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Bladen and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-087

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa

Complainant

  • Mark Bladen of Auckland

Dated

17th September 2009

Number

2009-087

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Breakfast
– host read out an email from the complainant – pronounced complainant’s last name incorrectly – host made comments responding to the complainant’s email – allegedly in breach of privacy

Findings
Standard 3 (privacy) – complainant not identifiable – people who provide feedback cannot expect anonymity – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   During a Breakfast segment called “On This Day”, broadcast on TV One at 6.45am on 24 June 2009, the host referred to the “Jakarta incident” saying:

On this day in 1982, a British Airways Boeing 747 en route from London to Auckland lost power in all four engines when it flew into volcanic ash off Indonesia. The pilots managed incredibly to glide the plane through the cloud of ash before restarting the engines and landing safely.

[2]   During the viewer feedback segment, the host referred to an email the programme had just received stating that the ash cloud incident had occurred over the Philippines and not Indonesia. The host said the following:

We’ve had some nasty feedback from Mark Balden. Mark you regularly write in and tell me what an arse I am and say “get your facts right” and things like that, and I won’t go through your entire diatribe here because it’s completely wrong as you almost invariably are. Try and be, I don’t know, try and be happier or something or stick your head in a concrete bucket and jump into the water behind me, because quite frankly I don’t want to hear from you again!

Complaint

[3]   Mark Bladen made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the host had breached his privacy by reading out his name on air.

[4]   The complainant stated that he had taken a “very strong exception” to the host’s response to his email and that he expected an apology, because he was correct in what he had said. He contended that the host had revealed his full name and that his name was “not included” in the email.

Standards

[5]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 3 and guideline 3a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice and privacy principle 1 of the Authority’s Privacy Principles. They provide:

Standard 3 Privacy

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Guideline 3a

Broadcasters must comply with the privacy principles developed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (Appendix 2).

Privacy principle 1

It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6]   TVNZ stated that when it considered an alleged breach of privacy, it had to first determine whether the person whose privacy had allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. It argued that the complainant had not been identified in the item, because the host had mispronounced the complainant’s last name, incorrectly referring to him as Mark Balden, as opposed to Bladen.

[7]   The broadcaster stated that, even if the complainant had been identified, the hosts had not disclosed any private facts about him which an objective reasonable person would find highly offensive. It stated that the hosts routinely commented on the email feedback they received and noted that Mr Bladen had included his name in the email.

[8]   TVNZ contended that, because Mr Bladen had voluntarily supplied the information and his name in the email, it would not be highly offensive to a reasonable person to disclose who had provided it. It argued that people who emailed feedback understood that their name could possibly be read out with their correspondence.

[9]   The broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint that the programme breached Standard 3.

Referral to the Authority

[10]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Bladen referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Authority's Determination

[11]  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.

[12]   When the Authority considers a privacy complaint, it must first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. On this occasion, the Authority agrees with the broadcaster that, because the host incorrectly said “Balden” instead of Bladen, the complainant was not identifiable in the item.

[13]   For the record, however, the Authority notes that the complainant’s email address contained his first and last names. The Authority has stated previously (see Malone and The Radio Network Ltd1) that a person who emails a broadcaster does not have a reasonable expectation of anonymity, as they are engaging in a “public forum”. Further, it considers that the reasonable person who participates in viewer feedback segments does not expect any part of those communications to remain private.

[14]   Therefore, even if the host had pronounced the complainant’s last name correctly thereby identifying him, the disclosure would not have amounted to a breach of Standard 3. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the privacy complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
17 September 2009

Appendix

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

1.             Mark Bladen’s formal complaint – 24 June 2009

2.            TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 20 July 2009

3.            Mr Bladen’s referral to the Authority – 20 July 2009

4.            TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 31 July 2009


1Decision No. 2006-034