If you have found a television or radio programme (not an advertisement) to be objectionable or offensive in some way, you may make a formal complaint under the BROADCASTING ACT 1989. You first complain to the particular TV or radio broadcaster, and if you are not satisfied with its response you can then complain to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
A formal complaint is different from an informal complaint, which is simply a letter to a broadcaster discussing your programming preferences.
The first step in making a formal complaint is to write a letter directly to the Chief Executive of the broadcaster in question. You can find the addresses for the various TV and radio broadcasters on the website of the Broadcasting Standards Authority at www.bsa.govt.nz.
In your letter you should include details of the date and time, and the channel or station on which the programme was broadcast. The letter must be received within 20 working days after the broadcast.
You should be detailed in your complaint, identifying what part of the programme you found to be objectionable and why. For a complaint to be upheld you must show that the broadcaster breached a standard with which the broadcaster is required to comply.
The standards are found in the BROADCASTING ACT 1989 and in the Codes of Broadcasting Practice for radio and television. You can obtain copies of these codes from the website of the Broadcasting Standards Authority at www.bsa.govt.nz. Your letter of complaint should preferably refer to specific standards from the Act and the relevant code.
The Act requires broadcasters to maintain standards consistent with:
Under the Act, the Codes must provide for:
The broadcaster must notify you in writing of its decision. If you are not satisfied with the broadcaster's approach or decision, you may appeal to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. You must do this within 20 working days.
Complaints to the Authority should be addressed to:
You may also refer your complaint to the Authority if the broadcaster has not, within 20 working days after receiving it, notified you of the decision made or action taken. This 20-day period may, however, be extended to 40 working days if the broadcaster, within 20 working days after receiving the complaint, notifies you in writing that it is unable to deal with the complaint within the prescribed 20-day period.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority usually acts in an informal setting, and makes a decision based on written statements from both parties. But occasionally it may hold a formal hearing.
The Authority may do one of the following:
If your complaint is upheld, the Broadcasting Standards Authority will require the broadcaster to either:
If the broadcaster fails to comply with the decision it may be fined up to $100,000 by the Authority.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority's decisions are published.
If you are unsatisfied with the decision of the Broadcasting Standards Authority or with the way in which your complaint was dealt with, you may appeal to the High Court.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority also deals with situations where you believe that a particular programme has invaded your personal privacy. To make a complaint on this basis you must send a formal letter to the Authority within 20 working days. Complaints are made to the Authority directly, not to the broadcaster.
The procedure is similar to the informal process described above. If your complaint is upheld you may receive up to $5,000 compensation, along with an apology.