BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-055

  • 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 on search for missing sailor – report stated that air force had covered an area of around 360,000 kilometres – allegedly inaccurate

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 Monday 29 March 2010, reported on a missing sailor whose boat had been found off the Chatham Islands – the man was still missing, but his dog was found alive on board the boat.

[2]   During the item, the reporter stated that a “helicopter and Airforce Orion covered an area of around 360,000 kilometres from Gisborne to the East Cape”.


[3]   Donald McDonald made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the reporter’s reference to 360,000 kilometres was inaccurate. He argued that the item should have referred to “square nautical miles”, because 360,000 kilometres equalled the “distance to the moon”.


[4]   TVNZ 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

[5]   TVNZ accepted that using “square kilometres” would have made it absolutely clear that this was what was being discussed. However, it argued that the use of the word “kilometres” in the discussion of the area would have made it clear to viewers that the reporter was talking about the total search area covered, rather than a straight line.

[6]   The broadcaster considered the item had not contained any inaccurate material points of fact and it declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   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

[8]   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.

[9]   The accuracy standard changed in July 2009 and now only relates to “material points of fact”. In our view, the reference to an “area of around 360,000 kilometres” was clearly not material to the overall focus of this item about a missing sailor. Furthermore, we consider that Mr McDonald’s complaint was dealt with adequately and appropriately by the broadcaster.

[10]   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.

[11]   We note that over a number of years, Mr McDonald has repeatedly referred complaints about trivial accuracy points to the Authority,1 and he has recently been warned that an order for costs may be made against him if he continues to do so. We acknowledge that, at the time Mr McDonald lodged this complaint, he had not yet received our decisions on those previous complaints.2 However, we reiterate our warning that if we continue to receive complaints of a similar nature, we will 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
6 July 2010


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

1.           Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 30 March 2010

2.          TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 13 April 2010

3.          Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 15 April 2010

4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 20 May 2010

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

2Decision Nos. 2010-015 and 2010-033