BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Carter and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2023-113 (20 February 2024)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Aroha Beck
  • Pulotu Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Fred Carter


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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint regarding an item on 1News covering a Hobson’s Pledge campaign against bilingual road signage. The complaint was that the coverage was biased and unfair by suggesting feedback using the Hobson’s Pledge template was ‘bad’, trying to influence how people gave feedback, and only interviewing members of the public in support of bilingual signage. The Authority found the broadcaster provided sufficient balance and the item was not unfair, as Hobson’s Pledge was given an opportunity to comment, and its position was adequately presented in the item. The complaint did not identify any inaccurate statement or reasons why the item was inaccurate, and the discrimination and denigration standard did not apply.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration

The broadcast

[1]  An item on 1News, broadcast on 9 November 2023, was introduced:

A contentious proposal to create bilingual traffic signs appears to be the focus of a lobby group campaign. Thousands of emails opposing the idea were sent to Waka Kotahi [New Zealand Transport Agency] using a Hobson’s Pledge template – the same method it used to oppose Māori wards on Auckland Council. Our Māori Affairs Correspondent, Te Aniwa Hurihanganui, has more.

[2]  During the item, Hurihanganui reported:

  • ‘For many Ōtaki locals, bilingual signs make sense. [Three vox pops were shown from locals in support of the proposal] …Te Reo Māori’s already woven into the community’s fabric. …But a nationwide proposal to gradually swap signs like this [in English] to this [bilingual Te Reo/English] has rattled some.’
  • ‘At least 25,000 emails opposing the idea were sent to Waka Kotahi and Te Mātāwai using this template from lobby group Hobson’s Pledge.’
  • ‘Hobson’s Pledge told 1News its key concerns are safety, accessibility, and appropriateness. Its email template said 95% of New Zealanders speak English, and two languages would be confusing and distracting.’
  • ‘60% of individual submissions not using the Hobson’s Pledge template were in support of the plan.’

[3]  The segment also included comments from representatives of Te Mātāwai and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, who appeared to support the proposal.

The complaint

[4]  Fred Carter complained the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration, balance, and fairness standards of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand for the following reasons:

  • The item ‘stated that the [Hobson’s Pledge] template used in giving feedback to NZ transport agency via emails to the sign change were mostly opposed to the sign change… the reporter then implied that if the feedback was made through other channels and not through [Hobson’s Pledge] that they were more for the sign change’.
  • The segment did not include any street interviews with people who opposed bilingual signage.
  • The item amounted to ‘propaganda’ and ‘blatant bias’, ‘implying that it was bad to use [Hobson’s Pledge] to give feedback, because feedback would likely be opposed to the sign change’ and ‘trying to influence the way people give their feedback on the subject’.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  TVNZ addressed the complaint under the balance, accuracy and discrimination and denigration standards and did not uphold any part of the complaint, saying:


  • It agreed the issue of bilingual signs in New Zealand was a controversial issue of public importance to which the standard applied.
  • Significant viewpoints were adequately presented in the broadcast through the ‘sharing of Hobson’s Pledge’s viewpoint and those of the other commentators’.
  • The issues reported on have also been discussed widely in surrounding media coverage so it is reasonable to expect viewers would be aware of the existence of alternative viewpoints.1


  • It was not incorrect to state the Hobson’s Pledge template was used by people opposed to bilingual signage. Part of the Hobson’s Pledge website states, ‘a total of 29,918 submissions were made by supporters of Hobson’s Pledge, like yourself, opposing the investment in bilingual road signs…’
  • The information on other submissions received came from the Chairwoman of Te Mātāwai who was interviewed. TVNZ had no reason to question the expert source of this information (since Te Mātāwai received the submissions), and the complainant did not provide any legitimate information to dispute the accuracy of the numbers used in the reporting.


  • Responding to the Authority’s invitation to also make comments on the fairness standard, TVNZ added that they consider Hobson’s Pledge to be a public facing group and therefore should expect public scrutiny and criticism of their actions.
  • TVNZ further noted that Hobson’s Pledge were asked for comment as part of the broadcast and declined to do so, as is their right.

Discrimination and Denigration

  • Hobson’s Pledge is not a ‘recognised section of the community’ for the purpose of this standard.

The standards

[6]  The balance standard2 states when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant viewpoints either in the same broadcast or in other broadcasts within the period of current interest unless the audience can reasonably be expected to be aware of significant viewpoints from other media coverage. It ensures competing viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.3

[7]  The purpose of the accuracy standard4 is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.5 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.

[8]  The fairness standard6 protects the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes.7 It ensures individuals and organisations taking part or referred to in broadcasts are dealt with justly and fairly and protected from unwarranted damage.

[9]  The discrimination and denigration standard8 protects against broadcasts which encourage the discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or because of legitimate expression of religion, culture, or political belief.

Our analysis

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

[11]  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 where the resulting limit on the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society.9


[12]  The first question for the Authority was whether the balance standard applied to the 1News item. Several criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered.10 The standard applies only to ‘news, current affairs and factual programmes’ which discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The subject matter must be an issue ‘of public importance’, it must be ‘controversial’, and it must be ‘discussed’.11

[13]  An issue of ‘public importance’ is something that would have a significant potential impact on, or be of concern to, New Zealanders.12 A ‘controversial’ issue is an issue of topical currency, which has generated or is likely to generate conflicting opinion, or about which there has been ongoing public debate.

