BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Chilton & New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association Inc and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2022-134 (7 March 2023)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
  • Diana Chilton & New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association Inc. T/A Greyhound Racing New Zealand


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

The Authority has not upheld complaints a segment on AM interviewing the SPCA’s Science Officer, Dr Alison Vaughan, breached the balance, accuracy and fairness standards. Dr Vaughan discussed the organisation’s desire to end commercial greyhound racing in New Zealand and invited viewers to contact the Minister of Racing to support that cause. The complainants considered the segment presented only one perspective on the issue and did not attempt to balance it with other perspectives. The Authority found the segment was clearly introduced as presenting a particular perspective, and other perspectives would have been known to viewers given the issue had long-standing interest in NZ. The segment was also materially accurate, or otherwise reflecting Dr Vaughan’s analysis, comment or opinion, to which the accuracy standard does not apply. The fairness standard did not apply as no organisation was referred to in the broadcast.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

The broadcast

[1]  A segment on AM, broadcast on 26 October 2022, included an interview with Dr Alison Vaughan, Science Officer at the SPCA, about the organisation’s desire to end commercial greyhound racing. Patrick Gower introduced the segment as follows:

Gower:           The SPCA wants an end to commercial greyhound racing. An end to greyhounds out there racing. Now, New Zealand is one of seven countries in the world where greyhound racing still exists. Only seven countries in the world. And joining us now with more is SPCA Science Officer Alison Vaughan. We’re only one of seven countries in the world that does greyhound racing. There’s a campaign on at the moment to end it. How is that going, what’s the latest update?

Dr Vaughan   Yeah, so you’re right in saying that right now, there are only seven countries in the world that have a commercial greyhound racing industry. Even within those countries, we’re seeing the industries starting to wind down, as public support moves away. Here in New Zealand, we’re also seeing support for a ban on commercial greyhound racing.

[2]  Dr Vaughan made the following points throughout the segment:

  • 3500 people had sent Kieran McAnulty MP (the Minister for Racing) emails letting them know how they felt about greyhound racing.
  • The SPCA is recommending a ‘transition period’ to winding down the industry, allowing for the welfare of the 3000 dogs currently involved in the industry, as well as the wellbeing of people. As greyhounds make excellent pets, they could be rehomed.
  • People may not be aware of all the issues in the industry:
    There’s actually been three reviews of the industry in the last 10 years and each of them has found ongoing and serious issues with transparency, data reporting and animal welfare and that is why the Government made that unprecedented step last year putting the industry on notice and saying this is your final chance. Kieran McAnulty also indicated that social license will be part of this decision, and that’s basically public opinion…
  • Regarding the dogs’ welfare:
    In the last racing season, while the industry was on notice, there were 920 injuries on track and 10 dogs were euthanised. So, we need to be very clear, as long as this industry continues, dogs will continue to be injured and dogs will continue to die on the track. But that is just one side of it. The other side is the stuff that happens behind the scenes. So, while some trainers do care a lot about their dogs and do take good care, that is not the case for all across the industry and we’ve seen several high profile media cases. Also, dogs testing positive for banned substances such as methamphetamine.

[3]  Near the conclusion of the segment, Gower noted:

Yeah, this is a tragedy. So we end greyhound racing. 900 less dogs get injured, 10 less dogs a year get euthanised, ah, you know, in a humane society, I’m sorry, I, I will sign this. No more chances for this industry. Thank you so much for coming in. A wonderful message that you’re bringing to the people of New Zealand.

The complaints

[4]  Diana Chilton and Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ) complained the broadcast breached the balance, accuracy and fairness standards of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand:


  • The ‘broadcast only presented one perspective (that of an SPCA representative, with the SPCA at the time campaigning to close commercial greyhound racing in New Zealand)’. GRNZ was not contacted prior, or notified of, the broadcast airing.
  • While the broadcaster Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) claim ‘it is an opinion piece from the perspective of the SPCA, Alison Vaughn is introduced as the SPCA Science Officer, misleading the public from the outset as to her credentials and therefore the expectation that she is an expert in the field. Not only is Alison Vaughn not an expert in greyhound racing or greyhound welfare, her area of interest is cows. Not once does the broadcast announce that the story is her opinion only.’ (Chilton)
  • The host ‘demonstrated his bias throughout the segment, with comments such as:
    • “And in terms of the actual dogs, what do the dogs go through? You know, and I know it’s harrowing to talk about, but I think that would inspire some people to write letters. What do the dogs actually go through out there?”
    • “Yeah, this is a tragedy. So we end greyhound racing, 900 less dogs get injured, 10 less dogs a year get euthanised, ah, you know, in a humane society, I’m sorry, I, I will sign this. No more chances for this industry. Um thank you so much for coming in. A wonderful message that you’re bringing to the people of New Zealand.”’
  • GRNZ considered it ‘extremely disappointing that despite our CEO Glenda Hughes reaching out to Patrick Gower following the broadcast and emailing him with the other side of the story, he chose not to do anything with this information, despite a follow-up email from Glenda. He could have replied and helped with providing balance after the fact, but his lack of response strongly suggests that Discovery NZ Ltd had no genuine interest in correcting facts, providing any balance or treating our organisation fairly.’
  • Chilton disagreed with WBD’s interpretation that a controversial issue was not discussed in the broadcasting, considering the issue ‘affects thousands of New Zealanders livelihoods and passions’ and ‘could not be more controversial!’


