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Complaints Procedure

Please read the following Complaints Procedure before lodging a complaint.

  1. The NZ Media Council's complaint procedure is public and transparent and Council rulings are published on its website with the names of both parties. Therefore, a complainant must provide their proper name which will  be published unless there are exceptional circumstances as determined by the NZ Media Council. 
  2. A person bringing a complaint against a publication (see member list here) must, unless exempted by the Executive Director of the Council, first lodge the complaint in writing with the editor of the publication.
  3. The complaint (to be clearly marked as such) is to be made to the editor, online author or publisher within the following time limits:
    1. A complaint about a particular article, within one calendar month of its initial publication.
    2. A complaint arising from a series of articles, within one calendar month of the earlier of the date from which the substance of the complaint would have been reasonably apparent to the complainant, or the publication of the last article in the series.
    3. A complaint concerning non-publication of any material, within two calendar months of the date on which the request to publish was received by the publication.
    4. A complaint about an online article or blog, within one calendar month of the date of first publication, with the complaint option kept open for two years if the offending article remains uncorrected electronically, or longer at the discretion of the Chair of the Media Council.
    5. A complaint which does not arise from the publication or non-publication of any material, within one month of the incident giving rise to the complaint.
  4. If the complainant is not satisfied by a publication’s response or receives no response within ten working days from the date on which the editor or online publisher received the complaint, the complainant should then complain promptly to the Council.
  5. The complainant  will be asked to sign a waiver in order for the NZ Media Council to consider their complaint. The purpose of the waiver is to ensure that a complaint to the Media Council is the only form of formal action that will be taken in relation to the article that is subject of the complaint. The reason for the waiver is that Media Council provides the public access to a free, quick and simple complaints service which is unconstrained by the existence of other proceedings and where publishers can respond openly and admit fault if necessary. The summary nature of the process and the publishers’ co-operation with the process would be compromised if a publisher had to worry about damaging their position in court proceedings about the same issue.
  6. A minority of the eleven members of the Media Council are employed by media publishers as part of the prescribed makeup of the Media Council.  In the event of a complaint against the employer, the conflict's policy set out in s. 64 (1) of the Incorporated Societies Act 2022 applies.  A member of the Media Council who was not involved in any way in the story but who is employed by the publisher may participate in the discussion but will not vote on the complaint.  If such a member had any involvement in the story or with the complaint before it reached the Media Council, the member will not participate in the discussion or vote.
Complaint Form
  1. Complaints must be made using the online complaint form, below and indicate which Media Council principles have been breached.
  2. Complaints must be accompanied by the article(s) complained about, together with the initial complaint to and response from the publication. The key points of the complaint are to be summarised in a maximum of 500 words. Other supporting material may be supplied. Legal submissions are not required.
  3. On receipt, the complaint will be assessed for acceptance and to determine if it should be referred to the Chair, to a committee of Council or to the full Media Council. The Chair has the power to decline a complaint. Council Committees (comprising the Chair, one public member and one industry member) have delegated powers from the Council to determine some complaints.
Time limits
  1. The time limits which will apply on receipt of a complaint are:
    1. After the Council refers a complaint back to the publication, the publication has ten working days from receipt of that complaint to provide a formal response.
    2. On receipt of the publication's formal response, the Media Council may refer the formal response to the complainant for their final comments.  Final comments are optional and an invitation to provide final comments is at the Council's discretion as the Council is able to consider a complaint without final comments being provided. If a complainant is given an opportunity to provide their final comments they may, in approximately 200 words and within a time specified by the Council but no more than ten calendar days,  reply to any new matters raised by the publication. The complainant should not repeat submissions or material contained in the original complaint.
  2. The Media Council has the power to extend time limits but will not do so without compelling reason.
  3. In appropriate circumstances, guided by rules of natural justice, the Media Council may request or receive further information from one or both of the parties
  4. Once submissions have been exchanged the Media Council will at its next meeting consider and usually determine the complaint. Most complaints are determined on the documents provided but if a complainant wishes to  make a personal submission they may apply to the Council for approval to attend. If approval is granted, a representative of the publisher will also be invited to attend the Council meeting. No new material may be submitted when addressing the meeting without the leave of the Council.
  5. Timeliness of a publication’s response will be taken into account in a decision and may itself be the subject of a Council ruling.
Publication of adjudications
  1. When  a complaint is upheld the Media Council will provide a short summary of the decision for the publication to publish either online and/or in print, ensuring that it is given fair prominence. Where an offending print article has been published on pages 1 to 3  the Council may direct that the summary of the Council decision is run on page 3.
  2. When an article was published on a later page, a short pointer is to run on page 3 with the full Council ruling published on the same, later page as the original story.
  3. A website or blog should publish the Council ruling in the section in which the original story ran.
  4. Magazines should publish a pointer on the first available editorial page with the full Council ruling  appearing on a later page.
  5. The decision must be published unedited and unaccompanied by editorial comment, although publications are not proscribed from commenting on the decision elsewhere. If a complaint is not upheld the publication may determine whether or not to publish the decision and where it should be published.
  6. All ruled-against electronic copy that is enduring and deemed to be inaccurate must carry a note at the top of the copy that it has been found incorrect and why. In cases where a potential harm outweighs the need to keep public record intact, the Council may require the removal of story elements or that the entire story is taken down. 
  7. If a ruled-against article has been further published on a publication’s website, or distributed to other media, the Council requires that:
    1. In the instance of a website or social media platform, the article is to be flagged as having been found to breach  Media Council Principles and a link  to the Council decision must be provided on this website.
    2. Where there has been further distribution to other news media, the Media Council will provide a short statement to be published in each publication known to have published the original item.
  8. The Council reserves the right to direct a right of reply, correction, or retraction. In egregious circumstances, with a unanimous decision, the Council may censure a publication. Such a censure must be published in the publication or website giving due prominence.
  9. All decisions will be available on the Media Council’s website and published in its relevant annual report unless the Council, on its own volition or at the request of a party, agrees to non-publication. Non-publication will be agreed to only in exceptional circumstances.
Other requirements
  1. Where the circumstances suggest that the complainant may have a legally actionable issue, the complainant will be required to provide a written undertaking not to take or continue proceedings against the publication or journalist concerned.
  2. The Council may consider a third party complaint  from a person who is not personally aggrieved. However, it reserves the right to require the complainant to first seek written consent from the individual who is the subject of the article complained of.
  3. Publications, websites and blogs must not give undue publicity to a complaint until it has been resolved or adjudicated. However, the fact a complaint has been made can be reported.
  4. Editors are to publish the Council's complaints process in each issue of the publication. This should be by way of a brief at either the foot of a news briefs or on the editorial or letters page, on the contacts page for websites and blogs or on the imprint page for magazines.

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