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Hide and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2006-059

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Rodney Hide MP of Wellington

Dated

19th September 2006

Number

2006-059

Programme

Agenda

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Agenda – discussion about the use of mobile devices in Parliament – brief interview with Act Party leader Rodney Hide – Mr Hide alleged he was treated unfairly in the preparation of the programme – said the reporter had obtained information through misrepresentation and deception – allegedly unfair

Findings
Standard 6 (fairness) – alleged unfairness in preparation of programme not reflected in what was broadcast – programme not unfair – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] An item on Agenda, broadcast on TV One at 8.30am on 8 April 2006, discussed the use of mobile devices in Parliament. It noted that Standing Orders did not allow the use of mobile devices and laptops during Question Time. The item included a brief interview with Act Party leader Rodney Hide MP in which Mr Hide stated that he used his mobile phone to send text messages in the House. The reporter asked Mr Hide whether he was in contact with journalists in the House, to which Mr Hide replied that he was not.

[2] The reporter stated that he had been told by “someone in the House” that on at least one occasion Mr Hide had received a text from a reporter and had risen to speak in the House as a consequence of that text. The following questions were asked of Mr Hide:

Reporter:    Did you receive a text that day from [journalist]?

Mr Hide:      No.

Reporter:    We’ve been told that you did receive a text.

Mr Hide:      I don’t think so, but no.

[3] The item then showed the reporter sending Mr Hide a text message on his mobile phone to confirm their interview while Mr Hide was in Parliament during Question Time. The reporter was seen receiving a text message in reply from Mr Hide.

Complaint

[4] Rodney Hide made a formal complaint about the item to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. He argued that under Standard 6 (fairness), he had not been treated justly and fairly. Mr Hide specifically referred to guidelines 6b and 6c.

[5] In the complainant’s view, the item had suggested he was in breach of Standing Orders and being influenced by strangers during Question Time. He said that the reporter had gained the information he had used by misrepresentation, because Mr Hide was unaware that the reporter was sending him a text message to make a point for the broadcast.

[6] Mr Hide explained that during their interview, the reporter had asked him about receiving a text message from a journalist during Question Time. Mr Hide said he had denied this, and the interview had been concluded. At that point, Mr Hide wrote, the reporter said “he had forgotten one thing”, and stated that he had an affidavit from someone who alleged that Mr Hide had told them that the journalist had sent him the text message.

[7] The complainant said that he had asked for a copy of this affidavit and details of its contents, but was refused.

Standards

[8] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 6 and guidelines 6b and 6c of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard 6 Fairness

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.

Guidelines

6b   Contributors and participants in any programme should be dealt with fairly and should, except as required in the public interest, be informed of the reason for their proposed contribution and participation and the role that is expected of them.

6c   Programme makers should not obtain information or gather pictures through misrepresentation or deception, except as required in the public interest when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9] TVNZ said that it felt the nub of Mr Hide’s complaint was that he “had somehow been tricked or deceived by the reporter” while he was in Parliament at Question Time. As far as guideline 6b was concerned, TVNZ contended that Mr Hide had been dealt with fairly. The reason Agenda wanted an interview with Mr Hide had been explained, it said, and the text message was “genuine in the sense that confirming an appointment is a routine procedure for a reporter”.

[10] The broadcaster also believed that guideline 6c had not been breached. The fact that Mr Hide accepted text messages could not be proven by any other means, TVNZ said.

[11] TVNZ asserted that the matter of the affidavit had little relevance. Mr Hide had acknowledged that the affidavit had not been mentioned in the item, it noted. Further, it was “a long established principle of journalism that news gathering organisations protect the identity of confidential sources”.

Referral to the Authority

[12] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Hide referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He said that he wished to narrow his complaint to one issue:

That is, that the [reporter] said when interviewing me that he had an affidavit stating that I had told someone that TV3’s [journalist] had sent a text message to me when the House was sitting.

[13] Mr Hide stated that he had good reason to believe that the reporter had no such affidavit, and had only said that he did so because he was dissatisfied with the answers Mr Hide was giving. The complainant considered the issue of “a reporter deliberately deceiving an interviewee in order to obtain a hoped-for response” to be “very serious indeed”.

[14] The complainant noted that guideline 6c applied to “the preparation” of the programme, not just what was finally broadcast. He contended that TVNZ was incorrect when it stated that the affidavit was of little relevance, because the matter was “crucial” during the preparation of the programme.

[15] Mr Hide noted that guideline 6c allowed for information to be gathered through misrepresentation only when “required in the public interest when the material cannot be obtained by other means”. He maintained that the public interest defence did not apply in this case.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[16] In its response, TVNZ stated that an affidavit did exist.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[17] Mr Hide stated that he did not accept TVNZ’s assurance that an affidavit existed. He contended that the broadcaster should make the affidavit available to him, and said that he was requesting a copy under the Privacy Act.

Further information from TVNZ

[18] The broadcaster noted that both Mr Hide and TVNZ agreed that the broadcast had not referred to the affidavit. It said that the formal complaints process only dealt with material which had been broadcast (section 6(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989).

Authority's Determination

[19] 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.

[20] The complainant referred only one aspect of his complaint to the Authority – his allegation that the affidavit referred to by the reporter does not exist, and that in questioning him about a non-existent affidavit, the reporter treated him unfairly. TVNZ continues to assert that the affidavit exists. The Authority, however, does not need to resolve this conflict.

[21] Standard 6 refers to the “preparation and presentation of programmes”. Accordingly, there may well be circumstances where the tactics used by a reporter to prepare a story will breach the requirement of fairness.

[22] The Authority’s jurisdiction, however, focuses on the programme actually broadcast. To come within the Authority’s jurisdiction, the unfair preparation complained of must be reflected in the programme broadcast; something shown in the programme must be directly connected with the alleged unfairness.

[23] In the present case, the unfairness alleged by Mr Hide – the reporter’s reference to an affidavit – was not reflected in the programme that was broadcast. Mr Hide accepts that the programme made no mention of an affidavit.

[24] For this reason, the Authority concludes that Mr Hide’s concerns do not fall within the ambit of Standard 6 (fairness).

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 September 2006

Appendix

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

  1. Rodney Hide’s formal complaint – 10 May 2006
  2. TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 13 June 2006
  3. Mr Hide’s referral to the Authority – 19 June 2006
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 20 July 2006
  5. Mr Hide’s final comment – 20 July 2006
  6. Further information from TVNZ – 1 August 2006