BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Tyrrell and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2022-096 (22 November 2022)

  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
  • Mark Tyrrell


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

The Authority has declined to determine a complaint under the balance standard regarding an episode of Breakfast that referred to New Zealand as Aotearoa. The complainant considered the name Aotearoa should not be used to replace the country’s official name. In all the circumstances, the Authority found the complaint did not raise any issues of broadcasting standards that could properly be determined by its complaints process.

Declined to Determine: Balance (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 – in all the circumstances)

The broadcast

[1]  During an episode of Breakfast on 20 July 2022, New Zealand was referred to as Aotearoa.

The complaint

[2]  Mark Tyrrell complained that the broadcast’s use of the word Aotearoa breached the balance standard of the Broadcasting Standards Codebook. He stated the name Aotearoa should not be used as a replacement for the country’s official name:

…TVNZ has no grounds to use the term Aotearoa as much as they do and it is unbalanced. It should only be used occasionally otherwise it is coercion and an attempt by TVNZ to influence the country into accepting a name change to suit the agenda of one group in the population and not all.

[3]  On referral to the Authority, the complainant also sought to rely on the fairness standard. Pursuant to section 8(1B) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, we are only able to consider his complaint under the standard(s) raised in the original complaint to the broadcaster. The High Court has clarified that in certain circumstances:1

…it is permissible [for the Authority] to fill gaps… or cross boundaries between Code standards…but only if these things can be done within the wording, reasonably interpreted, of the original complaint, and if a proper consideration of the complaint makes that approach reasonably necessary…

[4]  We do not consider proper consideration of the complaint makes it necessary to consider the fairness standard (which, in any event, is directed at fairness to individuals and organisations featured in a programme rather than complaints of this nature).

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  TVNZ did not uphold Tyrrell’s complaint, stating:

  • In accordance with section 5(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, complaints based merely on a complainant’s personal preferences are not, in general, capable of being resolved by a complaints procedure.
  • ‘The word Aotearoa is the Māori name for New Zealand and Māori is one of New Zealand’s official languages (along with English and New Zealand Sign Language). The use of this word is not pejorative or offensive.’

Outcome: Decline to determine

[6]  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.

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

  • The purpose of broadcasting standards in New Zealand is to recognise the potential harms broadcasting can cause and guard against them.2
  • Complaints about the use of te reo Māori, an official language of New Zealand, do not raise any issue of potential harm as envisaged by broadcasting standards.3
  • These are matters of personal preference and editorial discretion which are not capable of being resolved by this complaints process.4

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



Susie Staley
22 November 2022



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

1  Mark Tyrrell’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 28 July 2022

2  TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 29 July 2022

3  Tyrrell’s referral to the Authority – 20 August 2022

1 See Attorney General of Samoa v TVWorks Limited, CIV-2011-485-1110 at [62]
2 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand, page 4
3KS and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-135
4 See s 5(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989