Determine if your complaint is about advertising or promotion
It is useful to know if your concerns relate to an advertisement for alcohol or the promotion of alcohol within broadcasted TV and radio programmes.
Click on the flowchart below to help you work out the best process.
Making a complaint to the relevant Broadcaster
If you feel that a TV or Radio programme has breached the relevant BSA Code, you must FIRST make a formal complaint in writing to the Broadcasters within 20 working days after the programme was aired.
Determine if your complaint relates to the:
- Free-to-Air Television Code, please click here
- Pay Television Code, please click here
- Radio Code, please click here
You can find the list of Broadcasters here.
The BSA provides very clear and informative guidance on how to make a complaint to them. For more details about the complaint process, please click here.
Standard 7 applies directly to alcohol promotion, sponsorship, and advocacy. For more information read the commentary provided by the BSA. There may be other standards in the Codes which are also worth considering in your complaint.
Use the template below to help with writing your complaint.
Write your complaint. Use the template above and/or the blank complaint form below to help you. Be sure your complaint is sent to the correct broadcaster - not the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
When writing a formal letter, it is important for you to mark the correspondence: FORMAL COMPLAINT
Allow enough time for your complaint to reach its destination within the 20-working day deadline if you are posting it. Each broadcaster may have an online form through which you can submit a complaint.
The Broadcaster will make a decision on your complaint
Once the broadcaster has received your formal complaint, they must make a decision within 20 working days (or 40 working days if extension is required). The broadcaster may uphold or reject your complaint, but they are not obligated to make their decision public or follow a particular course of action.
If you are not happy with the Broadcaster's decision
If you are not satisfied with the decision, you can then refer your formal complaint to the BSA within 20 working days of the broadcaster’s decision (or within 60 working days of the broadcast if you have not received a decision).
The BSA will then decide if the programme breached the standards. A written decision will be sent to you and if you are not happy with the BSA decision, you may appeal the BSA decision to the High Court within one month after you were notified of the decision. All decisions are posted online.
Broadcasting Standards Authority Codes for television and radio
The main control for the promotion of alcohol within television and radio programmes is the Broadcasting Standards Authority Code.
Under the Broadcasting Act 1989, all broadcasted programmes are required to adhere to standards or guidelines. This includes all programmes which have been screened or played in New Zealand on television or radio. There are no controls on programmes broadcast from outside of New Zealand.
Programmes are different to advertisements. Complaints about advertisements are to be directed to the Advertising Standards Authority.
There are 3 Codes of Practice
There are three Codes of practice for programmes in New Zealand. They are:
- Free-to-Air Television Code, please click here,
- Pay Television Code, please click here, and
- Radio Code, please click here. These are developed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), which is the group charged to oversee broadcasting standards.
Standard 7 of each Code relates to alcohol
Standard 7 in each of the Codes specifies the guidelines for the promotion of alcohol within any programme. Some of the guidelines in Standard 7 are:
- Alcohol promotion should be socially responsible and must not encourage consumption by people who are under the legal age to purchase alcohol.
- Alcohol promotion must not occur in programmes specifically directed at children.
- Alcohol promotion must not dominate a broadcast.
- Programmes must avoid advocacy of excessive alcohol consumption.
- Sponsorship must be confined to the brand, name or logo, and exclude sales messages.
Making a complaint
If any person feels that a programme has breached the broadcasting standards, they must first make a complaint to the TV or radio company. This must be done within 20 working days of the programme being screened.
If any person is unsatisfied with the result of the decision from the broadcasting company, then they can also lodge a formal complaint to the BSA.
All decisions from the BSA are sent to the media, subscribers and uploaded on to the BSA website.
There are many types of penalties if the BSA finds that a breach has occurred. Click here to read more.
Click here to take action on the promotion of alcohol within TV and radio programmes screened in New Zealand.
Drinking is often portrayed in TV programmes, in songs and in music videos.
Research shows that young people can be harmed when exposed to alcohol being promoted in these popular media.
The placement of alcohol advertising alongside TV programmes that portray alcohol or drinking may be particularly harmful.
Alcohol portrayed in TV programmes and movies
Many young people and adults are exposed to the promotion of alcohol in TV and radio shows.
