BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-015

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Donald McDonald
One News

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item reported that the average difference between men’s and women’s weekly pay was 31 percent – allegedly in breach of accuracy

Standard 5 (accuracy) – complaint vexatious and trivial – decline to determine under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   An item on One News, broadcast on TV One at 6pm on 14 December 2009, examined the issue of gender pay equity in New Zealand. The reporter interviewed a pay equity expert, who stated that “the gender pay gap here in New Zealand is actually wider than most people think. The average difference between men’s and women’s weekly pay is 31% this year.”


[2]   Donald McDonald lodged a complaint with Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the interviewee’s statement that “30 percent difference between men’s and women’s weekly pay packet” was inaccurate because “percent is times; difference is minus”.


[3]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which 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

[4]   TVNZ noted that the item did not contain the statement referred to by Mr McDonald, although the interviewee had said that “the average difference between men’s and women’s weekly pay is 31 percent this year”. It said that it had no reason to disbelieve the interviewee and that it was satisfied with the veracity of her comment which was her genuinely held belief. TVNZ noted that the interviewee worked at the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Massey University and was an expert in the relevant field.

[5]   TVNZ concluded that the item did not contain any inaccuracies and it declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[6]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Authority's Determination

[7]   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.

[8]   The accuracy standard changed in July 2009 and now only relates to “material points of fact”. In our view, the phrase complained about was clearly not material to the overall focus of this item, and we consider that Mr McDonald’s complaint was dealt with adequately by the broadcaster.

[9]   Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 allows the Authority to decline to determine a complaint which it considers to be frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. Pursuant to this section, we decline to determine this complaint on the grounds that the point raised by Mr McDonald was trivial. We also consider that, having received a response from the broadcaster which adequately addressed his concerns, Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority was vexatious.

[10]   We note that over a number of years, Mr McDonald has repeatedly referred complaints about trivial accuracy points to the Authority.1 If we continue to receive complaints of a similar nature, we will be forced to consider an order for costs against Mr McDonald.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
27 April 2010


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

1.           Donald McDonald’s complaint – 14 December 2009
2.          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 29 January 2010
3.          Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 2 February 2010
4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 March 2010

1See for example, McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-035, McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2005-012