Research Ngā Rangahau

Balance and Fairness in Broadcasting News, 1995


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Date published
:  April 1995

Researchers/Authors:  Judy McGregor and Margie Comrie


  • Analyzes programmes from 1985 to 1994
  • Measures variables in news stories such as time allocation, sources used in news stories and their affiliations, attribution of story material, geographic focus, emotive language and tone of news


  • Content analysis
  • TVNZ, TV3, Morning Report and Mana News
  • 915 stories sampled
  • 2025 sources in news stories


  • 39% of stories political, 25.8%  related to crime and 16% health stories
  • Amount of crime news in stories sampled increased for television news 18% to 41% (TV One news); 40.9% to 53.6% (TV3 news)
  • Political stories decreased across the years studied
  • Health news increased in proportion of the stories sampled
  • Low numbers of Māori-related news stories were reported
  • 60% of crime stories sampled relate to a crime incident or to court reports, and court reporting  shows a general increase in television news
  • 45% of stories used one source only, 25% used two sources, 15% used three sources, and 15% used between four to nine sources
  • 25.4% of the 2025 sources spoke for themselves, 34.1% were cited and 40.6% both spoke for themselves and were cited
  • 18.8% of the 2025 sources recorded were interviewed so that questions and answers were broadcast
  • 88.5% of the questions judged as very appropriate or appropriate in the context of the stories in which they were asked
  • Majority of cases (81.6%) the interviewer’s tone of voice was rated neutral, 12.5% as positive and 5.6% as negative
  • Three of the four broadcasters relied overwhelmingly on Pakeha sources
  • Sources of news stories sampled revealed a strong gender bias with 80.6% of sources male and 19.4% female
  • General increase in stories containing controversy across time
  • Of the stories containing controversy, 47.2% rated fair in terms of inclusion of relevant sides of the controversy in the story, 21.6% judged to be neither fair nor unfair and 31.2% rated unfair
  • TV3 features were judged to be most fair in terms of inclusion
  • Emotional language was coded as occurring 33.9% of the stories overall and increased over time
  • 86.1% of stories were found to have dealt justly and fairly with every person taking part in or referred to in the story    
  • 47.6% of stories coded containing fact and opinion, comment and analysis