BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Neal & Mundt and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2024-022 (22 May 2024)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Aroha Beck
  • Pulotu Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Geoff Neal & Paul Mundt


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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a 1News item discussing the results of the first 1News Verian political poll for 2024. The item included analysis and commentary on the poll from 1News’ Deputy Political Editor, which the complainants considered was either ‘biased’, unbalanced, inaccurate or unfair to the coalition Government. The Authority found no breach of the nominated standards: the item included significant relevant perspectives; the statements complained about were comment, analysis, or opinion to which the accuracy standard did not apply; and the item did not give rise to any unfairness to the politicians or parties featured.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

The broadcast

[1]  A segment on 1News, broadcast on 19 February 2024, reported on the results of the first 1News Verian political poll for 2024. It was introduced with the following [emphasis added to statements identified in Neal’s complaint]:

Simon Dallow: The results of the first 1News Verian poll of the year have just been revealed. And while its good news for National, who have seen a popularity boost, alarm bells are now ringing for Labour leader Chris Hipkins. 

Maiki Sherman: After a big election result and a big start to the year, here are the numbers from our first 1News Verian poll for 2024. Take a look: National still the crowd favourite, up one point, sitting at 38 percent - Christopher Luxon’s cool head during the Treaty debate, paying off. Labour’s steady on 28 - a false sense of security. The Party hasn't capitalised on the coalition's chaotic start. The Greens have taken some big knocks and the biggest drop in our poll, down two, on 12 percent. The Treaty debate doing no favours for ACT, it continues to slide down one point to eight percent. This is the worst result for ACT in almost two years. It's steady as she goes for New Zealand First. At six percent, Winston Peters is here to stay. But watch out, here comes Te Pāti Māori. The Green’s loss is their gain, up two points on four percent. Their best result since 2017… Now here's the real clincher, preferred Prime Minister, check this out - Christopher Luxon is steady at 25 percent. But ding ding ding, ring the alarm bells, Chris Hipkins has nosedived, his popularity plummeting a whopping ten points. On 15 percent, he's standing on shaky ground. Winston Peters meanwhile has risen in popularity, now on 6%, David Seymour steady on four, but he has company - It's Chlöe Swarbrick jumping up two points [to four percent]. She's running for the [Green Party] leadership and voters are running to back her. Yet another problem for Labour as the political year gets underway.

[2]  The segment also contained the following comments [emphasis added to statements identified in Neal’s complaint]:

  • Sherman: ‘In reality, the first 100 days of the coalition have been chaotic. NZ First scrapping smoke free laws. ACT introducing the Treaty Principles Bill. And a coalition break down over policing numbers, causing big headaches.’
  • Sherman: ‘Christopher Luxon is in danger of becoming the compromise king. The first red flag perhaps, agreeing to have two Deputy Prime Ministers.’
  • Sherman: ‘Certainly yesterday's State of the Nation speech by Christopher Luxon was him giving the country a bit of a boot up the backside. And let's be honest, we all need that from time to time. The real risk there is that it doesn't become baked in and he doesn't become a patronising Prime Minister. No one wants that negativity. And in the first hundred days of this Government, it has been quite negative in terms of scrapping this and repealing that. Now, the first 100 days expires in three weeks’ time. Then it's over to the new Government to bring in its new policies and for Luxon to provide a vision going forward.’
  • Senior Political Reporter, Benedict Collins: ‘ACT’s seen its own fair share of controversy recently. But David Seymour doesn’t believe backlash to the Treaty Bill contributed to ACT’s dip.’
  • Debbie Ngarewa-Packer: ‘To see us at four percent on, you know, what are clearly, you know, polls that are driven by non-Māori, is a really great reflection of what we’ve seen out on the ground.’
  • Simon Dallow: ‘Bit of a surge for Te Pāti Māori in our poll. Is the Treaty debate at the centre there?’ 
  • Sherman: ‘Absolutely, I think it is. I think this is a clear message from voters that they don’t want a country divided. Race relations have dominated the headlines ever since the Government formed and the two parties at the forefront of that have been both Te Pāti Māori and the ACT party. It’s no surprise, then, perhaps, that you could read into that as being a rise for Te Pāti Māori and a drop for ACT. What else does that tell you? It is going to be an interesting watch because you do have Te Pāti Māori riding high, but you also have huge hope in Chlöe Swarbrick. And of course, these numbers would have been the wake-up call that Labour needed.’

