Summary of recommendations

A single, independent news media standards authority

39We recommend that the New Zealand Press Council, the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Online Media Standards Authority be replaced with a single independent standards body with jurisdiction over all news media broadcasters, newspapers, and online providers.18
40This body would not be established by statute but it would be indirectly recognised in statutory provisions that create the various news media privileges.19 It should have a separate legal existence independent of the industry. It should preferably be an incorporated society. The new body would be independent of both the state and the media industry in both its adjudication and governance structures. There should be no government or industry involvement in appointments to the new body. We suggest this body could be called the News Media Standards Authority (NMSA).

41The NMSA would be responsible for enforcing standards across all types of news publishers, irrespective of the format or distribution channel. It would adjudicate complaints relating to news, current affairs, news commentary and content such as documentaries and factual programming which purports to provide the public with a factual account of real events involving real people.

42As is the case with New Zealand’s Advertising Standards Authority, the Press Council and OMSA, membership of the NMSA would be entirely voluntary. However, the following advantages would be available to those publishers who were willing to be subject to the accountability of this independent standards body:

43In chapter 7 we provide a detailed explanation of the proposed structure, functions and powers of this proposed new standards body. It is intended that the NMSA would be able to provide speedy and effective remedies when standards have been breached. We recommend a wider range of powers for the new standards body. They would be spelled out in membership contracts between the standards body and the media agencies, and should include:

We do not recommend, however, any monetary sanctions, either fines or compensation.

A statutory definition of “news media”

44We recommend amending the various statutes which currently confer privileges or exemptions specifically on the news media to ensure that in each instance the term “news media” is consistently defined as meaning entities which meet the following statutory criteria:

45In essence our recommendation formalises the unwritten social contract which has traditionally existed between the news media and the public they serve. It does this by cementing the connection between the rights and freedoms of the media and their corresponding responsibilities.

46This concept is not new. The Criminal Procedure Act 2011 already contains a provision which restricts certain court reporting privileges to entities which are subject to a code of ethics and which are accountable to either the Press Council or the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).24 The Press Council, a non-statutory body, therefore has a measure of statutory recognition under the current law. Our recommendation is to align all the statutes conferring privileges and exemptions specifically on the news media with this approach. We consider that formally linking the privileges of the news media with accountability to a standards body in this way is necessary to ensure a full and varied membership of the NMSA.
18See ch 7. The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) would retain jurisdiction for the time being over entertainment content, and over news and current affairs in relation to standards of good taste and decency, and the protection of children.
19See ch 7 at [7.173].
20See ch 3 at [3.101] and ch 7 at [7.107] – [7.110].
21See ch 7 at [7.79] – [7.84].
22See ch 7 at [7.115] – [7.117].
23See ch 7 at [7.111] – [7.113].
24Criminal Procedure Act 2011, s 198(2).