BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Aldridge and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2023-106 (16 January 2024)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
  • Deon Aldridge
1 News


[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

The Authority has not upheld a complaint under the accuracy standard about a 1News item reporting on the 7 October 2023 Hamas attack on Israel. The complaint alleged the reporter’s statement in the item, ‘No time to escape’, referring to Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza, was inaccurate because the Israeli Prime Minister had ‘warned the people of Gaza to get out fast’. Noting the wide range of information and perspectives covered in the eight-minute segment, the Authority found the comment complained about did not result in the item being materially inaccurate or misleading, or cause harm that outweighed the public interest or the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

Not Upheld: Accuracy

The broadcast

[1]  The 8 October 2023 broadcast of 1News contained an eight-minute segment on Hamas’ attack on Israel which was reported to have begun around dawn the day before, 7 October 2023. The story was introduced:

‘We’re at war,’ – that’s the response from Israelis’ Prime Minister following a large-scale, surprise attack by Palestinian militants during a major Jewish holiday. …It’s the biggest escalation in the conflict in decades: more than 2000 rockets fired from Gaza, at least 250 people dead and hundreds more wounded. In the Gaza strip, officials say at least 230 people have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes.

[2]  Part way through the item that followed, summarising what had occurred so far since the launch of the attack, the 1News reporter (US Correspondent, Logan Church) stated:

Israeli retribution coming fast and with deadly force, air strikes hitting the densely populated Gaza City. No time to escape. Israel’s Prime Minister declaring war.

[3]  Clips from a media conference were shown, in which Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements were translated in a voiceover as follows:

What happened today was never seen in Israel and I won’t let it happen again. The Israeli Defence Forces will immediately use all its strength to destroy the capabilities of Hamas. We will defeat them to death and take revenge for this black day they have inflicted on the State of Israel.

[Following a clip of the Hamas leader’s comment] All of the places which Hamas is deployed, hiding, and operating in that wicked city, we will turn it into an island of ruins. I am telling Gaza’s people to leave those places now because we will take action everywhere.

[4]  Over the course of the eight minutes dedicated to the story, the segment also covered:

  • The 7 October attack by Hamas
  • The Israeli Prime Minister’s response
  • The Hamas leader’s response
  • Discussion on the hostages taken by Hamas
  • Local authorities’ reported numbers of injuries and deaths so far, on both sides
  • Condemnation of Hamas from various international leaders
  • The story of an Israeli woman who survived the Hamas attack, and an Israeli man’s experience of seeing deceased Israelis and Hamas militants after the attack
  • Discussion of the Israel Defence Force’s military response in Gaza
  • New Zealand’s political response to the conflict
  • Comments from the New Zealand Jewish Council; the Palestinian Solidarity Network Aotearoa; and a professor of international relations at Otago University
  • Discussion on the probability of an escalation of violence in the conflict
  • Concerns with the limitations of the UN Security Council.

The complaint

[5]  Deon Aldridge complained that the broadcast breached the accuracy standard of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand as the reporter:

…inaccurately stated that ‘the people from Gaza had no chance of escape’ which is patently untrue and a misrepresentation of the facts. Multiple media platforms and even in [the reporter’s] own story the Israel PM warned the people of ‘Gaza to get out fast’… this inaccuracy promotes a false view that Israel showed no regard for civilians which is clearly untrue.

The broadcaster’s response

[6]  TVNZ did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:

  • According to a ‘reputable’ timeline,1 ‘Israel commenced retaliatory air strikes against Gaza around 10.30am on October 7. Mr Netanyahu's first public statement was made around 11.30am. [TVNZ] is not aware of what was said in the 11.30am statement, but it is apparent that air strikes against Gaza had begun before any public statement by Mr Netanyahu had been made. The clip of a televised statement by Mr Netanyahu that was included in the story was taken from a transmission that aired on October 8, many hours after Israel's retaliation had commenced.’
  • ‘In any case, irrespective of whatever “warnings” were issued by Mr Netanyahu or through other official Israeli channels, Gaza is a small and extremely densely populated territory which has been under a blockade since 2005. Residents cannot leave, and there are few, if any, places of refuge, as starkly evidenced by the civilian death toll from present hostilities, which at the end of October stood at more than 8000.’
  • ‘Moreover, the nature of air strikes means that civilians within targeted areas will have no time to escape. And the areas targeted by air strikes were widespread. As Mr Netanyahu himself said, “we will turn [Gaza] into an island of ruins”. It is inconceivable, given the scale and nature of Israel's response, to consider that any significant number of Gaza civilians had the opportunity to find what could reasonably be considered “safety”.’