[14]  This broadcast discussed the Hobson’s Pledge lobby campaign against bilingual signage proposed by Waka Kotahi. It is evident in the broadcast, from the high number of submissions received by Waka Kotahi and Te Mātāwai, that there was significant public interest in the proposal, and that the proposal generated conflicting views. Therefore, the balance standard applied.

[15]  We are satisfied 1News met the requirements of the balance standard and there was no breach.

[16]  Balance is not achieved by the ‘stopwatch’ – the standard does not require equal time to be given to alternative perspectives, only that broadcasters give a ‘fair voice’ to differing views. Although most of the interviewees included in the item appeared to support the proposal, the item clearly included a statement from Hobson’s Pledge giving the alternative perspective. The online version of the story also noted Hobson’s Pledge had declined an interview with 1News and included a longer version of its statement.13

[17]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the balance complaint.


[18]  The broadcaster addressed the complaint under the accuracy standard – although it was not explicitly raised – on the basis the complaint appeared to allege the item wrongly implied Hobson’s Pledge template feedback was ‘bad’ and more likely to be opposed to bilingual signage, while other feedback was more likely in favour of the proposal.

[19]  As noted by the broadcaster, the complaint did not identify any specific statements considered to be inaccurate or demonstrate why they were inaccurate. The broadcaster has provided the sources of the information reported – being the Hobson’s Pledge website which reports 29,918 submissions were made opposing investment in bilingual signage, and Te Mātāwai which received and considered other submissions. We do not consider the broadcast gave viewers the impression they should not use the Hobson’s Pledge template, or that any submissions made using the template were discounted compared to other submissions. It was accurate to report that the proposal appeared to be the focus of a lobby group campaign and the number of submissions received which used the template.

[20]  We find no breach of the accuracy standard.


[21]  The complaint appears to allege the broadcast was unfair as it was ‘trying to influence the way people give their feedback on the subject’ and suggested it was ‘bad’ to use the Hobson’s Pledge template to make submissions.

[22]  The fairness with which a ‘situation’ is presented is not captured under this standard, which protects the dignity and reputation of individuals or organisations featured in programmes.14

[23]  To the extent the complaint may be read as alleging unfairness to Hobson’s Pledge as an organisation, we are satisfied it was not treated unfairly in the broadcast, noting:15

  • It is well established the threshold for finding a breach of the fairness standard in relation to public figures, politicians and others who are familiar with dealing with the media, is higher than for a layperson or someone unfamiliar with the media.16 Hobson’s Pledge is an active political lobby group, so it is reasonable to expect it is experienced with dealing with the media and may be subject to public scrutiny and criticism.17
  • It was not unfair to Hobson’s Pledge to note most individual submissions not using the template were supportive of bilingual signage.
  • Nor do we consider only using vox-pop interviews that were supportive of bilingual signage was unfair to Hobson’s Pledge. The vox-pops were contextualised by the 1News Māori Affairs Correspondent’s introduction noting bilingual signs ‘made sense’ to many locals in Ōtaki, where ‘Te Reo Māori’s already woven into the community’s fabric.’ A reasonable viewer would understand that vox-pops from certain locations are not necessarily representative of the country as a whole.18
  • The broadcast was clear that submissions had been received both for and against the proposal.
  • Hobson’s Pledge was given an opportunity to comment for the item and its position was included.

[24]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint under the fairness standard.

Discrimination and Denigration

[25]  This standard applies only to ‘recognised sections of the community’, consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993.19 The standard does not apply to individuals or organisations such as Hobson’s Pledge which can be appropriately dealt with under the fairness standard.

[26]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard.

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


Susie Staley
20 February 2024    




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

1  Fred Carter’s formal complaint – 09 November 2023

2  TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 4 December 2023

3  Carter’s referral to the Authority – 11 December 2023

4  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 12 December 2023

5  Carter’s clarification of standards raised – 20 December 2023

6  TVNZ’s comments on fairness standard – 30 January 2024

1 See Chris Lau “Lost in translation: How New Zealand’s plan for bilingual road signs took an unexpected turn” CNN (online ed, 29 July 2023), Tess McClure “New Zealand political battle erupts over bilingual road signs” The Guardian (online ed, 7 June 2023), Glenn McConnell “Kiri Allan calls out National for ‘dog whistle’, doubles down on bilingual signs” Stuff (online ed, 30 May 2023)
2 Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
3 Commentary, Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 14
4 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand 
5 Commentary, Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 16
6 Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
7 Commentary, Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 20
8 Standard 4, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
9 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 4
10 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15
11 Guideline 5.1
12 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15
13 Te Aniwa Hurihanganui “Bilingual road sign proposal targeted by right-wing lobby group” 1News (online ed, 9 November 2023) 
14 See Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2021-028 at [15] for a similar finding.
15 See Cycling Action Network and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2021-092 at [12] for further examples.
16 See for example Robinson and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-133 at [14]
17 See Honour the Maunga and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-049 at [16] for a similar finding.
18 See Dobson and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2022-118 at [23] for a similar finding.