BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Anderson and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-122 (1 December 2021)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Eliza Anderson


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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a Newshub Live at 6pm report breached the accuracy and fairness standards by stating there was no evidence ivermectin works in treating or preventing COVID-19. The Authority found the accuracy standard was not breached as the statements were materially accurate and not misleading. The complainant did not identify a person or organisation said to be treated unfairly in the broadcast so the fairness standard did not apply.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness

The broadcast

[1]  An item on Newshub Live at 6pm on 5 September 2021 reported on a trend of people using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. The segment was introduced as follows:

Earlier this week, podcaster and UFC commentator Joe Rogan revealed he'd caught COVID and that he was using the horse medicine ivermectin to treat it. Kiwis are using the same anti-parasitic drug to ward off the virus and Medsafe is, tonight, warning them not to, while doctors say there's no evidence it works.

[2]  At various points in the segment, the reporter, Mitch McCann, refers to the efficacy of ivermectin in treating COVID-19:

McCann:      There is no clear evidence ivermectin works in stopping COVID or helping people recover. Scientists say there isn't enough proof to show it works in humans. Studies so far have been small or of low quality.

McCann:      … Across Facebook and Reddit, unproven claims of benefits [of ivermectin] to humans have spread like wildfire. It's similar to hydroxychloroquine in that it's another unproven treatment for COVID-19 being promoted online… Our health officials are warning against anyone using any dose that hasn't been medically prescribed. Medsafe says it can cause low blood pressure, worsening asthma, and autoimmune disorders.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield:     There are no studies to show that it's of any benefit in people infected with COVID-19, and indeed, of course, if it's not used under supervision and appropriately, it could be harmful.

[3]  The reporter also referred to other uses of ivermectin in humans:

McCann:      Ivermectin has a human version too, used to treat skin conditions. The animal version is different. Ivermectin is usually mixed in with other substances to create the final product, which often then trades under a different brand name.

The complaint

[4]  Eliza Anderson complained the Newshub report breached the accuracy, and fairness standards as:

  • It was inaccurate to say ivermectin is not an effective treatment, or preventative, for COVID-19 and that there is ‘no evidence it worked‘.
  • There have been ‘113 studies, 73 peer reviewed from reputable studies ( about this drug – it is well documented that it works’.
  • ‘It was not fair and dishonest to make the story about horse paste…clearly the drug has been used on people …and won a [Nobel prize] for its use on humans…. To see evidence of studies’.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  Discovery did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:

  • The broadcast ‘took care to state that ivermectin has not been proven as an effective or safe treatment for Covid-19, which is accurate.’
  • The reporter acknowledged ivermectin has been approved for other (non-COVID-19 related) uses in humans but the focus of this broadcast was its use in connection with COVID-19.
  • The complaint did not specify any individuals or organisations said to have been treated unfairly in the broadcast.

The standards

[6]  The purpose of the accuracy standard1 is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.2 It states broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that any news, current affairs or factual programme is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. Being ‘misled’ is defined as being given ‘a wrong idea or impression of the facts.’3 

[7]  The fairness standard4 protects the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes.5 It ensures individuals and organisations are dealt with justly and fairly and protected from unwarranted damage.

Our analysis

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

[9]  Our task is to weigh the value of the programme, in terms of the right to freedom of expression and the public interest in it, against the level of actual or potential harm caused. The harm alleged is the audience would be misled as to the efficacy of ivermectin as medication to treat or prevent COVID-19. The value of the programme is high given it is disseminating health information relating to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The public interest in this health information means it is important to ensure accuracy. We must also consider the important role broadcasters play in keeping the public informed with regard to the pandemic.


[10]  The accuracy standard is concerned with material inaccuracies. Technical or other points that are unlikely to significantly affect viewers’ understanding of the programme as a whole are not considered material.6

[11]  The requirement for accuracy does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment, or opinion, rather than statements of fact.7 Programmes may be misleading by omission.8

[12]  The complainant argued the broadcast was misleading as it asserted:

  • ivermectin was not effective at treating or preventing COVID-19
  • there was no evidence it worked.

