BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Gibson and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2005-047

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
  • Michael Gibson
Sky Television

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Parliamentary Question Time – showed Deputy Prime Minister at times when he was not answering or asking questions – allegedly unbalanced

Standard S6 (balance) – programme did not approach the proceedings from any particular perspective – balance not required – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] Coverage of Parliamentary Question Time was broadcast on Sky News at 2pm on 7 April 2005.


[2] Michael Gibson complained that the broadcast was unbalanced because it focused on the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Michael Cullen, at times when he was not asking or answering questions. The coverage had shown Dr Cullen “grinning and derisively showing a dismissive attitude towards the Opposition”, he said.

[3] Mr Gibson argued that the broadcaster had broken the same rules which had caused TV3 to be banned from filming in Parliament recently.


[4] Standard S6 of the Pay Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required:

S6 To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5] In its response to the complainant, SKY Network Television Ltd advised that the filming of Parliamentary Question Time was in accordance with the Rules for Filming in the Chamber by Television and Stills Photographers issued under Standing Order 42.

[6] SKY added that it had not received any complaints from either the Speaker or other Members of Parliament about the images shown on that date. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Gibson referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[8] SKY reiterated the points made in its original reply to the complainant. It provided the Authority with a copy of the Rules for Filming in the Chamber by Television and Stills Photographers, which was issued under Standing Order 42 of the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[9] In his final submission, Mr Gibson maintained that the programme was unbalanced and partial. Referring to Rule 2 of the Rules for Filming in the Chamber by Television and Stills Photographers, Mr Gibson observed that Dr Cullen was not “the member who has the call”, yet the coverage was concentrated on him. He stated that it was biased for the broadcaster to focus on Dr Cullen instead of his opponent who actually had “the call”.

[10] Mr Gibson referred to SKY’s comment that there had been no complaints from either the Speaker or other Members of Parliament, noting that these people were in the chamber during question time and could not have seen the live broadcast. The complainant further observed that SKY had been silent as to whether there had been complaints from other members of the public.

Authority's Determination

[11] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[12] The Authority notes that Mr Gibson’s final submission focused largely on alleged breaches of the Rules for Filming in the Chamber by Television and Stills Photographers. The Authority emphasises that it has no jurisdiction other than the application of broadcasting standards to a complaint. Whether or not the broadcast breached the Rules for Filming in the Chamber is irrelevant to the Authority’s determination of this complaint.

[13] Standard S6 requires broadcasters to show balance in programmes “dealing with” political matters. The Authority observes that the balance standard is about providing competing perspectives on important issues. This programme was simply a factual record of parliamentary proceedings. The Authority finds that because the programme did not provide any comment on the proceedings, it did not approach them from any perspective, and thus balance was not required.

[14] In any event, the Authority does not agree with the complainant that Dr Cullen was shown “grinning and derisively showing a dismissive attitude towards the Opposition”, or that the broadcast concentrated unduly on him. 


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
19 August 2005


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

  1. Michael Gibson’s formal complaint – 28 April 2005
  2. SKY’s decision on the formal complaint – 17 May 2005
  3. Mr Gibson’s referral to the Authority – 23 May 2005
  4. SKY’s response to the Authority – 7 June 2005
  5. Mr Gibson’s final comment – 6 July 2005