BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Dobson and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2022-140 (7 March 2023)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
  • Shane Dobson


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

The Authority has declined to determine a complaint alleging AM breached the accuracy and balance standards. The programme included an interview with Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon, where the presenter read Luxon a series of words the public associated with him. The host then asked Luxon’s opinion on the ‘some of the worst’ words the public had associated with Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern. The Authority considers the broadcaster adequately addressed the complaint in the first instance, and declines to determine the complaint on the basis it was trivial and did not warrant consideration.

Declined to determine (section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 –  trivial): Accuracy, Balance

The broadcast

[1]  An item on AM, broadcast on 9 November 2022, featured a discussion between the host and Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon about the results of a recent Newshub-Reid Research poll on words viewers associated with both Luxon and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

[2]  The host advised Luxon the words viewers associated with him included: ‘don’t know’; ‘unknown’; ‘average’; ‘inexperienced’; ‘unsure’; ‘smarmy’; and ‘arrogant’ (these words and others were shown on a graphic when being read). Later, the host asked Luxon’s opinion of ‘some of the worst’ words from the poll associated with Ardern, including: ‘evil’; ‘liar’; ‘useless’; ‘deceitful’; and ‘dictator’ (no graphic was shown).

The complaint

[3]  Shane Dobson complained the segment was misleading as it did not state, or provide a visual of the most common words used to describe Ardern, as it had with Luxon (the most common words to describe Ardern were: good; caring; unsure; kind; strong; useless; empathetic; and great). Instead it misled viewers to think the words: evil; liar; useless; deceitful; and dictator, were common words used by those polled to describe Ardern, when in fact they were some of the least used words.

[4]  Under balance, the complainant stated: ‘using the most used phrases and words for one person, while using the least used words for another, while implying they were used similar amounts, is unbalanced.’ The broadcast ‘was deliberately designed and structured to [give] viewers the inaccurate impression that the general population holds particular views of one political leader while promoting the [interests] of the opposition leader to try increase his chances of being elected.’

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) did not uphold the complaint, stating the ‘presenter phrased his question to explain that he was only reciting “some” of the words used in reference to the Prime Minister. He further explained that he had picked the “worst” of the terms so the audience understood that other words had been used to describe Jacinda Ardern.’

[6]  Newshub reported the results of its Newshub-Reid Research poll throughout the week across various programmes, within the period of interest, thus ensuring the audience could access information about other terms applied to each leader to reach an informed opinion on the matter.

Outcome: Decline to determine

[7]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. A ‘trivial’ complaint is one which is of little or no importance and is at such a level not to justify it being treated as a serious complaint.1

[8]  We consider the complaint to be trivial. The host clearly stated the words used to describe the Prime Minister were ‘some of the worst’ words suggested by those polled. Audience members could reasonably be expected to understand these were neither the only, nor the most common, words used to describe the Prime Minister. Interested viewers could also access full graphics of the poll which were broadcast by Newshub in both written and video form the day before, and on the same day as the complained about broadcast.2

[9]  The policy behind section 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are, in the end, sustained by broadcasters and by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted in having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.3

[10]  The broadcaster’s response adequately addressed the complaint in the first instance, and it would be a waste of the Authority’s resources to further consider this complaint.

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  Shane Dobson’s formal complaint to WBD – 11 November 2022

2  WBD’s response to the complaint – 5 December 2022

3  Dobson’s referral to the Authority – 13 December 2022

4  WBD’s confirmation of no further comment – 21 December 2022

1 Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Guidance: BSA power to decline to determine a complaint” <>
2 Jenna Lynch “Newshub-Reid research poll: What New Zealanders really think of Jacinda Ardern, Christopher Luxon revealed” Newshub (online ed, 8 November 2022); William Hewett “National Party Leader Christopher Luxon defends reputation after Newshub poll found Kiwis view him as ‘smarmy’, ‘inexperienced’” Newshub (online ed, 9 November 2022); Newshub “Revealed: Newshub-Reid Research poll shows what Kiwis really think of NZ’s politicians” Youtube <>
3 Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Guidance: BSA power to decline to determine a complaint” <>