Adolescents exposed to drinking portrayed in movies, soap operas and music videos have been found to be more likely to take up drinking and drink more heavily.
- One study found that, in a sample of 534 contemporary movies, 52% contained specific brands of alcohol.
- When the content of the drama series 'The OC' was analysed, more than half of all drinking acts involved female characters, and that in one-third of the drinking instances adolescent characters were involved.
It is believed that harm can be created when adolescents positively identify with the media characters - when they believe they are similar to the character and wish to be like them [cited in this study].
In addition, it is thought that advertising, together with alcohol portrayals in programming, may be especially dangerous. Product placements by media characters may have more impact than traditional forms of advertising. This strategy of embedding advertisements in a movie context with appealing actors may be more powerful as viewers are not consciously processing the intentions of the message.
Alcohol portrayed in songs and music videos
Music videos and songs are popular among young people, but present many risks in terms of alcohol exposure.
A study in the United States found that 23% of 700+ popular songs (between 2009 and 2011) included lyrics that mentioned alcohol and 6% (46 songs) mentioned an alcohol brand. Songs classified as 'Urban' had the highest mentions (38%) of alcohol and alcohol brands, followed by Country music (22%).
The authors of the study noted that only a select few brands were heavily mentioned in song lyrics. When these brands were mentioned in song lyrics, the context was often positive and there was no depiction of the negative consequences of alcohol use. Rather, music portrayed the following images of alcohol use:
- heavy alcohol use leading to sex or enticing women to have sex;
- encouragement of intoxication;
- encouragement of underage drinking.
Many young people may watch hours of music videos. A recent study of the impact of music videos found that connectedness to music videos, and not overall amount of viewing, was the main factor which influenced positive beliefs of consuming alcohol among adolescents. The authors warned that whilst interventions that warn youths about the presence of substances in music videos may minimise their influence, young people who are highly connected with the music video content may be especially resistant to warnings.
Alcohol use may also be linked to portrayals of violence in music videos. In a New Zealand study, over a third of music videos (39% of 861 videos) portrayed at least one violence-related theme. Violence portrayal was significantly more common in videos that also portrayed alcohol use.
Alcohol and marketing companies have developed their own Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol. The Code contains a set of guidelines for all alcohol advertisements in NZ. From April 2021, new alcohol advertisements will be expected to adhere to the new Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code, which will apply to all alcohol advertisements from July 2021.
There is also a law around irresponsible promotion of alcohol. This relates to the promotion of excessive drinking as well as advertising/promotions that appeal to minors. Click below to read more.
Make a complaint about alcohol advertising
You have two options in relation to a complaint:
- Make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority under the Code for Alcohol Advertising and Promotion or the Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code (for new advertisements from April 2021, all advertisements from July 2021).
- Make a complaint to the Police about a breach of Section 237 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. It is likely that you will need a high standard of evidence to make a complaint to section 237. But don't let that deter you.
Make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority
Please note that anonymous complaints are not accepted: your name must be included.
Follow the complaints process outlined on the ASA website, please click here - ASA - HOW TO MAKE A COMPLAINT
If the advertisement is outdoors, take a photo of it.
Here are some tools to help you. The first is an example of complaint letter to the ASA under the Code for Alcohol Advertising and Promotion (expires end of June 2021), the second is a template of a letter to get your started.
Here are some tools to help you. The first is an example of complaint letter to the ASA under the Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code (in effect for new advertisements from April 2021, all advertisements from July 2021), the second is a template of a letter to get your started.
Keep a log of alcohol advertising complaints
It may be useful to keep a log of complaints, especially if they are in your local community.
And here is an incident log of alcohol advertising on social and digital media like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc.
If your complaint is about TV programming
If you are concerned about the promotion of alcohol within television programmes (not advertisements), complaints can be made to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. Click here to read the section about the BSA on our website.
If you want to take action on alcohol sponsorship in your community settings (clubs, etc.)
Many parents are concerned about their children being exposed to alcohol sponsorship in sporting settings. Many events that children attend may also be sponsored by alcohol companies.
To take action on sponsorship in sports, clubs, or public events (e.g. sporting matches, music, fashion festivals, arts and cultural events), click here.