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Significant Viewpoints: Broadcasters Discuss Balance, 2006


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Date published: May 2006

Author: Broadcasting Standards Authority


  • Symposium with many of New Zealand’s leading broadcast news executives, media academics, and programme makers
  • Discusses the Balance standard in the Broadcasting Codes of Practice
  • Useful to readers interested in understanding broadcasting standards debates


  • Record of the day’s debates


  • ‘Balance’ is a journalistic principle often debated but rarely defined
  • Is it still relevant to broadcasting today, or has it become outmoded in the 21st century?
  • Hon Steve Maharey, Minister of Broadcasting gave opening address; spoke as a ‘consumer of media’ – argued that in era of media ‘plenty’ the need for regulation to hold the media to account may grow, not lessen
  • Joanne Morris, Chair of the BSA, spoke of the rights of citizens in democratic societies to be told the facts by their media - balance standard ensures that audiences are given ‘the bigger picture’ since information from a single source can be misleading
  • Paul Norris, Head of the New Zealand Broadcasting School, argued that the balance standard is an ill-defined concept, and that society’s expectations of broadcasting standards may be changing alongside the rapid technological advances being made
  • 3 panels debated different aspects of the balance standard
    • ‘the period of current interest’,
    • ‘controversial issues of public importance’,
    • whether, for Māori, balance is a ‘Pākehā’ concept
  • Analysis of ten years of BSA decisions about the balance standard provided by John Sneyd, the BSA Complaints Manager
    • In every case where balance was required, the BSA had to make value judgements about what constituted a ‘significant’ perspective, and then decide whether the significant perspectives had been reasonably and fairly conveyed to the viewer or listener
  • A panel of BSA board members and Paul Norris reflected on the issues raised during the course of the day