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BSA finds reference to ‘child pornography’ in news item did not breach standards, but encourages caution and judgement around terminology

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has not upheld a complaint that a Newshub item reporting on the arrest of Sir Ron Brierley for alleged possession of ‘child pornography’ should have instead referred to ‘child exploitation’.

The complaint under the good taste and decency standard was not upheld, as the BSA found in the context of an unclassified news item carrying high public interest, the use of the phrase did not undermine community standards of taste and decency or justify limiting freedom of expression.

However the BSA recognised there is some debate about whether ‘child pornography’ is appropriate terminology, on the basis it may have the effect of normalising or trivialising what is very serious criminal conduct and the impact on child victims.

The BSA noted that the Digital Safety Team at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) acknowledges the debate and does not use the term. DIA considers the term ‘child sexual abuse material’ most accurately describes the material.

In its decision, the Authority said, “[w]e encourage broadcasters to take note of the issues highlighted in this decision including evolving language associated with child sexual abuse, and to exercise judgement when selecting terminology in reporting on this subject.”



For more information contact Raina Ng on 021 623 794.


The item was broadcast on 19 December 2019 on Three. The full decision is available at <>. The decision was made under the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice (2016 edition) which is available to view on our website:


The BSA is an independent Crown entity that oversees the broadcasting standards regime in New Zealand. The BSA determines complaints that broadcasts have breached standards, undertakes research and oversees the development of broadcasting standards in consultation with broadcasters.

The Authority members are Judge Bill Hastings (Chair), Paula Rose QSO and Susie Staley MNZM. The Chief Executive is Belinda Moffat.

For more information see our website: