BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Baxter and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-117

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • J M Baxter
One News

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item allegedly contained comments that were inconsistent with BBC report – allegedly in breach of accuracy standard

Standard 5 (accuracy) – broadcaster unable to locate comments specified by the complainant – Authority therefore unable to assess broadcasting standards against those comments – Authority declines to determine the complaint in all the circumstances under section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  J M Baxter made a formal complaint to TVNZ about an item broadcast on One News at 6pm on 22 September 2012. He asserted that the item was inconsistent with a BBC report which quoted the United States Attorney General saying that New Zealand had opened its ports to US war ships. The complainant argued that the One News item “misrepresented what had actually transpired” because it reported that “New Zealand gets right to enter US ports as opposed to New Zealand opens ports to US war ships”.

[2]  There was subsequently some confusion about the broadcast Mr Baxter wished to complain about. In his original complaint, Mr Baxter referred to One News at 6pm, and TVNZ provided us with a recording of that broadcast, which contained an item reporting on a recent visit by the United States Defence Secretary to New Zealand. The item referred to the United States’ willingness to station Marines in New Zealand, and to end a ban on New Zealand ships entering US Naval ports.

[3]  In his referral to the Authority, Mr Baxter disputed that this was the correct item, and said the item he intended to complain about was in fact broadcast on TV One at 10.30pm. TVNZ subsequently informed us that TV One’s late news did not screen on 22 September, which was the date specified.

[4]  The issue therefore is whether we can properly determine Mr Baxter’s complaint, given that TVNZ has been unable to identify a relevant broadcast which corresponds directly with the time and date specified in the referral.

[5]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast provided by TVNZ and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Can the Authority properly determine the complaint?

[6]  Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 (the Act) allows us to decline to determine a complaint if we consider that in all the circumstances it should not be determined.

[7]  Under the Act, formal complaints must relate to a specific broadcast. If an individual wishes to make a formal complaint and have it formally answered by a broadcaster, that person must be able to provide sufficient details to allow the broadcaster to locate and review the broadcast, in order to properly answer the complaint.

[8]  Here, Mr Baxter complained that the item was broadcast on One News at 6pm on 22 September. However, when TVNZ identified an item fitting that description and assessed the complaint against it, Mr Baxter asserted that his complaint related to the late news at 10.30pm. He said he had not watched or referred to the content addressed by TVNZ which was broadcast during the 6pm news.

[9]  It is possible that in this case Mr Baxter has misheard the comments, or was mistaken about the date or time of the broadcast. Either way, we are not in a position to assess the broadcasting standards raised by Mr Baxter in relation to the comments he believes he heard, and which he believes breached standards, in the absence of a recording which he is satisfied matches his complaint.

[10]  In any event, we are of the view that Mr Baxter’s concerns – namely, the “discrepancy between TV One’s report and the international BBC report of the previous night” – are matters of personal preference and editorial discretion, which do not raise issues of broadcasting standards, and are not capable of being resolved through this complaints procedure.1

[11]  Accordingly, in all the circumstances, we consider it appropriate to decline to determine the complaint in accordance with section 11(b) of the Act.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
29 January 2013


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

1          J M Baxter’s formal complaint – 25 September 2012

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 24 October 2012

3          Mr Baxter’s referral to the Authority – 29 October 2012

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 28 November 2012

1See section 5(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989