The complaints

Neal’s complaint

[3]  Geoff Neal complained the aspects of the item italicised above breached the balance, accuracy, and fairness standards of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand:

  • Negative statements about Luxon, including that no one wanted a ‘patronising Prime Minister’, and that Luxon was in danger of becoming a ‘compromise king’, showed the reporter’s ‘political and negative bias against the Government’.
  • Statements regarding the coalition being ‘chaotic’ were inaccurate; ‘to the contrary polling for the coalition has strengthened since the election across various polls,’1 and the item should have mentioned those.
  • Statements that the Treaty debate was: doing no favours for ACT; had created backlash; and that voters didn’t want a country divided by the Treaty debate, were inaccurate. ‘There is widespread public support for the Treaty Principles Bill’, and most people ‘want the Treaty Principles Bill to help unite our country and grant equal rights and duties.’2
  • The statement that Chlöe Swarbrick was ‘running for the leadership, and the voters are running to back her’ was untrue; ‘only 4%, 1 in 25 voters, want her as PM, she's behind all 4 leaders of the other 5 largest parties.’
  • Debbie Ngarewa-Packer’s statement that the polls were ‘driven by non-Māori’, and the reporter’s statement that Te Pāti Māori was ‘riding high’ were inaccurate given: the polls are ‘sampled and weighted to ethnicity’; and at 4 percent, Te Pāti Māori percentage of the vote was less than their percentage of seats.

Mundt’s complaint

[4]  Paul Mundt complained the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard on the basis the broadcast: was a ‘racist one-sided report’; contained ‘discrimination against our government’; was ‘not reporting the truth’; and amounted to ‘unfounded lies’.

[5]  On referral to the Authority, Mundt complained under the accuracy and balance standards, but did not raise the discrimination and denigration standard. TVNZ invited the Authority to decline to determine Mundt’s complaint on this basis (since Mundt did not pursue the only standard raised in the original complaint to the broadcaster).

[6]  We agree the discrimination and denigration standard is outside the scope of our decision, since Mundt has not referred that part of the complaint to us for review (and we note in any case, the standard applies only to recognised sections of the community, so could not be applied to the ‘government’, nor to a general concern the reporting was ‘racist’.)

[7]  With respect to accuracy and balance, under section 8(1B) of the Act, the Authority is only able to consider complaints under the standard(s) raised in the original complaint to the broadcaster. However, in limited circumstances, the Authority can consider standards not raised in the original complaint where it can be reasonably implied in the wording, and where it is reasonably necessary to properly consider the complaint.3

[8]  We consider the wording of Mundt’s original complaint – that the broadcast was ‘one sided’ – can reasonably be interpreted as sufficiently raising the balance standard and captured in our analysis of Neal’s balance complaint at paragraphs [17] – [20]. 

[9]  While the original complaint alleged the broadcast was ‘not reporting the truth’ and amounted to ‘unfounded lies’, this does not sufficiently outline specific statements or grounds on which we can assess any alleged inaccuracy. (Although we note nevertheless, the accuracy standard is still covered in relation to Neal’s complaint.)

[10]  In relation to Mundt’s original complaint, we reiterate the Authority’s policy allowing us to decline to determine a complaint where language is abusive or threatening. We remind parties to be polite and respectful in their communications with each other, and with the Authority – or risk having their complaint dismissed.

The broadcaster’s response

[11]  TVNZ did not uphold the complaints, for the following reasons:


  • TVNZ did not agree discussion of the poll was a “controversial issue of public importance”.
  • While ‘the discussion concerning the political landscape for the different Parties may be considered such an issue’, ‘significant viewpoints are heard from relevant perspectives as appropriate within the discussion.’ ‘Mr Luxon and Mr Seymour in particular were given ample opportunity in the item to provide their viewpoints on the issues relevant to them as they were raised.’
  • Further, ‘the issues in question were discussed widely in surrounding media coverage, so it is reasonable to expect that viewers would be aware of alternative viewpoints that existed.’
  • While TVNZ did not agree with Neal’s assessment that the Deputy Political Reporter was 'biased’, they noted BSA guidance that ‘the standard does not require news, current affairs, and factual programming to be presented impartially or without bias. Within the limits established by this standard, broadcasters are free to promote or challenge particular ideas, philosophies, or people.’


  • The statements complained about were either accurate; or amounted to opinion and analysis from the Deputy Political Editor meaning the requirement for factual accuracy did not apply.
  • These opinions were ‘reasonable perspectives to hold’ and backed by numerous news stories.4 ‘The Deputy Political Editor provides her reasoning for [her] perspective and so viewers are able to evaluate the comments on this basis.’
  • The Deputy Political Editor’s analysis and opinion is ‘an entirely expected part of her role as a political editor. Her opinions and analysis are clearly framed as such and are therefore clearly distinguishable from factual material in the report.’
  • ‘The way that the information from the poll is presented is an editorial decision’.
  • Debbie Ngarewa-Packer’s statement was her own ‘viewpoint of political polls, and it is acceptable for Ms Ngarewa-Packer to express this. The polls capture the perspectives of all people and so it is correct to say that non-Māori, the larger population group, do “drive” the results.’


