BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Larkin and Television New Zealand Limited - 1999-009

  • S R Maling (Chair)
  • J Withers
  • L M Loates
  • R McLeod
  • Siobhan Larkin


An item on Holmes, broadcast on TV One on 1 October 1998 between 7.00-7.30 pm, examined the Hikoi of Hope. It featured a representative from the Anglican Church and a critic of the hikoi, each being interviewed by the presenter.

Ms Larkin complained to Television New Zealand Limited, the broadcaster, that the presenter’s introduction to the item was insulting, and contained derogatory descriptions, such as "the Hiccup of Hypocrisy". The presenter’s statements made it clear, she said, that the item would not be presented in a fair and neutral manner.

TVNZ responded that while the Hikoi of Hope was a serious attempt to draw attention to the reality of poverty in New Zealand, the Anglican Church’s sponsorship of it had been controversial. Noting that the introduction to the item acknowledged that the hikoi had been praised, but that it had also summarised criticisms made of it and its sponsor, the broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint.

Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Ms Larkin referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.


The members of the Authority have viewed the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Holmes programme on TV One on 1 October 1998 broadcast an item on the Hikoi of Hope, as the hikoi concluded in Wellington. The item featured the presenter (Paul Holmes), a representative of the Anglican Church (The Venerable Peter Beck), and a critic of the hikoi (Rt Hon David Lange).

Ms Larkin complained to TVNZ that the item had been introduced by the presenter in an insulting manner. He had made it clear from his initial statements, she wrote, that the item was not going to be a fair and equitable debate, but effectively would have the presenter and Mr Lange on one side, and Archdeacon Beck on the other. The presenter had included derogatory descriptions of the hikoi, calling it "the Hiccup of Hypocrisy", Ms Larkin said. She concluded that, as the hikoi had been a serious attempt by many New Zealanders to bring the effects of poverty to the attention of politicians, it was incumbent on the presenter to lead the debate without advancing his own personal views.

The broadcaster considered the complaint in the context of standard G6 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. That standard requires broadcasters:

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

In its response to the complaint, TVNZ agreed that the hikoi had been a serious attempt to bring politicians’ attention to the reality of poverty. But, it wrote, there had been controversy surrounding the Anglican Church’s sponsorship of it. That had been reflected in various media, it continued, and the Archdeacon had been aware that the discussion would embrace it. Disagreeing that the introduction had been unfair or unbalanced, the broadcaster said that it had acknowledged at the very beginning that the hikoi had been praised. It also had pointed out the purpose of the hikoi, and that it had culminated in five thousand people assembling outside Parliament.

The item itself, TVNZ continued, had revealed Archdeacon Beck as an eloquent spokesperson who effectively responded to the criticisms which were presented to him. The presenter’s comments, taken together with those of Mr Lange, did not create an imbalance when compared with the role played by the Archdeacon, it concluded.

In referring her complaint to the Authority, Ms Larkin wrote that TVNZ seemed to consider that the presenter’s approach to the hikoi was justified because there had been opposition to the march. While there had been an obligation to present both points of view, she wrote, the presenter’s sneering and denigrating words when speaking of the hikoi had "left one in no doubt of Mr Holmes own personal views".

TVNZ responded, in its report to the Authority, that Ms Larkin’s description of "sneering denigrating words", as used by the presenter, was a subjective view. It reiterated that the archdeacon had "proved more than adequate" in responding to the challenges of the presenter and Mr Lange.

In her final comment, Ms Larkin replied that the position of those opposing the hikoi had been given "in a clear factual manner" in the introduction, whereas the position of those supporting it had been presented in an inflammatory manner. She suggested that the presenter, rather than merely reflecting the public debate, had been giving his own view of the hikoi.

The Authority considers that the presenter was deliberately provocative in the remarks he made in his introduction to the item. The remarks, in the Authority’s view, served to stimulate the debate which followed. While the presenter’s personal views on the hikoi might have been made known through another medium, as the complainant contended, the strong views expressed in the introduction were effectively countered by the vigorous stance taken by Archdeacon Beck in the subsequent item. In the Authority’s view, the presenter’s personal perspective was not so evident in the broadcast as to threaten standard G6 in any meaningful way. The Authority considers that the Archdeacon gave a forceful account of the other side of the debate, and in so doing, provided necessary balance. Accordingly, the Authority declines to find any breach of standard G6.


For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Sam Maling
18 February 1999


The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority in its determination of this complaint:

1. Siobhan Larkin’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 12 October 1998

2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 28 October 1998

3. Ms Larkin’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 12 November 1998

4. TVNZ’s Comments to the Authority – 20 November 1998

5. Ms Larkin’s Final Comment – 2 December 1998