BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Ryan and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-004

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mark Ryan
One News Tonight

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News Tonight – teaser for upcoming item on Prince William and Kate Middleton – presenter stated, “Will they, won’t they? Is the next King of England set to tie the knot?” – allegedly in breach of controversial issues and accuracy standards

Standard 4 (controversial issues) and Standard 5 (accuracy) – complaint trivial – decline to determine under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   One News Tonight, broadcast on TV One at 7pm on Tuesday 9 November 2010, contained a brief, five-second teaser for an upcoming item on Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton. The presenter stated, “Will they, won’t they? Is the next King of England set to tie the knot?”


[2]   Mark Ryan made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached Standards 4 and 5.

[3]   The complainant argued that, while it was true that Prince William was the next King of England, he was also the next King of New Zealand. He considered that news items about the Prince “should be reported from a New Zealand context with appropriate recognition of his New Zealand royal title and constitutional position”. The complainant argued that omitting Prince William’s “New Zealand title” was inaccurate and unbalanced.


[4]   Mr Ryan nominated Standards 4 and 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his complaint. These provide:

Standard 4 Controversial Issues – Viewpoints

When discussing controversial issues of public importance in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

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 said that when it considered a complaint under Standard 4, it first had to determine whether the issue being discussed in the programme was a controversial issue of public importance. It noted that the Authority had typically defined a “controversial issue” as one which had topical currency and excited conflicting opinion, or about which there had been ongoing public debate.1 While the broadcaster accepted there was public interest in the topic of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton, in its view, “the fact the British Monarch is also in effect the New Zealand Head of State” was not a controversial issue of public importance. In any event, TVNZ did not consider that the “coming up” teaser was a programme for the purposes of the standard, or that a single phrase required balance. Accordingly, it declined to uphold a breach of Standard 4.

[6]   Turning to Standard 5, TVNZ argued that accuracy did not apply to teasers in news bulletins. Further, it said, “The position of the Monarch in New Zealand law and society is well-known to New Zealanders” and was implicit in the phrase “the next King of England”. The broadcaster did not consider that the statement was inaccurate or misleading and it declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Ryan referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The complainant maintained that it was inaccurate to refer to “the future King of New Zealand only as the future King of England”.

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.

Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints) and Standard 5 (accuracy)

[9]   We agree with TVNZ that the brief, five-second teaser did not amount to a news, current affairs or factual programme to which Standards 4 and 5 applied. Furthermore, the item clearly did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance, and the phrase “the next King of England” was not a material point of fact.

[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 complaint by Mr Ryan was trivial.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich

29 March 2011


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

1                  Mark Ryan’s formal complaint – 10 November 2010

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 December  2010

3                 Mr Ryan’s referral to the Authority – 21 December 2010

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 February 2011

1Ministry for Social Development and TVNZ, Decision No. 2006-076