BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Frewen and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-115 (17 November 2021)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Tom Frewen
Discovery NZ Ltd


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

The Authority has declined to determine a complaint, under the accuracy standard, about an item on Newshub Live at 6pm. The complainant alleged that analysis of a New Zealand political poll, including a translation of the poll results into seats in Parliament and the statement Labour ‘no longer governs alone’, was misleading, noting it was just a poll and Labour has a Co-operation Agreement with the Green Party. The Authority declined to determine the complaint on the basis it was trivial and did not warrant consideration.

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

The broadcast

[1]  The broadcast of Newshub Live at 6pm on 1 August 2021 included a report regarding the latest Newshub-Reid Research political poll. Noting the drop in support for Labour, it stated, ‘Labour’s iron grip on the Parliament has been prised open. It no longer governs alone on 43% …plunging a decisive 9.7 points’.  The report included a translation of these results into seats in Parliament.

The complaint

[2]  Tom Frewen complained the broadcast breached the accuracy standard:

Newshub Political Editor Tova O'Brien stated ‘The poll results show Labour's ironlike grip on Parliament has been unclenched. It no longer governs alone on 43 percent, plunging a decisive 9.7 points.’ That is plain wrong. The result does not alter the distribution of seats in the House. Despite holding a majority of 65 seats, Labour has a Co-operation Agreement with the Greens so it is not accurate to say that Labour governs alone. Even if the poll result was reflected in the distribution of seats in the House it would not inevitably change the governing relationship between Labour and the Greens. It is just a poll result and should be reported that way.

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  Discovery did not uphold the complaint for a number of reasons including:

  • ‘…the Broadcasting Standards Authority has previously recognised that viewers reasonably expect to receive commentary and analysis from political reporters and political correspondents’.1
  • ‘The Committee does not consider the reporting went beyond the level of robust scrutiny and political analysis that could be reasonably expected when reporting these results. When reporting these polls results, the Political Editor typically explains how the poll results would translate into Parliament as part of her analysis, which is what this Broadcast featured.’

Outcome: Declined to determine

[4]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises the Authority to decline to determine complaints if it considers they are frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. A ‘trivial’ complaint is defined as one which is of little or no importance and is at such a level not to justify it being treated as a serious complaint.2 

[5]  We consider this complaint to be trivial. The complaint concerns an interpretation of the broadcast that we consider unlikely to represent the practical interpretation or understanding of reasonable New Zealand viewers.

[6]  The time and resources of the Authority, which are sustained by broadcasters and the public, should not be spent on such matters and we decline to determine this complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Susie Staley
Acting Chair
17 November 2021   




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

1  Tom Frewen’s original complaint to Discovery – 3 August 2021

2  Discovery’s response to Mr Frewen – 27 August 2021

3  Mr Frewen’s referral to the Authority – 24 September 2021

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comments – 20 October 2021

1 Woods and Mediaworks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-062
2 Guidance: BSA Power to Decline to Determine a Complaint, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 66