BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Bercic and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2005-057

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Martin Bercic
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
60 Minutes – item looking at possible reasons for high crime statistics for young Māori – allegedly unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair

Standard 4 (balance) – item did not purport to cover all perspectives – discussed one part of the wider issue – period of current interest still open – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – no inaccuracies – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – not unfair to the Māori community or the youths interviewed – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] An item on 60 Minutes entitled “Māori Challenge” was broadcast on TV3 at 7.30pm on 18 April 2005. The item explored a possible link between the high rate of Māori criminal offending and the way in which male aggression may be seen as important to Māori identity, particularly through the haka.

[2] The segment contained interviews with Dr Jenny Te Paa (a theologian and former member of the Parole Board), Dr Brendan Hokowhitu (a lecturer in Māori studies at the University of Otago), Commander Bruce Horne of the Rotorua police, Mika (a Māori performing artist), and two young Māori men from Rotorua.


[3] Martin Bercic complained to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair.

[4] Referring to Guideline 4a of Standard 4 (balance), Mr Bercic contended that the programme had chosen an assumption and only provided interviews with people who agreed with that assumption. He observed that no interviews were shown with:

  • people delivering Māori programmes in prisons or the community
  • successfully rehabilitated Māori
  • Māori who had been brought up in the richness of their culture and had not committed crimes
  • Māori who used culture positively, except for the interview with Mika which had been distorted to support the broadcaster’s assumption.

[5] Turning to Standard 5 (accuracy), Mr Bercic alleged that the programme was not truthful and accurate on points of fact, nor was it impartial and objective at all times. He added that the programme had failed to demonstrate that the Māori in prison or the youths interviewed had in fact been brought up in the Māori culture.

[6] Mr Bercic was concerned that the programme compared percentages with actual figures in a way which misrepresented the statistics on Māori crime. He further stated that there was a lack of footage showing Māori who use culture positively.

[7] Mr Bercic also alleged that the item was unfair, referring to Guidelines 6a, 6f and 6g to Standard 6. He alleged that the following features of the programme were unfair to the Māori community:

  • images of protests were presented as being reflective of Māori culture
  • footage of youths drinking gave the impression that this was reflective of all Māori youth
  • interviewing troubled Māori youths was journalistic exploitation
  • one part of Māori culture (the haka) was used to degrade the worth of the entire culture.

[8] In summary, Mr Bercic contended that the programme was a poor example of journalism, and asked that an apology be extended to the Māori community and New Zealand as a whole.


[9] The following Standards and guidelines from the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice were nominated by the complainant:

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Guideline 4a           

Programmes which deal with political matters, current affairs, and questions of a controversial nature, must show balance and impartiality.

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.


5b   Broadcasters should refrain from broadcasting material which is misleading or unnecessarily alarms viewers.

5d   Factual reports on the one hand, and opinion, analysis and comment on the other, should be clearly distinguishable.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.


6a   Care should be taken in the editing of programme material to ensure that the extracts used are a true reflection, and not a distortion, of the original event or the overall views expressed.

6f   Broadcasters should recognise the rights of individuals, and particularly children and young people, not to be exploited, humiliated or unnecessarily identified.

6g   Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work,

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[10] In its response to the complainant, CanWest asserted that the topic of Māori offending was both controversial and multi-faceted. Accepting that there were many views on every aspect of the issue, CanWest argued that the 60 Minutes item had considered only one aspect – looking at whether Māori culture was a positive influence on young Māori.

[11] The broadcaster found the tone of the item to be matter-of-fact and objective. It noted that statistics were presented, and interviews with people who had relevant views on the issue were included. CanWest argued that it was not possible to include every view on an issue during a short current affairs item.

[12] Overall, CanWest was of the view that the item adhered to the requirements of the standards. It considered that viewers would appreciate that the views expressed by some of the interviewees were from one perspective. CanWest also noted that the reporter had outlined contrary views in the course of questioning them.

[13] The broadcaster considered that the questioning manner in which the issue was presented was both fair and accurate. It found no breach of the standards had occurred.

Referral to the Authority

[14] Dissatisfied with CanWest’s response, Mr Bercic referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated the points made in his formal complaint, adding that CanWest’s response had failed to consider all of his queries.

[15] The complainant noted that CanWest had confirmed that no “genuine opposing interviews” had been provided for balance. He submitted that the interviewer in the item was biased, and was therefore incapable of providing an opposing view.

[16] Mr Bercic suggested that the broadcaster should consider doing a programme which looked at the positive use of Māori culture in reducing youth offending. He gave the names of several people and organisations in Rotorua who could be interviewed for such a programme.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[17] In response to Mr Bercic’s criticism of its decision, CanWest replied that it had endeavoured to address his concerns as fully as possible. It advised that 60 Minutes was considering doing a follow-up programme in response to viewer feedback. CanWest said that the producers had noted the list of people and organisations provided by the complainant.

