BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Neal and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2024-018 (22 April 2024)

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


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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint a 1News segment on James Shaw’s decision to resign as co-leader of the Green Party breached the accuracy, balance, and fairness standards for including a statement from former Prime Minister Chris Hipkins that emissions had decreased for three years in a row. The Authority found the statement was not a material fact likely to impact the audience’s understanding of the broadcast as a whole – which was focussed on Shaw’s resignation and legacy and not on emissions levels. The balance and fairness standards did not apply.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance and Fairness

The broadcast

[1]  The 30 January 2024 broadcast of 1News included an approximately four-minute segment on the resignation of James Shaw as co-leader of the Green Party. The segment contained several statements from politicians and political commentators about Shaw’s political legacy, including the following statement from former Prime Minister Chris Hipkins:

Emissions have decreased for three years in a row and I think James's leadership played a significant role in that. 

[2]  The broadcast also contained commentary and analysis on who might replace Shaw as co-leader of the Green Party.

The complaint

[3]  Geoff Neal complained the inclusion of Hipkins’s statement in the broadcast breached the balance, accuracy and fairness standards of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand on the basis:

  • ‘net’ emissions is the appropriate metric for success (being the how emissions goals are set and measured and how emissions targets are generally discussed) and net emissions have:

    (a)  increased in the last year
    (b)  ‘increased overall during the Labour/Greens time in Government from 2017-2021’
  • even if Hipkins was referring to ‘gross’ emissions, these had only decreased for two years, not three as stated by Hipkins.1

[4]  The statement was ‘malinformation’ or ‘disinformation’ on an ‘issue and material fact of great public importance for New Zealand’.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  TVNZ did not uphold the complaint under accuracy, advising that the complainant had not made an allegation that any material point of fact was inaccurate in the item. TVNZ stated ‘the item concerned James Shaw’s resignation from the Green Party. It was not a discussion about climate change or emissions.’

[6]  TVNZ further stated that the comment from Hipkins was ‘intended as a compliment, in recognition of James Shaw’s legacy and this is how the comment would have been understood by viewers. The requirement for factual accuracy does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion which this compliment clearly is.’

[7]  For completeness, TVNZ advised that it did not consider the statement to be inaccurate, noting statistics from the Ministry for the Environment and from Stats NZ.2

[8]  TVNZ did not consider the balance or fairness standards applied as the discussion concerning James Shaw’s resignation was not a controversial issue of public importance for the purpose of the balance standard; and the complainant had not alleged that any person featured in the programme was unfairly treated.  

The standards

[9]  We consider the accuracy standard most applicable to this complaint and have focussed our response under this standard. The complainant’s concerns about balance and fairness are addressed briefly at the end of this decision at [19].

[10]  The purpose of the accuracy standard3 is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.4 It 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. Where a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it within a reasonable period after they have been put on notice.

Our analysis

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

[12]  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 when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.5

[13]  Guideline 6.2 to the accuracy standard states that the standard is not concerned with technical or other points unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the content as a whole.6

[14]  The complainant considers the precise emissions reduction a ‘fact of great public importance’. We do not disagree. However, our assessment of a subject’s materiality is made with reference to the particular programme and the audience impact of the relevant statement in that context.

[15]  The context in this case was a segment focussed on Shaw’s resignation and legacy. It addressed his approach, perspectives, challenges and experiences in the role, and the timing of his resignation. It included multiple statements from people about Shaw’s legacy, as well as analysis on what was next for the Green Party’s leadership.  

[16]  The challenged comment by Hipkins was the only reference to emissions levels and was a clip of approximately five seconds within an approximately four-minute long segment. Hipkins’ statement was offered as a tribute to Shaw. In this context, viewers were unlikely to rely on it as a source of definitive data on emissions levels. In addition, even if strictly incorrect or misleading on the basis argued by the complainant, it was unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s perspective on Shaw’s resignation and legacy (as depicted in the programme) or, consequently, its understanding of the programme as a whole.

[17] In our view, upholding a complaint of this nature, would place an unreasonable burden on broadcasters and represent an inappropriate limitation on freedom of expression.   

[18]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint under the accuracy standard.

Remaining standards

[19]  The remaining standards did not apply:

  • Balance7: This standard ensures competing viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.8 The standard only applies to news, current affairs and factual programmes, which ‘discuss a controversial issue of public importance’.9 Mr Shaw’s resignation and legacy was not a ‘controversial issue of public importance’. While the efficacy of New Zealand’s policies on emissions could be argued to be a controversial issue of public importance, this issue was not ‘discussed’ during the broadcast as contemplated by the standard.
  • Fairness10: This standard protects the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes.11 It ensures individuals and organisations taking part or referred to in broadcasts are dealt with justly and fairly and protected from unwarranted damage. The complainant has not advised who they believe was treated unfairly, and we do not consider the standard applies to this complaint.

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


Susie Staley
22 April 2024    



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

1  Geoff Neal’s formal complaint – 31 January 2024

2  TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 February 2024

3  Neal’s referral to the Authority – 1 March 2024

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

1 “Issue #7: Environment – KPI: Human GHG Emissions (Million Tonnes CO2-e)” KPI (accessed 19 March 2024)
2 Quoting from the Ministry for the Environment “Gross emissions in 2021 were 76.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCo2-e) in 2021, a 0.7%reduction from 2020. This is the second successive year we have seen a slight decrease in gross emissions”; and quoting from Stats NZ “For the year to December 2022, GHG emissions fell 3.1 percent (2,369 kilotonnes). The most significant contributors to this fall were the electricity, gas, water, and waste service industry, manufacturing, as well as agriculture, forestry, and fishing.”
3 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand 
4 Commentary, Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 16
5 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 4
6 Guideline 6.2
7 Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
8 Commentary, Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 14
9 Guideline 5.1
10 Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
11 Commentary, Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 20