BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

KS and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-135 (9 February 2021)

  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
  • KS


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

The Authority declined to determine a complaint about the use of te reo Māori across a number of TVNZ broadcasts. Te reo Māori is an official New Zealand language. Its use is a matter of editorial discretion appropriately determined by broadcasters. The Authority declined to determine the complaint because the use of te reo Māori does not raise any issue of broadcasting standards.

Declined to Determine (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, in all the circumstances): Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness

The complaint

[1]  KS complained about the use of te reo Māori in a number of news and current affairs programmes shown on TVNZ 1. KS said this breached the discrimination and denigration, and fairness standards because:

  • The greetings were solely in te reo Māori which creates an expectation that viewers should accept te reo.
  • ‘I don’t speak te reo Māori. I don’t have the desire to do so and neither is it right to be expected. I respect Māori for doing what they can to keep their language alive as it’s part of their culture. But it’s not mine.’
  • ‘The practice [of using te reo] is discriminatory toward non-Māori speaking New Zealanders and divisive. Those that don’t understand the language, the vast majority of the population, are being purposefully excluded and the practice is disrespectful and shameful. I find it offensive because of the inequality they practice. I can understand they are looking to include Māori and that’s a good thing but that should not be not at the exclusion of the rest.’
  • ‘Non-Māori speaking New Zealanders are being excluded when they have every right to understand what is being said as they have done historically.’

[2]  KS also requested the Authority address ‘the failure of [TVNZ’s] Formal Complaints Committee to hear a legitimate complaint’.

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  TVNZ did not make a formal decision on the complaint, responding, ‘it is not a breach of programme standards to broadcast in Māori’. TVNZ directed KS to its feedback form. It said:

New Zealand has three ‘official’ languages: English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

Māori and New Zealand Sign languages have been formally designated as ‘official languages’ and have special status under the law. People have the right to speak in Māori or New Zealand Sign Language and they can be used in legal proceedings with interpreters. Māori is also taught in most schools and there are Māori immersion educational facilities.

[4]  In response to the referral, TVNZ requested the Authority decline to determine the complaint as ‘the complainant does not raise any issue of programme standards as the complaint solely concerns the use of one of New Zealand’s official languages’. It was concerned accepting the complaint referral ‘gives the issues raised by the complainant an undeserved legitimacy’.

Outcome: Declined to determine

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

[6]  We decline to determine KS’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • The purpose of broadcasting standards in New Zealand is to recognise the potential harms broadcasting can cause and guard against them.1
  • Te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand. The Māori Language Act 1987 established the Crown entity Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (The Māori Language Commission), which continues under Te Ture mō te Reo Māori 2016 (Māori Language Act 2016) to promote the use of te reo Māori as a living language and as an ordinary means of communication – as do many other organisations.
  • A complaint about the use of te reo Māori does not raise any issue of potential harm as envisaged by the standards.
  • The use of te reo Māori is an editorial decision for broadcasters.

[7]  The Authority finds that the use of te reo Māori does not raise any issue of broadcasting standards.

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



Judge Bill Hastings


9 February 2021



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

1  KS’s complaint to TVNZ – 1 October 2020

2  TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 1 October 2020

3  KS’s referral to the Authority – 7 October 2020

4  TVNZ’s response to the referral – 20 November 2020

5  KS’s final comments – 30 November 2020

1 Introduction, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 3