Complaints about TV and radio broadcasts have to go to the broadcaster first – unless they’re about privacy only or election programmes, in which case you can send them straight to the BSA.
You need to get your complaint to the broadcaster within 20 working days of the broadcast. If you’re not happy with their response you can refer your complaint to the Authority to review and investigate.
Only ‘formal complaints’ can go through the BSA process. We explain how the process works below.
If you just want to let the broadcaster know your concerns, or if it’s not an issue that can come to the BSA, it will be considered an ‘informal complaint’. Feedback on other things such as programme selection should be made directly to the broadcaster.
As an agency that deals with freedom of speech issues, we value feedback. However, harmful communications to BSA staff – such as abusive or offensive comments and harassment – are never acceptable and may result in the Authority declining to determine your complaint.
How to make a complaint about a breach of broadcasting standards
- If you saw the programme online, you can still complain if you have the above details of the original broadcast on TV or radio, and complain within 20 working days of the original broadcast.
- If you don’t have this information, or it’s not about a TV/radio programme, see here to find out where to send your complaint.
- Read the relevant broadcasting code and select the standard(s) you think apply, and why.
- The standards codebook is here.
- If your concern is about privacy only, you can complain directly to the BSA without first going to the broadcaster – see here.
- If it’s about an election programme, you can complain directly to the BSA and there’s a separate process/code – see here.
- Make sure you choose the standard that best fits your concerns. You can’t change or add standards later in the process.
- Need help choosing a standard? See here.
They need to:
- give you a written response
- tell you whether your complaint has been upheld
- advise you that you can refer your complaint to the BSA if you’re not satisfied with their decision
- let you know if they need an extension (up to 40 working days from the date of your complaint).
- If you didn’t get a response from the broadcaster within 20 working days, you can send your complaint to the BSA within 60 working days of the broadcast.
- Follow our complaints process or email email@example.com.
- Attach the original complaint and broadcaster’s response (if any).
- Explain why you’re unhappy with their decision.
- You can only raise standards addressed in your original complaint.
- Make sure the BSA receives the complaint within the timeframes stated above.
- You need to include the name, date, time and channel/station of the broadcast, the code and standards you are complaining under, and your name and contact details.
- When we receive your complaint we’ll contact you and outline the process for making a decision.
- We’ll ask the broadcaster for a copy of the broadcast and seek comments from them on your complaint. We may also seek further comments from you.
- Once we have all relevant information, the complaint will be given to the Authority members to consider.
- Your name will be included in the final published decision. The Authority can consider a written application for name suppression at any time before the decision is released. Name suppression may be granted if there are exceptional circumstances, but this is rare. For more information see our complaints guide.
- We’ll keep you updated on progress and when you can expect a decision. For further information about the process go to FAQs.
- The Authority meets monthly and aims to determine complaints within three months of receiving them. It considers some complaints across two or more meetings if the issues are complex, or where the complaint is upheld and orders are considered.
- We’ll let you know the outcome of your complaint and get a copy of the decision to you within 20 working days of the Authority’s final determination.
- The decision will also be published on our website.
- The broadcaster can also appeal. If they do, you’ll be named as the other party but can choose not to take part in the proceedings.
The BSA can only respond to formal complaints about broadcast content once it has been aired. We are unable to take any action prior to a programme being broadcast (unless it falls within the BSA’s limited power to stop further programmes within a series in certain circumstances).
If you have concerns about a programme before it has been aired, these are best directed to the relevant broadcaster.
The Advertising Standards Authority deals with most advertisements on television, radio, the internet, print and billboards for products, services or organisations. See further ‘who do I complain to about an ad I have seen?’
The BSA can consider complaints about promotional material or ‘promos’ for upcoming programmes, but the complaint must be sent to the broadcaster in the first instance.
The BSA can consider complaints about election programmes (which might appear as short promotional/campaign clips for political parties or candidates, broadcast on TV or radio).
Subject to two exceptions, the BSA does not oversee content for on-demand services like Netflix and Lightbox. Some on-demand providers such as Netflix and Lightbox, are currently signatories to the NZ Media Council VOD Code which relates to classification of content on platforms that have signed up to that code.
Pursuant to an MOU, the BSA does oversee content standards and complaints for NEON.
The BSA may also consider complaints about broadcast content that is subsequently made available online by the broadcaster, provided the complainant can point to the broadcast programme and complains within 20 working days of the broadcast. The BSA can also consider complaints about content that is live streamed by a broadcaster.
The New Zealand Media Council (formerly the Press Council) deals with complaints about the editorial content of newspapers, including their websites and news and current affairs content on websites of some broadcasters.
You can phone the NZMC on 0800 969 357 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Under the Broadcasting Act 1989, the BSA does not generally have any power to cancel programmes or to take them off air. In certain circumstances, if the BSA upholds a complaint, the BSA can order the withdrawal of further programmes forming part of a series or order a broadcaster to refrain from broadcasting for limited periods (up to 24 hours for each programme in respect of which a complaint has been upheld). This power is exercised rarely.
The BSA cannot generally stop a programme from airing. If you are concerned about whether scheduled content should be aired, please contact the broadcaster directly.