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BSA sees increase in complaints received and decisions issued

Complaints about news and current affairs coverage are behind a surge in the number of issues brought to the BSA.

The Authority received 135 complaints and issued 111 decisions in the 2019/2020 financial year, a rise respectively of 11% and 23% on the previous year. There were more than 900 enquiries from the public.

The BSA received 29% more complaints in the news and current affairs genre – the most of any content category. There was also a 20% increase in complaints under the children’s interest standard. Accuracy remains the most complained about standard, at 37%. 

Talkback radio bucked the trend with a 43% decrease in complaints but a 29% increase in upholds.

The overall percentage of complaints upheld remained at about 11%, with a 3 percent decrease in the news and current affairs genre.

The range and complexity of cases has increased, reflecting the vibrant broadcasting market and societal change. The growth in complaints has continued into the new financial year, with the level in the first quarter more than double that of previous years.

More broadly, over the last 2 years there has been an increase in complaints raised under the good taste and decency, and discrimination and denigration standards.

BSA chair Judge Bill Hastings said this wasn’t surprising considering the global context, where issues of equality, political and social change had dominated the news.

“We are acutely aware of the pressures and responsibilities placed on broadcast media in this environment.

“We have also reflected upon the public and industry’s response to our decisions and will be reviewing our standards in the next year. We operate in a very fluid media and audience environment, and it is our part of role to reflect this in what we do.”

Judge Hastings said as part of this the BSA continued to provide advice to officials on broader regulatory reform, which would better match how audiences were interacting with content.

“New Zealand is in need of a modern regulatory system that removes gaps and overlaps in regulation and which reflects how audiences engage with content.”

Overview of the 2019/2020 financial year:

  • 928 enquiries received, a 7% increase from last year
  • 135 formal complaints received, an 11% increase on last year
  • 130 complaints determined
  • 111 decisions issued, a 23% increase from last year.
  • Out of the 111 decisions, 16 upheld complaints, 84 not upheld, and 11 were declined to be determined.
  • Litmus testing on the violence standard indicated 85% surveyed agreed with the outcomes.
  • External review of decisions under the accuracy standard concluded that the BSA reaches decisions which are practical, sensible and reasoned logically.
  • Updated election programmes code.
  • Updated timebands and classifications on the free-to-air television code.
  • Conducted the children’s media use research which indicated that 72% of parents surveyed use programme classifications and warnings to manage content at home.
  • Complainant survey indicated 77.5% of complainants were satisfied with BSA interactions.
  • Broadcaster survey indicated 76% of broadcasters rate their working relationship with the BSA as good or very good.



For more information contact Raina Ng on 021 623 794.



You can read the full Annual Report at [].



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, Susie Staley MNZM and Leigh Pearson. The Chief Executive of the BSA is Glen Scanlon.

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