BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Girvan and TVWorks Ltd - 2009-161

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Sheila Girvan
3 News
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 (TVWorks)

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – report on the 65th anniversary of the arrival of New Zealand’s first refugees – stated that the orphaned Polish children had spent time in Russian orphanages – allegedly inaccurate 

Standard 5 (accuracy) – history of what happened to the Polish refugees and their families prior to coming to New Zealand was not material to the focus of the item – viewers not misled – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on Sunday 1 November 2009, reported on the 65th anniversary of New Zealand’s first refugees, who were 732 Polish children and 102 caregivers.

[2]   The presenter introduced the item by saying:

It’s 65 years today since New Zealand welcomed its first refugees. 732 orphaned children from Poland came to live in a camp in Pahiatua along with 102 caregivers. The children were orphaned in World War II, losing their parents to Russian prison and labour camps.

[3]   A reporter said that 170 of the original refugees had gathered to “remember what became a turning point in their lives”. She went on to say that, before arriving in New Zealand, they had been forced from their homeland and were “pushed from orphanage to orphanage, from Russia to Iran, before New Zealand welcomed them”.

[4]   The item included short interviews with two of the original refugees, who briefly described some experiences they had after arriving in New Zealand. The reporter explained that their stay was meant to be temporary until it was safe to return to Poland, but that the majority of them had stayed and that the event was now an important part of New Zealand’s history.      


[5]   Sheila Girvan made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item was inaccurate.

[6]   The complainant argued that the item’s introduction and report gave the misleading impression that the children’s parents were removed from them and sent off to Russian prison and labour camps and that the children were then shunted from one orphanage to another. She stated that whole families had actually been forcibly removed from Poland and then sent to “Siberian slave labour camps”.

[7]   Ms Girvan contended that the use of the word “orphanage” in the item minimized the horrendous experiences of the Polish children and was, “in effect, re-writing history through omission and misleading and inaccurate statements”. 


[8]   TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

Standard 5 Accuracy

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:

  • is accurate in relation to all material points of fact; and/or
  • does not mislead.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9]   TVWorks argued that the story itself was about “the anniversary of the Poles coming to New Zealand, which was what the ceremony was about, and not the horrors that led up to them coming here”. It stated that, in essence, the item “reported on another chapter in the lives of these refugees” and “in no way held out to be a retelling of their entire story and therefore could not be considered revisionist”.

[10]   The broadcaster disagreed with the complainant that key facts had been omitted, and while it empathised with Ms Girvan’s concerns, it did not accept that the coverage of the anniversary was inaccurate. It declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.   

Referral to the Authority

[11]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Girvan referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She maintained that the item had given viewers the inaccurate and misleading impression that the children had been removed from their parents and put into Russian orphanages, when the families, including the children, were sent to slave labour camps. 

Authority's Determination

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

[13]   Standard 5 requires broadcasters to make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact and does not mislead. 

[14]   On this occasion, the Authority agrees with TVWorks that the item focused on a ceremony acknowledging the anniversary of the Polish refugees coming to New Zealand. Because the item reported on the ceremony, rather than purporting to outline the entire history leading up to the refugees’ journey to New Zealand, the Authority considers that the references to “Russian prison and labour camps” and “orphanages” were acceptable shorthand to give viewers a brief historical background to the anniversary celebrations. Most viewers would have understood that the refugees had suffered great hardship before reaching New Zealand.

[15]   In these circumstances, the Authority finds that viewers would not have been misled by the item and it declines to uphold the Standard 5 complaint. 


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
23 March 2010


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

1.           Sheila Girvan’s formal complaint – 2 November 2009
2.          TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 27 November 2009
3.          Ms Girvan’s referral to the Authority – 14 December 2009
4.          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 28 January 2010