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McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-033

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Leigh Pearson

Complainant

  • Donald McDonald of Wellington

Dated

13th May 2010

Number

2010-033

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 – presenter said there was a “wind chill factor well below zero in several states” in America – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – complaint vexatious and trivial – decline to determine under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on One News, broadcast on TV One at 6pm on 26 December 2010, reported that “severe winter storms are still causing havoc closing airports and delaying flights across America. Snow, ice and a wind chill factor well below zero in several states, plus violent tornadoes in others, are testing the Christmas patience of thousands of travellers.”

Complaint

[2]   Donald McDonald complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the meaning of the phrase “wind chill factor well below zero” was unclear because it did not state which temperature measurement was being used, Celsius, Fahrenheit or Kelvin. He argued that the accuracy standard was breached.

Standards

[3]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 5 Accuracy

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/or
• does not mislead.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   TVNZ maintained that the presenter was using the Celsius measurement when she referred to “a wind chill factor well below zero”, though she did not explicitly refer to Celsius because that was the accepted measurement in New Zealand. It noted that “the wind chill temperature is how cold people and animals feel when outside. Wind chill is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by wind and cold.”

[5]   The broadcaster concluded that viewers would not have been misled and it declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[6]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He argued that “wind chill factor” was not correct and not the same as “wind chill temperature”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[7]   TVNZ noted that in his original complaint Mr McDonald had questioned which temperature measurement was being used in the item, and he had not specified that he objected to the use of the word “factor”. It therefore questioned whether the Authority should be able to consider that aspect of the referral. TVNZ maintained that “wind chill factor” and “wind chill temperature” were interchangeable, and that the use of the word “factor” was not a material point of fact.

Authority's Determination

[8]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[9]   The accuracy standard changed in July 2009 and now only relates to “material points of fact”. In our view, the use of the phrase “wind chill factor well below zero” was clearly not material to the overall focus of this item, and we consider that Mr McDonald’s complaint was dealt with adequately by the broadcaster.

[10]   Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 allows the Authority to decline to determine a complaint which it considers to be frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. Pursuant to this section, we decline to determine this complaint on the grounds that the point raised by Mr McDonald was trivial. We also consider that, having received a response from the broadcaster which adequately addressed his concerns, Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority was vexatious.

[11]   We note that over a number of years, Mr McDonald has repeatedly referred complaints about trivial accuracy points to the Authority.1 We acknowledge that, at the time Mr McDonald lodged this complaint, he had not yet received our decision on his previous complaint (McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2010-015). However, we reiterate our warning that if we continue to receive complaints of a similar nature, we will consider an order for costs against Mr McDonald.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
13 May 2010

Appendix

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

1.          Donald McDonald’s complaint – 26 December 2009

2.         TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 February 2010

3.         Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 2 March 2010

4.         TVNZ’s responses to the Authority – 12 and 13 April 2010


1See for example, McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-035, McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2005-012