Federated Farmers New Zealand and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-165

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Federated Farmers New Zealand of Wellington

Dated

1st May 2012

Number

2011-165

Programme

One News

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

 


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item about dispute between two local councils in Manawatu region – stated that “Horizons Regional Council is taking Palmerston City Council to Court because it says the city is polluting the Manawatu River with sewage” – out-of-focus image of cattle grazing was displayed during the introduction to the item – allegedly in breach of accuracy and discrimination and denigration standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – image of cattle was blurry and difficult to discern – was used as visual wallpaper for introduction to item relating to pollution in rivers – image was not related to the item, but the item made it clear the focus was on pollution from sewage so viewers would not have been misled – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – farmers are not a section of the community to which the standard applies – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]  An item on One News, broadcast on TV One on 11 October 2011, reported on a dispute between two local councils in the Manawatu region. The One News presenter introduced the item as follows:

There’s a major scrap between two local councils in the Manawatu. Horizons Regional Council is taking Palmerston City Council to Court because it says the city is polluting the Manawatu River with sewage.

[2]  While the presenter was saying this, a 12-second out-of-focus image of cows grazing in a field adjacent to a river was displayed behind the presenter.

[3]  David Broome made a formal complaint on behalf of Federated Farmers New Zealand (Federated Farmers), to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the background image of dairy cattle was “completely at odds with the script and was completely inaccurate in relation to the story being broadcast”. The complainant also considered that the image denigrated and discriminated against dairy farmers because “it implies that farmers have some degree of culpability in Palmerston North City Council’s alleged breaches of its consent conditions”.

[4]  The issue is whether the item, and specifically the image of cattle during the introduction, breached Standards 5 (accuracy) and 7 (discrimination and denigration) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the broadcast, and in particular the image of cattle, inaccurate or misleading?

[6]  Standard 5 states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[7]  The use of an image does not amount to a “material point of fact”, so the question is whether or not the image used in the introduction was misleading.

[8]  The cattle were part of visual wallpaper used as a backdrop for the introduction to the story. The image consisted predominantly of someone’s hand holding test tubes of dirty water. The cattle image appeared behind the newsreader, was out of focus, and in our view difficult to discern. Accompanying the image was the newsreader’s introduction, which explicitly referred to pollution from sewage. In addition, the item itself made it clear that the story related to pollution of the Manawatu river from sewage. Apart from the image used in the introduction, there was no reference at all to cattle or dairy farmers, either verbal or visual.

[9]  While we acknowledge that the cattle were unrelated to the story, we do not consider that viewers would have been misled, particularly given the focus of the item on sewage. Upholding this complaint would unreasonably and unjustifiably restrict the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

[10]  We therefore decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Did the item encourage discrimination or denigration?

[11]  Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

[12]  The complainant considered that the use of the cattle image denigrated and discriminated against dairy farmers. Dairy farmers are not a section of the community as envisaged by Standard 7. In any case, for the reasons outlined in our consideration of accuracy, we are satisfied that nothing in the item amounted to encouraging the denigration of, or discrimination against, dairy farmers. We therefore decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 May 2012

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1                 Federated Farmers New Zealand’s formal complaint – 15 October 2011

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 14 November 2011

3                 Federated Farmers’ referral to the Authority – 6 December 2011

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 16 February 2012

5                 Federated Farmers’ final comment – 23 February 2012

6                 TVNZ’s final comment – 6 March 2012

7                 Further comments from Federated Farmers – 8 March 2012


1 See, for example, Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036.