  • ‘Christopher Luxon as Prime Minister and David Seymour as leader of ACT, were given reasonable opportunity to present the government's position on the issues raised’… ‘Both men are confident in the programme and are familiar with the media. They handled the discussion adeptly and were able to put the government's position across.’

The standards

[12]  The balance standard5 states when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant viewpoints. It ensures competing viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.6

[13]  The accuracy standard7 states broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure news, current affairs or factual content is accurate in relation to all material points of fact and does not mislead.

[14]  The fairness standard8 ensures individuals and organisations taking part or referred to in broadcasts are dealt with justly and fairly and protected from unwarranted damage.

Our analysis

[15]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[16]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the resulting limit on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society.9 Political speech is recognised as containing high value and high public interest, meaning a correspondingly high level of harm is necessary to justify regulatory intervention and imposing such a limit.


[17]  A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to ‘news, current affairs and factual programmes’ which discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The subject matter must be an issue ‘of public importance,’ it must be ‘controversial,’ and it must be ‘discussed.’10

[18]  We have previously found that coverage of public opinion and polls on politicians, parties and the government is generally of public importance to New Zealanders,11 and we consider the length and depth of this broadcast was sufficient to constitute a ‘discussion’. Reporting and providing commentary on poll results is not ‘controversial’ in and of itself,12 although the segment touched on other issues generating conflicting views, such as the Treaty Principles Bill.

[19]  In any case, we are satisfied there was no breach of the balance standard because:

  • As previously recognised by the Authority, the balance standard is not directed at ‘bias’ in and of itself and does not require coverage to be impartial.13
  • The focus of this segment was on the results of the poll, and the Deputy Political Editor’s analysis and opinion regarding changes to poll results. Viewers expect robust political commentary from reporters in this role, which can at times include strong or provocative language.14 Sherman’s description of the various political parties and their leadership was consistent with this expectation.
  • The broadcaster included significant viewpoints from: Christopher Luxon; Chris Hipkins; David Seymour; Winston Peters; Marama Davidson; and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
  • Comments from Luxon specifically addressed aspects Neal was concerned with, stating:
    • ‘Yeah. I'm very proud of the start of the coalition Government's made. We've got a very good plan for the first 100 days.’ 
    • ‘There's compromise within a caucus, within an existing party, let alone between parties. And so, you know, that's part of the process.’
    • ‘[The coalition Government is] very constructive in the sense of we are united on the big things that are about driving our Government forward.’
  • Although some commentary was critical of National and/or the coalition Government, this was balanced by other comments from the Deputy Political Editor criticising Labour and Chris Hipkins, for example:
    • ‘National still the crowd favourite, up one point, sitting at 38 percent - Christopher Luxon’s cool head during the Treaty debate, paying off. Labour’s steady on 28 – a false sense of security.’
    • ‘Chris Hipkins still desperately in denial, even as his personal popularity as preferred prime Minister crashes through the floor.’ 
    • ‘Labour and its leader have been dormant, licking their wounds and lapping up a long summer… But when the break should have been over, the party couldn't even be bothered holding its January caucus retreat…’
    • ‘[The drop in preferred Prime Minister] is a major problem for Chris Hipkins. He’s been caught sleeping at the wheel, snoozing under the summer sun. And the problem is, if he doesn’t turn that around, people will forget who he is and that will make his job a lot harder.’
  • We also note other perspectives on this poll were readily available in further coverage from 1News and other media outlets.15

[20]  For these reasons, we do not uphold the complaints under the balance standard.


[21]  The requirement for factual accuracy does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment, or opinion, rather than statements of fact.16 News analysis interprets news, offers criticism, provides possible reasons, and predicts consequences.17 An opinion is someone’s view; it is contestable, and others may hold a different view.18

[22]  In this case, Neal is concerned with comments by the Deputy Political Editor speculating on the reasons for changes in the polls, and characterisations of political figures and parties – for example, ‘the coalition's chaotic start’; ‘The Treaty debate doing no favours for ACT’; Te Pāti Māori ‘riding high’; and voters showing support for Chlöe Swarbrick. The statements Neal is concerned with were clearly political analysis and opinion, typical of the type of commentary viewers expect from political editors and reporters, and to which the accuracy standard does not apply.

[23]  Concerning Debbie Ngarewa-Packer’s comment that polls were ‘driven by non-Māori’, we consider viewers would have taken that to be her opinion, in the context of reacting to the poll results, rather than as a definitive statement of fact about the methodology of poll research. 