  • The broadcast ‘contained numerous inaccuracies, including the number of raceday euthanasias last season, and Patrick Gower stating on more than one occasion that greyhound racing exists in only seven countries, when in reality it exists in more than 20 countries around the world. There is a material difference between commercial greyhound racing and greyhound racing.’ (GRNZ)
  • The broadcast referred ‘to other countries numerous times, when in fact Greyhound racing in New Zealand is a totally separate entity and does not have the problems found overseas. Also they refer to only seven countries having greyhound racing as if a lot of countries have shut it down when in fact it was never held in other countries.’ (Chilton)
  • The Hansen review, referred to in the broadcast, noted an earlier 2013 report ‘found very little evidence of ill-treatment’ and ‘noted that there had never been a conviction under the Animal Welfare Act and that most trainers and owners were committed to the welfare and safety of their dogs.’ Since then, almost 10 years later, ‘immense improvements have been made in track safety and animal welfare, rehabilitation and rehoming. The industry now has absolute transparency in reporting every incident. So the 900 injuries include broken toenails and scratches, mostly minor injuries.’ (Chilton)
  • ‘GRNZ also has statistics to support the fact that commercial greyhound racing is not losing public support in New Zealand, contrary to the claims of Alison Vaughan.’
  • Chilton also complained about the use of ‘out of date information and completely incorrect content’, such as Dr Vaughan’s statement ‘that a lot of greyhounds were put down because they were too slow’, which is not supported by GRNZ’s annual report. The Authority did not hear this statement, or one to a similar effect, in the broadcast and therefore do not address it in our decision.


  • For reasons similar to those outlined under balance, the broadcast was unfair to GRNZ (and the industry as a whole). ‘Consequently, there is no doubt that the broadcast would have left the audience with an unfairly negative impression of greyhound racing.’ (GRNZ)
  • The broadcast ‘casts aspersions on Greyhound racing and its participants. It made false claims against the integrity and the actual going-ons in racing. They did not allow for any other perspective, for the right of rebuttal or even wider discussion. Their word is taken as gospel. While they say that their article was not directed at one person or organisation, there is only one organisation that runs greyhound racing, so in fact it was.’ (Chilton)

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  WBD did not uphold the complaints for the following reasons:


  • The standard did not apply as the broadcast did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance. WBD referred to BSA guidance noting an issue is not controversial ‘simply because some continue to hold alternative views about it.’
  • In any event, the standard was not breached as ‘the Broadcast was clearly signalled as being from the perspective of the SPCA and that in this context, the audience would not have expected alternate viewpoints to be presented.’
  • The BSA ‘has long held that balance can be achieved within the period of interest on an issue, across a range of media.’ While WBD considered balance was achieved in this broadcast, it maintains ‘it can and will be achieved within the period of interest, which is in fact still ongoing, as the future of greyhound racing is currently under consideration by the Minister for Racing.’


  • The ‘comments by the presenter in this discussion were clearly identifiable as comments, opinions or analyses to which the Accuracy standard does not apply.’
  • Further, WBD was entitled to rely on the information presented by Dr Vaughan, given SPCA is a reputable organisation. The ‘audience was not materially misled and that Ms Vaughan did not give a wrong idea or impression of the facts about the industry or that her commentary would have affected viewers' understanding of the issues overall.’


  • ‘The Broadcast did not refer to any specific individuals or organisations, it discussed greyhound racing in broad terms to explain the SPCA's current campaign.’

The standards

[6]  The balance standard1 ensures competing viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.2 The standard only applies to news, current affairs and factual programmes, which discuss a controversial issue of public importance.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. Where a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it within a reasonable period after they have been put on notice.

[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.

Our analysis

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

[10]  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 against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.8


[11]  Determination of a complaint under the balance standard occurs in two steps.9 The first step is to consider whether the programme discussed a controversial issue of public importance. The second step is to consider whether reasonable efforts were made by the broadcaster to present relevant perspectives on this issue.

