You can complain directly to the BSA about an election programme that you consider breaches the Election Programmes Code. For information on the Election Programmes Code click here.
- We deal with complaints about election programmes, which are programmes broadcast on television or radio by or for a political party or candidate during the election period (for a general election or by-election). They usually appear as short promotional/campaign clips for the relevant political party or candidate. The election period is the month before the election polling day (For the 2020 General Election that period runs from 13 September until midnight on 16 October 2020).
- Complaints about other programmes that relate to an election (eg news and current affairs coverage, satire or comment) should be made under the Radio, Free-to-Air or Pay Television Codes and must first go to the broadcaster (within 20 working days of the broadcast).
- Other agencies such as the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Electoral Commission and NZ Media Council also deal with election-related complaints. To find out where to send your concerns or a complaint about election material, see our Who does what? election guide. If we are not able to deal with your complaint, we may forward it to the agency that may be able to assist you.
Some deadlines apply:
- You have 60 working days from the date of broadcast of an election programme to complain directly to the BSA about a breach of the Election Programmes Code. We encourage all complainants to make complaints as soon after the broadcast as possible.
The easiest way to submit your complaint is to use the interactive form below. However, you can also make your election programme complaint to us using this PDF form by emailing it to us at email@example.com If you choose to post your complaint to us (PO Box 9213, Wellington 6141) it must reach us within 60 working days from the date of broadcast.
If you need further assistance you can phone us on 0800 366 996.
BSA fast-track process for election complaints:
- From the period 16 June - 16 October we aim to fast-track consideration of election related complaints. See the fast track process here.
The BSA’s role is to address complaints about the content of ‘election programmes’ broadcast on TV or radio, and to determine whether they breach the Election Programmes Code (section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989). These complaints are made directly to the BSA. The BSA will endeavour to deal with election programme complaints as quickly as possible, after giving the parties involved an opportunity to comment.
Only general elections or by-elections for members of the House of Representatives are covered. Local body elections are not covered by this Code.
The BSA also considers complaints about the content of other programmes which may relate to the election (eg, broadcast news and current affairs coverage, satire and comment), under the Radio, Free-to-Air TV or Pay TV Codes. These complaints must first be made to the broadcaster, and then can be referred to the BSA if the complainant is dissatisfied with the response.
The BSA does not consider complaints about compliance with requirements such as promoter statements, written authorisation, allocation of funding, timing of broadcasting, or expense limits. These are dealt with by the Electoral Commission. The Advertising Standards Authority and NZ Media Council also deal with complaints about election advertising and coverage.
For more information about the respective roles of these agencies and who you should send your concerns or a complaint to, see our Who does what? Elections guide.
Section 69(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 defines an election programme as a programme that is broadcast on TV or radio during an ‘election period’ and:
- encourages or persuades, or appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote, or not to vote, for a
political party or the election of a constituency candidate; or
- advocates support for, or opposes, a constituency candidate or political party; or
- notifies meetings held or to be held in connection with an election.
Usually, election programmes will appear as short promotional / campaign clips broadcast on TV or on radio, for political parties or constituency candidates.
The Court of Appeal has held that election programmes are only those that are broadcast for political parties or candidates – and not programmes initiated by broadcasters or other third parties.
This means that other programmes about election matters that are broadcast on TV and radio, including news, comment or current affairs in relation to an election, are not ‘election programmes’ and are not subject to the Election Programmes Code. For example, if a comedy programme aired on television in the lead-up to the election included a skit featuring or parodying a particular party and candidate, it would not be considered an election programme. If a political documentary aired on television shortly before the election, which commented on a party’s track record on a contestable policy issue, this also would not be considered an election programme.
These programmes must however comply with the relevant broadcasting standards for Radio, Free-to-Air TV or Pay TV.
If the item is a third party-initiated ‘election advertisement’, it may be subject to the requirements under the Electoral Act (for which the Electoral Commission has responsibility), and any complaints about the content of such an advertisement may be made to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Complaints about the content of TV or radio programmes that relate to the election, that are not election programmes or election advertisements, can be considered by the broadcaster under the relevant broadcasting code of practice (Radio, Free-to-Air TV or Pay TV), and then referred to the BSA if the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome.