Case Number: 3437

Council Meeting: 25 September 2023

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters

Ruling Categories: Bias
General Elections

Newshub published an item on August 8, 2023, headlined Amelia Wade campaign report: Christopher Luxon is looking and feeling like a Prime Minister. This was a write-up of several Newshub Live at 6pm broadcasts that aired in the previous week by its senior political reporter who had been following Mr Luxon on the campaign trail.

Ted Greensmith-West complained that this was a partisan pro-National opinion piece and was not clearly labelled as such. “It is basically a hype piece for the National Party which breaches the standards expected of journalist to be both neutral and balanced.”

He said the article’s reference to Mr Luxon’s comment that farmers had been treated like villains over the past six years, failed to balance this opinion by noting that farmers made significant contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

A comment that Mr Luxon radiated energy was clearly sycophantic. While the piece paid lip service to some form of balance it was clear that overall it was a pro-National piece aimed at celebrating Mr Luxon and promoting him as future the Prime Minister  before the election had been held.

Newshub responded that the Broadcasting Standards Authority had previously recognised that viewers reasonably expected to receive commentary and analysis from political reporters. The reporter’s analysis was typical of political opinion pieces routinely featured in most media throughout an election campaign.

It added that the reporter’s commentary was clearly identified as such and was headlined as analysis, which meant readers would expect it to contain commentary and analysis. The article focussed on Mr Luxon’s leadership style and his transition from an Opposition mindset through the week of campaigning.

Newshub also believed readers could reasonably be expected to be aware of other perspectives beyond those contained in one article and that balance ought to be judged on a number of stories, rather than a single report, as every side of the many issues in an election campaign could not reasonably be reported or repeated on every occasion.

The Media Council notes this article was political commentary and clearly marked as such. Political reporters routinely comment on the performance of politicians, just as sports reporters routinely comment on games, teams and players. To say that somebody performed badly or well doesn’t mean the reporter is biased or partisan – it could be a fair call or a matter of judgement which people may disagree with.

Even though the article may have been kind to Mr Luxon it contained criticisms of his policies. The article is one of many stories that look at the general election and the performance of party leaders so that readers are offered a wide range of perspectives and opinions.  

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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