[12]  An issue ‘of public importance’ is something that would have a significant potential impact on, or be of concern to, New Zealanders. 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.10

[13]  The issue being discussed in the broadcast is whether commercial greyhound racing should be banned in NZ given welfare issues in the industry. We have previously found an issue relating to horse racing practices was an issue of public importance.11 For similar reasons to that decision, and particularly given we have a Minister for Racing who is currently reviewing the future of commercial greyhound racing, we consider this issue is both of public importance (given the ‘important contribution’ the broader racing industry makes to NZ’s society and economy, and the greyhound racing industry in particular being ‘on notice’ to losing its ‘social licence’ to continue operating),12 and controversial (given the clear conflicting opinion at a time of change).13 The standard therefore applies.

[14]  However, the balance standard does not require that multiple perspectives on an issue be captured in every broadcast.14 The requirement to present significant points of view can be reduced where the programme does not purport to be a balanced examination of an issue, or is signalled as approaching the issue from a particular perspective.15 A key consideration is what an audience expects from a programme and whether they were likely to have been misinformed by the omission or treatment of a significant perspective.16

[15]  We consider the requirements of the balance standard were met in this instance. Contextual factors relevant to our finding include:

  • The segment was clearly introduced as presenting SPCA representative Dr Vaughan’s perspective on this issue (‘The SPCA wants an end to commercial greyhound racing…’). The segment was not an in-depth piece comparing the pros and cons of commercial greyhound racing and viewers would not have expected such detail in this five minute segment.
  • The standard allows for balance to be achieved over time within the period of current interest.17 We consider the period of interest ongoing, with the Minister yet to make a decision on the issue.18
  • We also note there has been a structured debate,19 and an interview with an industry representative20 on the issue through other media outlets.
  • Dr Vaughan acknowledged ‘some trainers do care a lot about their dogs and do take good care’.
  • Further, welfare issues affecting greyhound racing in New Zealand represent a long-standing issue and the subject of three major reviews in the past decade.21 The most recent report noted:
    The greyhound racing industry, by its nature, is inherently dangerous. If there is to be a perpetuation of the social license, it is essential that there are accurate and comprehensive records kept of all relevant activities and that the data acquired is accessible to everyone with an interest.
    The issue has also been reported on in various news reports22 and a report in response to a petition to ban commercial greyhound racing released in November 2022, shortly after the broadcast.23

[16]  In this context, we consider viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of significant alternative viewpoints. The omission of GRNZ’s perspective was unlikely to misinform viewers.

[17]  Overall, we consider the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression outweighs any harm potentially caused by the broadcast, and on this basis the standard was not breached.


[18]  Determination of a complaint under the accuracy standard occurs in two steps. The first step is to consider whether the programme was inaccurate or misleading. The second step is to consider whether reasonable efforts were made by the broadcaster to ensure that the programme was accurate and did not mislead. To ‘mislead’ in the context of the accuracy standard means ‘to give another a wrong idea or impression of the facts’.24

[19]  The standard is concerned only with material inaccuracies. Technical or other points unlikely to significantly affect viewers’ understanding of the programme as a whole are not considered material.25

[20]  Further, the requirement for factual accuracy does not apply to statements clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than statements of fact. But broadcasters should still make reasonable efforts in ensuring these comments are not materially misleading with respect to facts referred to, or upon which comments are based.26

[21]  As noted above, the broadcast addresses Dr Vaughan’s perspective, as a representative of the SPCA, on the issue of commercial greyhound racing in NZ. It was also a piece of advocacy, inviting viewers to email the Minister on the issue. The nature of the interview and language used was more consistent with the provision of analysis, comment or opinion than factual content. In addition, some of the alleged factual ‘inaccuracies’ concerned information omitted from the broadcast (which, in this case, we consider more properly addressed under the balance standard).

[22]  However, we acknowledge some of the comments referred to, or were based upon, factual matters, which the complainants allege to be inaccurate (outlined at paragraph [4], above). Turning to each of these points:

