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Galbraith and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-114

Members

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

Complainant

  • Alastair Galbraith of Dunedin

Dated

25th November 2009

Number

2009-114

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 featured a man who had deliberately driven his car into the reception of the IRD’s Christchurch building following an employment dispute – reporter stated that “he describes himself as a paranoid and a depressive” – allegedly in breach of privacy

Findings
Standard 3 (privacy) – person’s mental health status normally considered a private fact – interviewee disclosed fact to reporter – no reasonable expectation of privacy – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  An item on One News, broadcast on TV One at 6pm on 19 August 2009, reported that a man had deliberately driven his car through three glass doors into the reception of the IRD’s offices in Christchurch. The reporter stated, “He describes himself as a paranoid and a depressive, but says he was driven to it after a three-year employment dispute with the IRD.”

Referral to the Authority

[2]   Alastair Galbraith lodged a privacy complaint with the Authority under section 8(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, alleging that the item had breached the man’s privacy. He noted that the man had admitted in an interview with the reporter “to having had occasional depression and instances of accompanying paranoia”, but considered that an objective reasonable person would have found it highly offensive that he was portrayed in the item as “a paranoid and a depressive”.

[3]   Mr Galbraith contended that the item had prejudiced the man’s trial by implying that he had a mental illness, which was untrue.

Standards

[4]   Standard 3 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice and privacy principle 1 of the Authority’s Privacy Principles are relevant to the determination of this complaint. 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.

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 Authority

[5]   TVNZ stated that in a privacy complaint, it must first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. It accepted that the man featured in the item was identifiable.

[6]   The next issue was whether the item disclosed private facts about that man. TVNZ maintained that nothing in the footage could be considered a private fact. It argued that the reporter’s statement that “he describes himself as a paranoid and a depressive” was an accurate summary of information he willingly provided on camera in an interview with One News. It said he had stated in the interview:

I take a day off Wednesdays because of mental health reasons. Basically I am a responsible and treated paranoid and depressive and you know, I see my doctor every three months and obviously not a danger to society or I wouldn’t be out on bail at the moment [after the incident at IRD].

[7]   For that reason, TVNZ considered that a reasonable person would not have found the reporting of that information to be highly offensive, and it declined to uphold the privacy complaint under Standard 3.

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]   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. As the man was shown in the item and his name was disclosed, the Authority concludes that he was identifiable.

[10]   The Authority must next consider whether the broadcast disclosed any private facts about the man. It accepts that, ordinarily, a person’s mental health status would amount to a private fact.

[11]   However, the Authority accepts TVNZ’s evidence that the man willingly discussed his mental health in his interview with the One News reporter. In these circumstances, the man could not reasonably have expected that the information he offered in the interview would remain private. The Authority therefore declines to uphold the complaint that private facts were disclosed in the item in breach of Standard 3 (privacy).

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
25 November 2009

Appendix

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

1.          Alastair Galbraith’s direct privacy complaint – 20 August 2009

2.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 October 2009