The Complaints Process
Download a Complaints Guide - Various Languages
One of our main functions is to review and investigate complaints about broadcasts which complainants may consider have not been properly dealt with by the broadcaster.
To be able to go through the BSA process, complaints have to be ‘formal complaints’.
If you just want to let the broadcaster know your concerns, or if it is not an issue that can come to the BSA, it will be considered an ‘informal complaint’.
Formal complaints have to go to the broadcaster first (unless they are privacy complaints only or election programme complaints which can be sent straight to the BSA).
If you are not happy with the broadcaster’s response to your formal complaint you can refer the complaint to the Authority for review. We explain how the process works below. If you want to complain about something else, such as programme selection, you can provide feedback directly to the broadcaster.
How to make a complaint about a breach of broadcasting standards
- To make a formal complaint, you need the name, date, time and channel/station of the broadcast.
- If you saw the programme online you can still complain if you have the above details of the original broadcast (on television or radio) and complain within 20 working days of the original broadcast.
- If you do not have this information or it is not about a television/radio programme – see here to find out where to send your complaint.
- Make sure your complaint reaches the broadcaster within 20 working days of the broadcast.
- If it is an election programme you can complain directly to the BSA and there is a separate process/code – see here.
- If it is a privacy complaint only you can complain directly to the BSA and there is a separate process/code – see here.
- Read the relevant code and select the standard(s) you think apply and why.
- Make sure you select the standard that best fits your concerns. You cannot change or add standards at a later stage in the process.
- The standards are here.
- Need help choosing a standard? See here.
- If you select election programmes or the privacy standard only you can complain directly to the BSA: see here.
- Click here for a list of the broadcasters and their details/complaint forms.
- If you only want to complain about a breach of the privacy standard you have the option to complain directly to BSA – click on "Make a complaint" in the banner above or email email@example.com.
- Complaints about election programmes generally also go direct to the BSA – see here for further details.
- Your complaint must be received by the broadcaster within 20 working days of the broadcast.
They need to:
- give you a written response
- tell you whether or not your complaint has been upheld
- advise you of your right to refer your complaint to the BSA if you are not satisfied with their decision
- let you know if they need an extension (up to 40 working days from the date of your complaint).
- You must refer your complaint to the BSA within 20 working days of the broadcaster’s decision.
- If you did not get a response from the broadcaster within 20 working days – you can send your complaint to BSA within 60 working days of the broadcast.
- To make a complaint, follow our complaints process or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Attach the original complaint and broadcaster’s response (if any).
- Explain why you are unhappy with their decision.
- You can only raise standards addressed in your original complaint.
- You need to ensure the BSA receives the complaint within the timeframes stated above.
- You need to include the name, date, time, channel of the broadcast, the Code and standards you are complaining under and your name and contact details.
- When we receive your complaint we will contact you and outline the process for determination.
- We will request a copy of the broadcast from the broadcaster and will seek comments from the broadcaster on your complaint. We may seek further comments from you, if we consider this is required.
- Once we have all relevant information, the complaint will be provided 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 that justify it. Name suppression is rare. For more information see our complaints guide.
- We will 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 3 months of receipt. Some complaints are considered by the Authority across 2 or more meetings, if the issues are complex, or where the complaint is upheld and orders are considered.
- You will be informed of the outcome of your complaint and receive a copy of the decision within 20 working days of the Authority’s final determination.
- The decision will also be published on our website.
- You can appeal the BSA’s decision to the High Court within one month of the BSA decision.
- The broadcaster can also appeal, and if they do, you will be named as the other party but can choose not to participate 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 email@example.com.
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.