  • Reference to other countries – Although Gower noted NZ was ‘one of seven countries in the world where greyhound racing still exists’, rather than stating ‘commercial greyhound racing’, we consider the omission immaterial in the context, where the introduction, and Dr Vaughan’s response, referred to commercial racing specifically. We also do not consider any references to other countries would affect viewers’ understanding of the industry here in NZ or of the broadcast as a whole.
  • Review’s conclusions – we consider Dr Vaughan’s references to the earlier industry reviews (noted at footnote 21) constituted her analysis on the issue, and was open to her based on the findings in those reports. There was no requirement to refer to every key finding in those reports.27
  • Public support of the industry – Dr Vaughan mentioned public support moving away from the industry in other countries before stating ‘Here in New Zealand, we’re also seeing support for a ban on commercial greyhound racing’. It is unclear what data Dr Vaughan is referring to when she makes this comment. However, Dr Vaughan then refers to 3500 people writing to the Minister, which supports her point. While GRNZ may have statistics demonstrating greyhound racing is not losing support in New Zealand, this is not inherently inconsistent with Dr Vaughan seeing some support for a ban.
  • Number of instances of euthanasia last season - Dr Vaughan referred to 920 injuries and 10 instances of euthanasia in ‘the last racing season’. These statistics appear to relate to events captured in GRNZ’s 2020/21 financial year.28 It is unclear whether GRNZ’s 2022 annual report was publicly available prior to the broadcast, which might have led to a reduction of both figures. In any event, we consider the updated figures would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the segment as a whole, relating to a desire to end commercial greyhound racing as a result of the impacts on greyhounds.

[23]  For the above reasons, we consider the broadcast was materially accurate.


[24]  The fairness standard applies to people or organisations referred to in a broadcast. The broadcast did not refer to any person or organisation, so we do not consider the standard applies in this instance. GRNZ is the governing body for greyhound racing in NZ, formally recognised in the Racing Industry Act 2020 as a constituent part of the New Zealand Racing Industry.29 However, comments throughout the interview were directed towards the industry, which has many participants who are responsible for addressing concerns raised in the broadcast. We consider the ‘commercial greyhound racing’ industry too broad to fall within the meaning of an ‘organisation’ for the purposes of the standard.30 Accordingly, the fairness standard does not apply.

[25]  In any event, the complainants’ submissions regarding fairness overlap with their concerns regarding balance. Given our above findings, we do not consider any industry participant was unfairly treated in the broadcast.

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


Susie Staley
7 March 2023   




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


1  Diana Chilton’s formal complaint to WBD – 27 October 2022

2  WBD’s response to the complaint – 23 November 2022

3  Chilton’s referral to the Authority – 2 December 2022

4  WBD’s confirmation of no further comment – 6 December 2022


5  Greyhound Racing New Zealand’s formal complaint to WBD – 18 November 2022

6  WBD’s response to the complaint – 6 December 2022

7  GRNZ’s referral to the Authority – 9 December 2022

8  WBD’s confirmation of no further comment – 10 February 2023

1 Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
2 Commentary, Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 14
3 Guideline 5.1
4 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
5 Commentary, Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 16
6 Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
7 Commentary, Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 20
8 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
9 Guideline 5.1
10 Guideline 5.1
11 Phillips and Racing Industry Transition Agency, Decision No. 2019-044 at [20]–[22]
12 See Department of Internal Affairs | Te Tari Taiwhenua “Briefing to the Incoming Minister for Racing Hon Kieran McAnulty” (August 2022) at 2 and 8
13 Michael Guerin “Racing: Future of greyhound racing still unclear” New Zealand Herald (online ed, 15 December 2022)
14 Guideline 5.2
15 Guideline 5.4
16 Commentary, Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 15
17 Guideline 5.2
18 See paragraph [13]
19 See, for example, "Chlöe Swarbrick debates greyhound racing ethics” Breakfast (online ed, 28 June 2022);
20 See “Greyhound Racing NZ confident they can demonstrate they've made appropriate changes” Mike Hosking Breakfast (online ed, 15 December 2022)
21 Bruce Robertson Review into Greyhound Racing in New Zealand (2021), paragraph [93]; Rodney Hansen Report to New Zealand Racing Board on Welfare Issues Affecting Greyhound Racing in New Zealand (2017); WHK Independent Welfare Review (25 June 2013) New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association
22 See Melanie Earley “Greyhound dies after suffering 'catastrophic injuries' during Auckland race” Stuff (12 January 2023); Virgina Fallon “The greyhound racing industry is on its last legs - let's speed up its demise” Stuff (1 September 2022)
23 Petitions Committee Petition of Aaron Cross for the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand: Ban commercial greyhound racing in Aotearoa New Zealand (November 2022)
24 Attorney General of Samoa v TVWorks Ltd [2012] NZHC 131, [2012] NZAR 407 at [98]
25 Guideline 6.2
26 Guideline 6.1
27 See Robinson and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-133 at [10]
28 GRNZ “Annual Report 2022” <> at 21 and 23; see also “Greyhound Racing New Zealand Report for the Minister for Racing Q4 2021/22” at 2 and 4
29 Greyhound Racing New Zealand “About us” <>
30 See Beardsley and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2012-020 at [17] for a similar finding regarding the ‘commercial hunting’ industry