BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Penny and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2024-006 (20 March 2024)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Aroha Beck
  • Pulotu Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Christopher Penny
RNZ Concert
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Radio New Zealand


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

The Authority has declined to determine a complaint about a news bulletin on RNZ Concert which reported on Māori and Pasifika honoured in the 2024 New Year Honours list. The complainant alleged that only referring to Māori and Pasifika honourees was ‘reverse racism’. In all the circumstances, the Authority found the complaint did not raise any issues of broadcasting standards that could be properly determined by its complaints process.

Declined to determine (section 11(b) in all the circumstances): Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness

The broadcast

[1]  During a news bulletin on RNZ Concert on 30 December 2023, Anna Thomas reported on Māori and Pasifika honoured in the 2024 New Year Honours list. Comments included:

  • ‘Business leaders, educators and a jiu jitsu instructor are among the Māori being honoured for services to the community this year.’
  • ‘The Chief Executive of Māori Tourism Pania Tyson-Nathan is one of just two new dames.’
  • ‘Other Māori honoured today include prisoner advocate Heretaniwha Lee, te reo champion Hana O’Regan and musician Tama Waipara.’
  • ‘A Samoan New Zealander of Dutch descent, Dame Sarai [Bareman] has been awarded the title for services to football.’

The complaint

[2]  Christopher Penny complained the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration and fairness standards of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand on the basis the bulletin was a ‘preferential highlighting of a minority segment in our society and an unfair minimising of other worthy recipients by their exclusion.’ They added:

  • ‘[This] is a worrying trend in NZ of reverse racism, and a disproportionate bias towards [Māori and Pasifika].’  
  • The broadcast contained ‘unacceptable bias’ by not referring to any other recipients who were not Māori or Pasifika.

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  RNZ did not uphold Penny’s complaint, or find any breach of broadcasting standards for the following reasons:

  • The brevity of the piece meant only a select few honourees could be profiled.
  • Naming Māori and Pasifika honourees did not raise any issues of broadcasting standards.
  • The segment is within the limits set by the broadcasting standards, as well as RNZ’s own charter and editorial standards.

Outcome: decline to determine

[4]  We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[5]  Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises the Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined.

[6]  We decline to determine this complaint for the following reasons:

  • The complainant does not draw any connection between the concerns raised and the standards relied on:

    (a)  The complainant has not identified the section of the community which is being discriminated against. In any event, the Authority has previously held the standard does not apply to protect broad (non-homogenous) groups such as ‘non-Māori’.1
    (b)  The purpose of the fairness standard is to protect the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes. The complainant’s concern is with those not featured in the programme.
  • In our view, Penny’s concerns, which relate to the type of content they consider should be included in news bulletins, raise matters of editorial discretion and personal preference. The Authority has consistently recognised that these are not issues of broadcasting standards.2

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Susie Staley
20 March 2024 



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

1  Christopher Penny’s formal complaint to RNZ – 30 December 2023

2  RNZ’s response to Penny’s complaint – 30 January 2024

3  Penny’s referral to the Authority – 31 January 2024

4  RNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 27 February 2024

1 See O’Sullivan and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision no 2022-138 at [9] for a similar finding.
2 See Greenslade and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision no 2021-105 at [6] for a similar finding. See also Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Complaints that are unlikely to succeed” (see “Personal Preference”)