The standard

[7]  The purpose of the accuracy standard2 is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.3 It states broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure news, current affairs or factual content is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead.

Our analysis and findings

[8]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[9]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression, including the value and public interest in the broadcast, against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint when the resulting limit on the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society.4

[10]  For the reasons that follow, we have not found harm in this case that outweighed the public interest in this news item, or the right to freedom of expression.


[11]  Determination of a complaint under the accuracy standard occurs in two steps. The first step is to consider whether the programme was inaccurate on any ‘material points of fact’, or misleading. The second step is to consider whether reasonable efforts were made by the broadcaster to ensure that the programme was accurate and did not mislead.5

[12]  The statement complained about was made approximately two-and-a-half minutes into the eight-minute segment dedicated to the escalation in the conflict, with the reporter saying:

Israeli retribution coming fast and with deadly force, air strikes hitting the densely-populated Gaza City. No time to escape. Israel’s Prime Minister declaring war. [Our emphasis]

[13]  While we appreciate the high level of sensitivity around reporting on the Israel/Hamas conflict, and the importance of ensuring accuracy with that in mind, we do not consider the reporter’s brief remark, ‘no time to escape’ resulted in the item being materially inaccurate or misleading.

[14]  First, we note the requirement for factual accuracy does not apply to statements which are distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than statements of fact.6 We consider the brief statement, ‘no time to escape’ was more in the nature of comment and analysis by the reporter, as part of summarising the events so far and accompanying footage of the Israeli airstrikes hitting buildings – contextualised as having come ‘fast and with deadly force’ and hitting the ‘densely populated’ city. The statement was not made with factually precise language. It did not specify who did not have time to escape (ie it could have related to those reportedly already killed in Gaza from airstrikes at the time of the broadcast, or the wider Gazan population, or Hamas). It also did not expand on what ‘escape’ meant in the report (ie whether people did not have time to leave their buildings, streets, or Gaza City itself).

[15]  Further, the standard is concerned only with material inaccuracies. Guideline 6.1 explains that technical or unimportant points that are unlikely to significantly affect viewers’ understanding of the programme as a whole are not considered material.7

[16]  We are not suggesting the alleged inaccuracy was unimportant or trivial. We are, however, of the view that the reporter’s brief comment, ‘no time to escape’, would not have significantly affected the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.8

[17]  As outlined in paragraph [4] above, the broadcast segment dedicated to this escalation in the conflict was eight minutes in length, covering a multitude of topics and perspectives ranging from: information available on the nature, and extent of Hamas’ attack; personal stories from those who had survived/witnessed the attack; international leaders’ condemnation of the attack; Israel‘s declaration of war; reported numbers of casualties on both sides so far; response from Jewish, Palestinian, and academic communities in New Zealand, and more.

[18]  In this context, and within the large amount of information provided (and which continued to be provided in the coming days as developments came to hand), we do not consider the comment ‘no time to escape’ was a material point of fact to which the accuracy standard applied.

[19]  For completeness, to the extent the complainant considered the comment complained about suggested Israel ‘showed no regard for civilians’, we note the broadcast also included the Israeli Prime Minister’s statement: ‘I am telling Gaza’s people to leave those places now [‘all of the places Hamas is deployed, hiding, and operating’] because we will take action everywhere.’ Although the timing was not elaborated on in the item, the broadcaster has provided the source relied on regarding the timing of Israel’s initial military response, and the time of Netanyahu’s speech (which, in reliance on the source, the broadcaster maintains came after the first airstrikes in Gaza). We have not been presented with any other evidence or source which disputes this timeline or calls into question the broadcaster’s reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy in this respect.

[20]  In these circumstances, we do not find any breach of the accuracy standard or any harm that justifies regulatory intervention.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Susie Staley
16 January 2024 




The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1  Deon Aldridge’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 10 October 2023

2  TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 3 November 2023

3  Aldridge’s referral to the Authority – 6 November 2023

4  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 13 November 2023

1 Bill Hutchinson “Death came from sea, air and ground: Timeline of surprise attack by Hamas on Israel” ABC (14 October 2023)
2 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
3 Commentary, Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 16
4 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
5 Guideline 6.1 and 6.3
6 Guideline 6.1
7 Guideline 6.2
8 Guideline 6.1 and 6.2