[13]  As to the first point, the broadcast did not make any assertions regarding the efficacy of ivermectin in treating or preventing COVID-19. Rather, it referred to the available evidence on whether ivermectin can be used to treat or prevent COVID-19, which links into the second assertion.

[14]  The reporter said there was ‘no clear evidence’ and it was an ‘unproven treatment’ throughout the segment. Although Dr Bloomfield was shown stating there ‘are no studies’ supporting its use,9 the report acknowledged there were some ‘small’ or ‘low quality’ studies supporting ivermectin’s use as a form of COVID-19 treatment.

[15]  Therefore, the single quote from Dr Bloomfield would not mislead viewers in the context. The broadcast, as a whole, accurately conveyed uncertainty regarding ivermectin’s effectiveness as a COVID-19 treatment. This reflects the World Health Organisation’s position on the topic.10

[16]  Further, the programme was focused on the recent trend of people using ivermectin as a form of self-medication to treat or prevent COVID-19. It was clear the broadcast, while identifying uncertainty regarding its effectiveness, was not intended to be an in-depth discussion on the efficacy and safety of ivermectin in treating COVID-19. Comments on this topic were accordingly unlikely to significantly affect viewers’ understanding of the segment as a whole.11

[17]  We also note that whether medication is a proven, and safe, treatment for a disease is dependent on the specific disease. Therefore, the complainant’s reference to the Nobel Prize awarded for work leading to ivermectin’s development is not relevant to the programme as that work was not for COVID-19.12

[18]  For these reasons, we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.


[19]  The fairness standard is concerned with preventing undue harm to the dignity and reputation of any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.13  As the complainant has not identified a person or organisation treated unfairly in the broadcast, this standard does not apply.

[20]  The concerns raised under this standard are more properly dealt with under the accuracy standard (considered above). They also impliedly raise issues under the balance standard. While the complainant has not expressly relied on that standard, we note we would not have upheld the complaint under balance either. The effectiveness of ivermectin for COVID-19 is not controversial (and the standard only applies to ‘controversial issues of public importance’.)14 We have previously refused to apply the standard to a complaint regarding the safety of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine due to consensus about its safety.15 We consider similar reasoning applies here as authorities around the world,16 including the World Health Organisation,17 recommend against ivermectin’s use to treat COVID-19.  

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


Susie Staley
Acting Chair
1 December 2021    



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

1  Eliza Anderson’s formal complaint – 6 September 2021

2  Discovery’s decision on the complaint – 30 September 2021

3  Anderson’s referral to the Authority – 2 October 2021

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comments – 8 October 2021

1 Standard 9 of the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
3 Attorney General of Samoa v TVWorks Ltd, CIV-2011-485-1110 at [98]
4 Standard 11 of the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
5 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
6 Guideline 9b
7 Guideline 9a
8 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 19
9 For the reasons to follow, it is unnecessary for us to consider whether this statement amounts to ‘analysis, comment or opinion’, to which the accuracy standard does not apply (guideline 9b)
10 World Health Organisation “Therapeutics and COVID-19: living guideline” (24 September 2021) <> at [7.3]: ‘… there remains great uncertainty regarding the relevance of any immunomodulatory or anti-inflammatory action of ivermectin.’
11 See Morgenster and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-069 at [11]-[12] where we reached a similar conclusion regarding a segment briefly referencing the safety of 5G technology
12 Reuters Fact Check “Fact Check-2015 Nobel Prize for ivermectin intended for treatment of parasitic infections doesn’t prove its efficacy on COVID-19” (10 September 2021) <>
13 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
14 Standard 8 of the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. For a similar conclusion on whether the effects of climate change was a ‘controversial’ issue in 2020, see Ancel and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-112 at [18]
15 Donald and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2021-033 at [15]–[18]
16 These include Medsafe and the Ministry of Health (PHARMAC | Te Pātaka Whaioranga “COVID-19: Ivermectin” (10 September 2021) <>); the Australian Government Department of Health (Therapeutic Goods Administration “New restrictions on prescribing ivermectin for COVID-19” (10 September 2021) <>); the United States Food and Drug Administration (Food and Drug Administration “Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19” (9 March 2021) <>
17 World Health Organisation “Therapeutics and COVID-19: living guideline” (24 September 2021) <>. We note the WHO has recommended its use only in clinical trials.