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Regulatory Reform Now Urgent, Broadcasting Standards Authority Says

Urgent and long-overdue reforms are needed to bring outdated laws and regulations into line with today’s broadcasting reality and ensure a sustainable media sector, the Broadcasting Standards Authority says.

It its 2022/23 annual report published today, the BSA emphasises the need for change to the 34-year-old legislation it operates under, to respond to the risks of a fast-changing media landscape.

“As audiences migrate at pace from traditional broadcasting to online and digital platforms, increasingly obsolete legislation is making it more difficult to achieve our mission,” said BSA Chief Executive Stacey Wood.

“Low uphold rates for complaints show our co-regulatory standards regime is working well at minimising harm in the traditional broadcasting space – that is, television and radio. But, increasingly, harm is occurring in unregulated spaces where the BSA and other regulators currently have no power.

“Audiences consume media differently now than they did in 1989 – if we are to protect New Zealanders from harmful content and maintain a strong and sustainable media sector, our laws need to change too,” Wood said.

Over the past year, the BSA offered its expertise to support the progress of proposed law changes that would see the Authority administering a new fair bargaining framework for news media and digital platforms, as well as bringing long-awaited wider reform to the regulatory environment.

The BSA’s annual report notes the year to 30 June was marked by a high diversity and complexity of complaints, while complaint numbers returned to levels nearer long-term averages after a peak driven by COVID-19-related issues. Statistics include:

  • The BSA received 169 complaints and issued 121 decisions.
  • Seven decisions were upheld and the Authority issued seven orders, both numbers matching those of the previous year.
  • Accuracy (81 complaints), balance (60) and fairness (55) attracted the most complaints, with accuracy (up 11%) and fairness (up 12%) rising significantly from the previous year. Discrimination and denigration (45) was the next biggest source of complaints.
  • Consistent with recent years, TV (108 complaints, 5 upheld) attracted more complaints than radio (46 complaints, 2 upheld).
  • News and current affairs (115 complaints) was the most complained-about programme genre, followed by radio/talkback (18).
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Significant complaint themes included the privacy interests of vulnerable individuals; accuracy and balance concerns in reporting about particular organisations/events; and allegations of unfair treatment towards those featured in broadcasts.

With gender identity issues assuming greater prominence, the BSA also dealt with a range of complaints on this subject.

These escalated with media coverage of the March 2023 New Zealand visit of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (also known as Posie Parker). In this context, the BSA issued guidance for broadcasters highlighting key matters recognised and determined in recent decisions on such issues.

In July 2022 the Authority published a new Code of Broadcasting Standards. This introduced a streamlined standards regime which has been positively received by broadcasters and complainants.

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