Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item reporting that Michael Jackson’s appearance at the World Music Awards had disappointed both critics and fans – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair
Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – item did not include material which breached good taste and decency norms – not upheld
Standard 4 (balance) – not a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld
Standard 5 (accuracy) – no inaccuracies – not upheld
Standard 6 (fairness) – not unfair to Michael Jackson – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 Michael Jackson’s appearance at the World Music Awards in London was covered in an item broadcast on One News on TV One on 17 November 2006 beginning at 6.00pm. The item reported that both the critics and the fans were disappointed at his performance.
 Richard Parsons complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was biased and belittled Michael Jackson. It was inaccurate, he continued, as it included “doctored” material and because it insinuated that the appearance was a disaster which did not “bode well” for Michael Jackson’s career.
 Mr Parsons considered Michael Jackson to be one of the “best entertainers on earth”, who did not smoke, take drugs, or drink excessively. He regarded him as a role model, but the item had been “critical, snide and covertly hostile”. He contended that the item did not comply with the current norms of good taste and decency, and that it was unbalanced as it did not include Michael Jackson’s viewpoints. Moreover, it was inaccurate and unfair.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint against the nominated standards in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Guideline 1a Broadcasters must take into consideration current norms of decency and taste in language and behaviour bearing in mind the context in which any language or behaviour occurs. Examples of context are the time of the broadcast, the type of programme, the target audience, the use of warnings and the programme’s classification (see Appendix 1). The examples are not exhaustive.
In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
Guideline 4a Programmes which deal with political matters, current affairs, and questions of a controversial nature, must show balance and impartiality.
 News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.
 In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.
 TVNZ explained that the role of news journalism was not to be “the architect of public opinion”, as the complainant had suggested, but to reflect the truth of events which happened. The item complained about, it wrote, had been “a straightforward report about a famous entertainer who had been roundly criticised” following an appearance at the World Music Awards.
 TVNZ said the item had not breached the standards. The accurate report, it continued, would not have caused widespread offence and the balance standard was not applicable as the item did not deal with a controversial issue of public importance. Further, it had not been unfair to report accurately what happened.
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Parsons referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. Describing TVNZ’s response as “covertly hostile” and inadequate in that it did not address his full complaint, Mr Parsons maintained that the item did not contain the material to justify TVNZ’s conclusions.
 TVNZ said that it was well documented that Michael Jackson had disappointed his fans at the World Music Awards. It referred to the reports from the London newspapers contained in the item, and noted that the celebrities.netscape.com website had reported that Michael Jackson had been booed at the awards.
 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.
 The Authority agrees with TVNZ that the item did not contain any material which threatened Standard 1 (good taste and decency). Further, as it did not deal with a controversial issue of public importance, Standard 4 (balance) does not apply. These complaints are not upheld.
 In his Standard 5 complaint, Mr Parsons alleged that the item was doctored. The Authority notes that there is no evidence to support this assertion, and the complaint is not upheld.
 Turning to fairness, the Authority notes that the item was simply a factual report of Michael Jackson’s recent performance and of the fact that he had received criticism. It sees no basis on which to conclude that the report was unfair.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
23 March 2007
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Richard A Parsons’ formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 21 November 2006
2 Mr Parsons’ further letter of complaint – 3 December 2006
3 TVNZ’s response to Mr Parsons – 3 January 2007
4 Mr Parsons’ referral to the Authority – received 19 January 2007
5 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 25 January 2007