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Television Standards

Free-To-Air Codes of Broadcasting Practice
Children's Advertising Guidelines
Advertising Guidelines
Making a Formal Complaint

Free-To-Air Codes of Broadcasting Practice
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Under the Broadcasting Act 1989, every broadcaster is responsible for maintaining in its programmes and their presentation standards which are consistent with:

a) The observance of good taste and decency

b) The maintenance of law and order

c) The privacy of the individual

d) The principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view, either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest

e) Any approved Code of Broadcasting Practice applied to programmes.

The Act also established the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) which is responsible for administering the standards regime. The Act describes how the BSA encourages broadcasters to develop and observe appropriate Codes of Broadcasting Practice.

This Code, the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, has been prepared by the New Zealand Television Broadcasters' Council on behalf of TV ONE, TV2, TV3, C4, Prime, Maori Television and other free-to-air services.

In the application of this Code, the ethic of social responsibility is recognised both by broadcasters and the Authority.

Fundamental to broadcasters, and to the BSA's activities, is the statutory right to freedom of expression which is provided for in Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Broadcasters and the Authority also acknowledge that New Zealand is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (see Appendix 3).


Broadcasting Standards Authority
2nd Floor, 54-56 Cambridge Terrace, Wellington, New Zealand
P O Box 9213
Telephone: (04) 382 9508
Fax: (04) 382 9543
Infoline: 0800 366996

Grounds For A Formal Complaint

Formal complaints allege that the broadcaster has failed in its responsibility to maintain one or more of the following Standards 1 to 11.

Standard 1:       Good Taste and Decency
Standard 2:       Law and Order
Standard 3:       Privacy
Standard 4:       Controversial Issues - Viewpoints
Standard 5:       Accuracy
Standard 6:       Fairness
Standard 7        Discrimination and Denigration
Standard 8:       Responsible Programming
Standard 9:       Children's Interests
Standard 10:    Violence
Standard 11:    Liquor

Each Standard has guidelines which are included to assist viewers, broadcasters and the BSA in applying the Standards to specific complaints.

Formal complaints must first be made, in writing, to the broadcaster concerned.  The one exception is an allegation of breach of privacy (Standard 3) which may be made directly to the BSA without first being referred to the broadcaster. Some contact details are included at the end of this Code.

Formal complaints should specify the name of the programme, the date of broadcast, the standard(s) alleged to have been breached and why. Complaints must be lodged within 20 working days of broadcast.

Free-to-air television broadcasters are also required to comply with the programme code covering Election Programmes. A copy of this Code is on the BSA's website.

Apart from programme promotions and broadcast political advertising, the BSA has no jurisdiction over advertisements. Complaints about advertisements should be made to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board (see Appendix 4).

Copies of all broadcasting Codes are available from the BSA and from its website.
The Code of Broadcasting Practice is available to download in PDF format.

Children's Advertising Guidelines - top

The New Zealand Television Broadcaster's Council recognises the need for a high level of social responsibility in communicating to children. In New Zealand, an effective system of self-regulation ensures that the industry also take into account the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

While recognising a child's right (in Article 13) to "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through any media of the child's choice", the Convention calls on the media to support parents who have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their children.

New Zealand advertisers, advertising agencies and broadcasters have agreed to operate according to the Advertising Codes of Practice. To supplement these Codes, free-to-air television has a number of policies and voluntary rules concerning advertising and children's programmes. These are covered in the freely available booklet "Getting it Right for Children".
Getting it Right for Children is available to download in PDF format.

Advertising Guidelines - top

Full details regarding guidelines for advertising the following products can be accessed by visiting the Advertising Standards Authority's website:

Gaming and gambling
Road safety
Therapeutic products

Classifications - top

TVNZ takes the issue of inappropriate content on television very seriously. There are four internal appraisers who scrutinise all programmes before they go to air to ensure they conform to the Codes of Practice formulated by New Zealand broadcasters and the government-appointed Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Last year TVNZ rejected a number of entire programmes and edited segments out of many more because they were deemed too offensive. However, TVNZ believes that parents must be the ultimate censors, and the comprehensive classification system is there to help parents choose what is appropriate viewing for their children. The classifications are as follows:

Definition: A child means a boy or girl under the age of 14 years (Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989).

G - General Programmes which exclude material likely to be unsuitable for children. Programmes may not necessarily be designed for child viewers but must not contain material likely to alarm or distress them. G programmes may be screened at any time.

PGR - Parental Guidance Recommended Programmes containing material more suited for mature audiences but not necessarily unsuitable for child viewers when subject to the guidance of a parent or an adult. PGR programmes may be screened between 9am and 4pm, and after 7pm until 6am.

AO - Adults Only Programmes containing adult themes and directed primarily at mature audiences. AO programmes may be screened between midday and 3pm on weekdays (except during school and public holidays as designated by the Ministry of Education) and after 8.30pm until 5am.

Note News and Current Affairs programmes, which may be scheduled at any time and may, on occasion, pre-empt other scheduled broadcasts, are not, because of their distinct nature, subject to censorship or to the strictures of the classification system. However, producers are required to be mindful that young people may be among viewers of news and current affairs programmes during morning, daytime and early evening hours and should give consideration to including warnings where appropriate.

Special note There will be programmes containing stronger material or special elements which fall outside the AO guidelines. These programmes may contain a greater degree of sexual activity, potentially offensive language, realistic violence, sexual violence, or horrific encounters. In such circumstances, time designations such as "AO 9.30pm or later" may be appropriate.

Making a Formal Complaint - top

If you are concerned about the content of a television programme, the law entitles you to complain and ensures that your complaint will be taken seriously. Through the process of Formal Complaints, viewers and listeners play an influential part in the maintenance of broadcasting standards.

How do I make a formal complaint?
With the exception of complaints about breaches of privacy which may be sent directly to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (click here for more information on the BSA), you must write to the broadcaster in the first instance. Address your complaint to the Chief Executive of the broadcaster concerned.

A formal complaint should:
1. Be in writing (include the words 'formal complaint')
2. Be received by the boadcaster within 20 working days of the broadcast complained about
3. Include the name of the programme, the channel on which it was broadcast, and the time and date of broadcast
4. Indicate which programme standard or standards you believe have been breached.
5. Outline why you believe the programme breached the standard or standards as outlined in the Free To Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice - it is helpful to cite specific examples e.g. the language you found offensive, the actions you found in bad taste or the comments you considered unbalanced or unfair.

In addition to Formal Complaints, TVNZ also provides informal responses to those who prefer not to formalise their complaint. If you would like to register your opinion on TVNZ and its activities, please send us your feedback by clicking here .


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