BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Garbutt and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2024-013 (20 March 2024)

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


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

The Authority has declined to determine a complaint alleging 1News breached the balance standard by failing to cover comments made by Labour MP Ginny Andersen. The Authority found in all the circumstances the complaint should not be determined as it amounted to the complainant’s personal preference regarding matters of editorial discretion.

Declined to determine (section 11(b) in all the circumstances): Balance

The broadcast

[1]  The broadcast of 1News at 6pm on 21 February 2024 did not report regarding Labour MP Ginny Andersen's comments earlier that day, including that Police Minister Mark Mitchell was ‘paid to kill people’ (in a previous security company role).

The complaint & broadcaster’s response

[2]  Russell Garbutt complained that failing to report Andersen’s ‘outrageous and entirely unsubstantiated’ comments amounted to a lack of balance noting:

  • If complaints about ‘a lack of coverage’ do not fall within the standard, ‘it means that behaviour and comments from a politician whose policies the broadcaster may be sympathetic to are not carried’.
  • The ‘[omission] is as bad, if not worse, than carrying a story that lacks balance’.

[3]  TVNZ did not accept Garbutt’s complaint as a formal complaint, noting the complaint concerned material which was not screened on television.

Outcome: decline to determine

[4]  We have read the correspondence listed in the appendix.

[5]  Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by this Authority.

[6]  In this case, the Authority considers it appropriate to exercise its s11(b) discretion on the following grounds:

  • The complaint relates to a matter of broadcaster editorial discretion (the subject matter of the broadcast) and the complainant’s preferences (that TVNZ should have included Andersen’s comments as a news item). Such a complaint is not, in general, capable of being resolved by a complaints procedure as it relates to the exercise of a discretion.1
  • The Authority’s role is to consider complaints about content broadcast, not to direct what content should be broadcast.

[7]  In any event, recognising the many available media sources from which today’s audiences can source their news and information, the balance standard does not require news to be presented impartially or without bias.2 Individual broadcasters are free to cover (or not cover) the stories they choose. Audience members unhappy with a broadcaster’s choices will exercise their right to go elsewhere for news and information.

[8]  Therefore, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.

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


Susie Staley
20 March 2024    



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

1  Russell Garbutt’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 21 February 2024

2  TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 February 2024

3  Garbutt’s referral to the Authority – 22 February 2024

1 See Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Complaints that are unlikely to succeed” (see “Personal Preference”) for further guidance. See also Wratt and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-031, Mochnaki and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2022-008 and Sheerin and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. ID2017-022 for similar findings.
2 Commentary: Balance, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 15