[18] CanWest maintained that the programme was never intended to be, and clearly was not, the final answer to the issue.  CanWest contended that the issue of Māori youth offending could not be addressed in its entirety in any one programme. Rather, CanWest said, this was a multi-faceted issue which had to be broken down into focussed elements in order to be properly considered and discussed. The 60 Minutes item was a preliminary consideration of one element of the wider issue, the broadcaster argued.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[19] While he was pleased that CanWest was considering a follow-up item, Mr Bercic contended that this showed the broadcaster had breached Standard 4 by failing to make this known at the time of the item, or within a reasonable time frame. In summary, he asked the Authority to note three points:

  1. the broadcaster had failed to show any alternative views to give balance to the item
  2. the item had distorted figures, facts, interviews and images creating false outcomes to support its assumptions
  3. the item had used negative images and perceptions of Māori culture in a manner that cast aspersions on the entire culture.

Authority's Determination

[20] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 4 (balance)

[21] Standard 4 requires that balance be provided when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. The Authority observes that the 60 Minutes item looked at the possible link between the high rate of Māori criminal offending and the way in which male aggression may have come to be celebrated as a central icon of Māori identity, particularly through the haka. The Authority considers this to be an issue to which Standard 4 applies.

[22] First, the Authority observes that the programme began by acknowledging the widely accepted view that Māori culture is generally positive. The introduction to the item said:

“Rotorua, it’s the very essence of everything Māori that we’ve come to know and respect”

[23] Against that background, the item advanced the perspective – which was acknowledged to be controversial – of three prominent Māori, who challenged the view that all Māori culture was necessarily positive.  This idea was introduced as follows:

Of course, no culture, no matter how its virtues might be extolled, can ever be perfect

The question is, if this push for more Māori culture isn't acting to cure crime, could it somehow be that the problem lies within the culture itself?

[24] Dr Jenny Te Paa, Dr Brendan Hokowhitu and Mika expressed their concern about the promotion of aggressive male role models for Māori youth, and the possible link to high rates of offending.  Their concern was that some aspects of culture which celebrate male aggression, in particular the haka, had been elevated, as Dr Te Paa said:

… to the most deserving position of cultural expression. So whenever we want to portray how Maori express themselves, that's what we put on.

[25] The Authority considers that the commentators’ views were a legitimate contribution to the ongoing discussion about an important social issue, and one which deserved to be heard in full.  In the Authority’s view, the item presented a highly controversial proposition in a questioning manner; it did not purport to be a comprehensive overview of the debate, or the final word on the issue.  The Authority considers that viewers were left in no doubt that the views of Dr Te Paa, Dr Hokowhitu and Mika were not the only perspectives on the issue.

[26] Further, the Authority considers that the period of current interest for this issue remains open for further discussion and debate. Accordingly, it finds that Standard 4 was not breached.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[27] The Authority notes that Mr Bercic has complained that the item was inaccurate because it failed to show Māori who embrace their culture in a positive way. He also argued that the programme breached Standard 5 because it did not supply the results of cultural programmes in rehabilitation courses. The Authority considers that these matters relate to the presentation of different perspectives on the issue under discussion, and thus are primarily issues of balance. The Authority finds that these matters have already been addressed in its consideration of Standard 4 above.

[28] With respect to Standard 5, Mr Bercic also argued that the itemcompared percentages with actual figures in a way which misrepresented the statistics on Māori crime. The Authority notes that the complainant has not specified which figures he was referring to.  It has closely examined the item and cannot detect any inaccuracies or errors of the type alleged by Mr Bercic.  Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint. 

[29] The complainant also alleged that the programme failed to demonstrate that the youths interviewed had actually been brought up in the Māori culture. However, the Authority notes that the focus of these interviews was how the youths had been influenced by their peers, as well as the musical genre of gangsta rap and the aggressive warrior image.  The interviews did not purport to be with young Māori who had been brought up within the culture, and turned to crime as a result. In this context, the Authority considers that it was not necessary for the programme to demonstrate that the youths had been brought up in the Māori culture. It does not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[30] The complainant alleged that the item was unfair to the Māori community in two ways:

  1. under guideline 6a, he alleged that the programme had used footage from protests as being reflective of Māori culture
  2. under guideline 6g he alleged that Māori were portrayed in a manner that encouraged denigration or discrimination against them.

[31] The Authority does not agree that Māori were treated unfairly in the 60 Minutes item. It considers that the footage from protests was not shown as being reflective of Māori culture. Instead, it highlighted the view of the interviewees that a part of Māori culture – the haka – had been used to promote and celebrate aggression.

[32] Further, the Authority finds that the broadcaster did not encourage denigration of or discrimination against Māori by broadcasting the views of three Māori who were concerned about the promotion of aggressive role models for Māori youth. The item raised a controversial but important social issue in a constructive way. In the Authority’s view, there was nothing in the discussion of this issue that encouraged denigration of Māori.

[33] Finally, the complainant argued that the Māori youths interviewed in the item were unnecessarily exploited (guideline 6f). The Authority disagrees. There has been no suggestion that the youths did not agree to take part in the programme, and the Authority finds that they contributed usefully to the discussion. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that Standard 6 was not breached on this occasion.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
19 August 2005


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

  1. Martin Bercic’s formal complaint – 26 April 2005
  2. CanWest’s decision on the formal complaint – 27 May 2005
  3. Mr Bercic’s referral to the Authority – 10 June 2005
  4. CanWest’s response to the Authority – 21 June 2005
  5. Mr Bercic’s final comment – 28 June 2005