External Review of Decisions 2022 - Accuracy Standard

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Date published: 26 July 2022
Reviewer: Emeritus Professor John Burrows, Media Law specialist 


The BSA invited Prof Burrows to independently review five decisions issued by the Authority under the accuracy standard. The objective was to assess whether the BSA’s reasoning process and/or interpretation of the accuracy standard were appropriate and reasonable. This would provide feedback to the BSA, so it can consider any areas for improvement in the delivery of its functions, or its application of the standard. 

The decisions reviewed were:     

Results and BSA Actions 

Overall, Prof Burrows found the reviewed decisions were ‘sound and realistic’ and that the BSA was doing a ‘difficult job well’. He considered the style of decision writing was generally appropriate for a diverse audience. 

Other general feedback included: 

  • The Authority had ‘by and large forgiven smaller errors and omissions which do not interfere too much with the central message’ and, in the case of the NZDSOS decision, had said that where expert input is used the crux of the broadcaster’s responsibility is to pick a reputable expert. This was part of an overall approach which Prof Burrows considered ‘realistic’.  
  • The value of citing previous cases in decisions, ensuring consistency and saving time, was emphasised. Prof Burrows encouraged the Authority to compile a manual or index of readily accessible ‘leading decisions’, an initiative the BSA has put into action. 
  • Prof Burrows stressed the need, when dealing with issues of high public importance and ‘in times of unrest and dissension’, for rigorously researched and reasoned decisions which convincingly answer the parties’ arguments. He considered this was being done well. 
  • He noted the value of returning to the issue of freedom of expression at the end of a decision to show how it influenced the final determination. 

The BSA has noted the recommendations. It will take them into account in future decisions involving the accuracy standard and will make the report available to broadcasters/stakeholders who are also likely to find it useful.