[24]  The complainant’s desire for these poll results to be presented differently, or for different poll results to be reported, is a matter of personal preference and the broadcaster’s editorial discretion, not an issue of broadcasting standards.

[25]  For these reasons, we do not uphold Neal’s complaint under the accuracy standard.


[26]  Neal alleged the broadcast’s negative comments about the coalition Government were unfair.

[27]  As reflected in our guidance on Complaints that are Unlikely to Succeed, it is well established there is a high threshold for finding a breach of the fairness standard in relation to politicians.19 They are frequently capable interviewees, experienced in handling aggressive or inflammatory questioning or other coverage that may be considered unfair for an ordinary person. This recognises political commentary and analysis by journalists is an important feature of freedom of expression and life in a democratic society.20

[28]  We do not consider this broadcast went beyond the level of robust scrutiny and political analysis that can reasonably be expected of political parties and their leaders or gave rise to any unfairness. 

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority.


Susie Staley
22 May 2024 




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

Geoff Neal’s complaint

1  Geoff Neal’s formal complaint – 20 February 2024

2  TVNZ’s response to Neal’s complaint – 12 March 2024

3  Neal’s referral to the Authority – 15 March 2024

4  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 19 March 2024

Paul Mundt’s complaint

5  Paul Mundt’s formal complaint – 21 February 2024

6  TVNZ’s response to Mundt’s complaint – 12 March 2024

7  Mundt’s referral to the Authority – 15 March 2024

8  TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 19 March 2024

1 KPI “KPI: Country Direction (Right % - Wrong %)” (accessed 15 April 2024) 
2 Curia “Political Issues Poll October 2023” NZ Taxpayers’ Union (3 October 2023)
3 Attorney General of Samoa v TVWorks Ltd [2012] NZHC 131, [2012] NZAR 407 at [62]
4 1News Verian Poll “10-14feb – 2024 – 1 NEWS Verian Poll Report Short Report” 1News (19 February 2024) ; Bridie Witton “Prime Minister walks a tightrope on Treaty of Waitangi issues” Stuff (online ed, 23 January 2024); The Front Page Podcast “Why Māori are not onboard with proposed Treaty principles bill” The New Zealand Herald (23 January 2024); “Treaty Principles Bill called ‘a waste of time and resources’” 1News (online ed, 8 February 2024); Ruwani Perera “Commentators fear new Government will set race relations back by decades” Newshub (online ed, 25 November 2023); Emily Clark “Debate over race relations rages in NZ as new government repeals key social policies” ABC (online ed, 18 December 2023); The Hui staff “New Māori MPs pledge to fight ‘racist’ coalition Government” Newshub (online ed, 4 December 2023); Phil Mercer “New Zealand Protesters Condemn ‘Racist’ Government Policies” Voice of America (online ed, 5 December 2023); Lianne Dalziel “Coalition govt won’t deliver ‘national unity’ with these agreements” Newsroom (29 November 2023); “What the new government may mean for Māori, Te Tiriti” 1News (online ed, 24 November 2024); Emily Clark “Relations between Māori and NZ Government deteriorate as details of controversial bill leak” ABC (online ed, 25 January 2024); and Eva Corlett “Amid jeers and boos, strained Māori relations with government dominate national holiday” The Guardian (online ed, 6 February 2024)
5 Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
6 Commentary, Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 14
7 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand 
8 Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
9 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 4
10 Guideline 5.1
11 Dobson and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision 2022-118, at [16]
12 Stamilla and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2023-107 at [14]
13 Commentary, Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 15
14 Woods and Mediaworks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2015-062
15 Felix Desmarais “Poll: Preferred PM Plunge for Hipkins, Te Pāti Māori gets Waitangi lift” 1News (online ed, 19 February 2024); Tim Murphy “When you hear the people sing” Newsroom (online ed, 4 March 2024);  “1News-Verian political poll: Labour gains slightly, Chris Hipkins plummets” RNZ (19 February 2024); Felix Desmarais “Poll: Hipkins not ‘contemplating’ resignation after 10% popularity drop” 1News (19 February 2024); Adam Pearse “1News-Verian poll: Labour leader Chris Hipkins’ popularity takes significant blow since Election 2023” The New Zealand Herald (19 February 2024); “1News-Verian poll: Situation stable, Hipkins plummets” RNZ (19 February 2024); “Hipkins’ poor poll results ‘pretty normal’ for politics – Little” 1News (20 February 2024); “Hipkins takes big popularity hit in latest poll” Otago Daily Times (19 February 2024)
16 Guideline 6.1
17 Shepard and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision 2020-157 at [12] and [13]
18 See Buchanan and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2022-087 at [10]
19 Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Complaints that are unlikely to succeed”
20 Robinson and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-133 at [13]