BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Baird and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-101

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • William Baird

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Votes for Women: What Really Happened? (More or Less)Sunday Theatre docudrama about New Zealand being the first country to give women the right to vote – allegedly inaccurate


Standard 5 (accuracy) – programme was a docudrama which legitimately employed dramatic licence to portray historical events – not a news, current affairs, or factual programme to which the accuracy standard applied – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  Votes for Women: What Really Happened? (More or Less) was broadcast as part of TV One's Sunday Theatre timeslot on 24 June 2012. It was a docudrama based on historical facts about how women in New Zealand were given the right to vote in 1893. The programme was depicted as a "fly-on-the-wall" documentary where a modern-day observer travelled back in time to interview the key figures in this event, including Kate Sheppard.

[2]  William Baird made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, arguing that the programme inaccurately claimed that New Zealand women were the first in the world to be given the vote. He said that some women in the Isle of Man got the vote in 1870, and the remainder were given the vote in 1881.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached Standard 5 (accuracy) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the programme inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  Standard 5 applies to news, current affairs, and other factual programmes. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[6]  Votes for Women: What Really Happened? (More or Less) was not a "factual programme" to which Standard 5 applied. It was a docudrama which featured dramatised re-enactments of historical events. This was clear from the programme title, its Sunday Theatre timeslot, and the use of literary and narrative techniques. The Authority has previously determined, with regard to these sorts of programmes broadcast during the Sunday Theatre timeslot, that it is reasonable and acceptable to employ dramatic licence to portray a story (even if based on factual events), and that viewers would understand that dramatisation has been used for the purpose of entertainment.2

[7]  In any event, we reject the contention that it was "wrong to claim that New Zealand [was the] first in the world to give women the right to vote in 1893". The story did not claim that partial suffrage had not been granted in other territories. The story was based on historical fact that New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant suffrage to all women. We note that the New Zealand Elections website states:3

Although a number of other territories had enfranchised women before 1893, New Zealand can justly claim to be the first self-governing nation to grant the vote to all adult women.

[8]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaint.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
4 December 2012


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

1           William Baird's formal complaint – 6 July 2012

2          TVNZ's response to the complaint – 3 August 2012

3          Mr Baird's referral to the Authority – 31 August 2012

4          TVNZ's response to the Authority – 26 September 2012

1Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036

2See, for example, Rupa and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-055; Reekie and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2009-026,