Code of Standards

Online News and Current Affairs Content

Download a PDF version of the Code of Standards


This Code has been prepared by TVNZ; MediaWorks (Radio, TV & Online); Sky Television; Māori Television; Radio New Zealand and The Radio Network (together “OMSA Members”).

The objective of the Code is to set out agreed standards for the publication of news and current affairs content published on the websites of OMSA members.

Freedom of speech and social responsibility underpin this Code the application of which operates within the principles of Natural Justice.

The Code operates in an online context – its application will always take account of the nature of the internet, which provides a forum for free speech, robust debate, multiplicity of views and user control. News and current affairs reporting is not specifically directed at children.


Child – under the age of sixteen (16) years

Context – includes but is not limited to where and when the content is published; the subject matter (including other coverage of the subject matter); the likely audience; the online nature of the publication; any accompanying warnings or age restriction; the extent and period of public interest in the issue

Public Interest – something that is of legitimate concern to the public of New Zealand


Standard 1 Accuracy

Publishers should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news and current affairs content is accurate and/or does not mislead in relation to all material points of fact.


1a. Comment or opinion (to which this standard does not apply) must be clearly distinguished from factual content.

1b. If the content is edited publishers should take care to ensure that the extracts and abridgments used are not a distortion of the original event or the overall views expressed.

Standard 2 Balance on Controversial Issues

Taking account of the Context in which the content is published publishers should make reasonable efforts to ensure that where the content deals with controversial issues of public importance it makes due reference to a reasonable range of significant viewpoints on the issue.


2a. In determining whether there has been due reference to a reasonable range of significant viewpoints the publisher will consider:

  • the opportunities provided for those with significant viewpoints to contribute to the content;
  • whether the issue or topic is clearly presented from a particular perspective


Complaints under Part B may only be brought by the person or organisation taking part or referred to in the publication, or their representative/caregiver.

Standard 3 Fairness

Publishers should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in online news and current affairs publications.


3a. A consideration of what is fair will depend upon the Context and the Public Interest and will recognise the right of individuals to express their opinion.

3b. Except as justified in the Public Interest:

  • Contributors and participants should be informed of the nature of their participation in the material to be published;
  • Publishers should not obtain information or gather pictures through misrepresentation or deception.

3c. Individuals and particularly children and young people, taking part or referred to in the content, should not be exploited, humiliated or unfairly identified.

3d. Where the content deals with distressing circumstances (e.g. grief and bereavement) discretion and sensitivity are expected taking account of the Public Interest and the interests of those affected by the content.

Standard 4 Privacy

Publishers of news and current affairs content should respect an individual’s right to privacy and refrain from publishing content that is a breach of that right.

It is a defence to a privacy complaint if:

4a. Publication is in the Public Interest.

4b. Consent has been given to publication. Consent on behalf of a vulnerable person or Child may be given by a guardian or parent.

4c. Where publication involves the privacy interests of a Child or a vulnerable person (even where consent is given on behalf of the Child or that vulnerable person) publishers must exercise particular care and discretion.


Standard 5 Responsible content

Publishers should ensure news and current affairs content:

  • is responsible;
  • is not presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue distress; and
  • does not deceive.


5a. Criminal activity should not be glamorised or condoned. Caution should be exercised in publishing content which explains the techniques of crime in a manner which encourages imitation or shows ingenious devices or unfamiliar methods for inflicting pain, injury or death.

5b. Content should not glamorise suicide and should not give detailed descriptions about methods of suicide.

5c. Advertisements and infomercials should be clearly distinguished from news and current affairs content.

5d. Where sponsorship, gift or financial inducement is received for content published it should be declared.

5e. Violent content must be relevant and should be justified in the Public Interest and by the Context.

5f. Warnings and/or age restrictions should be used where appropriate to the Context.

Standard 6 Discrimination and Denigration

Publishers of news and current affairs content should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the New Zealand community on account of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.


6a. This standard is not intended to prevent the publication of material that is:

  • factual, or
  • the expression of genuinely held opinion, or
  • the reporting of legitimate humour, drama or satire.


Where a complaint has been upheld, publishers will publish OMSA’s decision, or a fair summary of it, on its website with similar prominence to the original publication. All OMSA decisions will be published on its website.

Complainants should identify any other remedy sought in the event their complaint is upheld. OSMA remedy principles are:

  1. Errors should be acknowledged and promptly corrected by amending or removing the relevant content.
  2. Corrections should be clearly labelled, dated and given appropriate prominence having regard to the original publication.
  3. Rights of reply (which may include relevant links to other material) should be offered and published with due prominence where appropriate.
  4. Apologies should be offered and published where justified in the circumstances.


Updated: October 2014