Wakeman and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2023-050 (7 November 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Peter Wakeman
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has declined to determine a complaint an item on 1 News reporting on the leak of classified Pentagon documents and the presence of butterfly land mines in Ukraine breached the balance standard. The Authority found the complaint related to the complainant’s personal preferences on what should be broadcast and raised issues which had been addressed in recent decisions.
Decline to determine (section 11(b) in all the circumstances the complaint should not be determined): Balance
 An item on 1 News broadcast on 12 April 2023 reported on the leak of classified documents from the Pentagon, including documents relating to the Russo-Ukrainian war. The broadcast highlighted some of the information in these documents, noting:
- One leaked document indicated that Egypt was ‘secretly planning to furnish Russia with weapons’. The broadcast included a comment from ‘Egypt’s pro-state media’ dismissing the report as rumours.
- One document ‘appears to confirm’ a suspicion that foreign special forces are operating inside Ukraine. The broadcast included a comment from Britian’s Ministry of Defence (not commenting on its special forces, but noting there were serious inaccuracies in the document). The host also stated ‘Russia hasn’t reacted yet, but has recently argued it’s fighting NATO as well as Ukraine’.
 The following item reported on the presence of landmines in Ukraine. The host noted the fear it may ‘take decades to clear them completely’. The item noted:
- Butterfly mines were banned by international law, being illegal because of the indiscriminate way they can kill and injure civilians.
- Both Russia and Ukraine have been accused of using butterfly mines.
- The mines were prevalent in the Izyum area.
- At the conclusion of the report, the host noted that ‘according to the World Bank, demining Ukraine would cost $60 billion.’
 The report included interviews with local residents, one of which was with a butterfly mine victim who had stepped on a mine in his own backyard. The man was shown in a hospital room with his wounded leg bandaged.
 Peter Wakeman initially complained the broadcast breached multiple broadcasting standards. At a high level, his initial complaint raised concerns regarding the depiction of particular countries (particularly Russia), other perspectives he considered should have been included, and the depiction of a butterfly mine victim. The complaint was supported with approximately 70 pages of submissions, including reproductions of many news articles he considered of relevance in demonstrating alternative perspectives on matters such as the Russia-Ukraine war.
 Wakeman’s initial referral of his complaint to the Authority similarly alleged a breach of multiple broadcasting standards, raising similar concerns, and was supported with approximately 270 pages of additional submissions. Following the Authority’s order to resubmit his referral in a more proportionate form,1 the resubmitted complaint focused more on the omission of particular viewpoints. Accordingly, we consider the complaint best addressed under the balance standard of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand.
 In support of his referral, the complainant refers to:
- NATO’s context in the Russo-Ukrainian war
- Internal American affairs (including concerns relating to American politics)
- A perceived control of narratives by governments through social media and other platforms
- A perceived bias in TVNZ’s reporting.
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold the complaint under any of the standards initially raised and, with respect to the issues raised on referral, TVNZ argued the balance standard did not apply. This was on the basis that no controversial issue of public importance was discussed and, in any event, comments were included from the relevant parties, including from an Egyptian and Russian source concerning allegations made against them.
Outcome: Decline to determine
 Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.2
 The policy behind s 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are, in the end, sustained by broadcasters and by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted in having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.3
 In the circumstances, under s 11(b) of the Act, the Authority considers it should not determine the complaint:
- Much of the submissions do not relate to the broadcast, instead focusing on the complainant’s concerns with American influence and international strategy (which is not an issue for the Authority).
- As in our previous decisions concerning complaints from Wakeman, we note aspects of the complaint relate to his personal views as to what information broadcasters should include and who they should be interviewing.4 These are matters of personal preference and editorial discretion which do not raise broadcasting standards issues.5
- The Authority has recently dealt with issues concerning the omission of pro-Russian perspectives6. We consider these findings dismiss the majority of the complainant’s concerns.
- Additionally, TVNZ provided a substantive response to the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine this complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
7 November 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Peter Wakeman’s formal complaint to TVNZ – 13 April 2023
2 TVNZ’s decision on complaint – 12 May 2023
3 Wakeman’s (resubmitted) referral to Authority – 24 August 2023
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comments on complaint – 12 and 20 September 2023
1 Wakeman and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. ID2023-050
2 Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Guidance: BSA power to decline to determine a complaint” <bsa.govt.nz>
3 As above
4 Wakeman and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2023-005 at  and ; Wakeman and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2022-057 at 
5 See section 5(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, which states that complaints based merely on a complainant’s preferences are not, in general, capable of being resolved by a complaints procedure
6 See generally Wakeman and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2023-005; Wakeman and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2022-057; and McArthur and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2023-004