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Baines and The Radio Network Ltd - 2006-094

Members

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

Complainant

  • Kirsty Baines of Christchurch

Dated

27th November 2006

Number

2006-094

Channel/Station

Newstalk ZB

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Newstalk ZB Christchurch – news item interviewed and named mother of child who kicked Christchurch Mayor’s shin – allegedly breached privacy of mother and child

Findings
Principle 3 (privacy) and privacy principle 1 – in view of publicity previously given to event and publication of the names of the complainant and her son, no private facts disclosed – not upheld

Principle 3 (privacy) and privacy principle 4 – in view of previous publicity, disclosure of name not offensive – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] Two news items broadcast on Newstalk ZB in Christchurch on the morning of 10 August 2006 reported that the Mayor of Christchurch had met with a group of mothers who, with their children, were protesting at plans to close a suburban swimming pool.  The items noted that a three-and-a-half-year-old boy had kicked the mayor in the shin at the meeting and that, according to a local newspaper, the Mayor had sworn at the child.  However, the items said, that had been denied by both the Mayor and the mother.  The mother’s name was used in the items, which included brief comments from both the Mayor and the mother. 

Complaint

[2] Kirsty Baines complained directly to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, under s.8(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, that the news items, by including her full name, breached her privacy and that of her son.  She also complained that it breached the privacy of her husband’s uncle who had the same initials as her and was in the telephone book.  He had been subjected to a number of phone calls, one of which he had described as “a real nutcase”.

[3] Ms Baines said that she had been contacted by the broadcaster to give her account of the kicking incident.  She believed that she and her son would be referred to by their first names only, and that had occurred during the interview.  However, without her permission, subsequent news items which had used material from the interview had used her full name.  She sought an apology.

Principle

[4] The complaint was referred to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster of Newstalk ZB, which assessed it under Principle 3 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.  It provides:

Principle 3

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Guideline 3a   

Broadcasters shall apply the privacy principles developed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Privacy principles

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.

4.  The protection of privacy includes the protection against the disclosure by the broadcaster, without consent, of the name and/or address and/or telephone number of an identifiable individual, in circumstances where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[5] TRN contended that the shin-kicking incident had received wide publicity.  It had been the front page story in the Christchurch Mail (delivered free to all homes in Christchurch) on 9 August 2006.  TRN provided the Authority with a copy of the story and pointed out that the Christchurch Mail had named the child and reported that the Mayor had responded angrily at the time.  Ms Baines, TRN continued, had been invited by Newstalk ZB on 10 August to discuss the incident.

[6] TRN acknowledged that Ms Baines’ full name had not been used during the interview although by that time it was widely known in Christchurch due to the Christchurch Mail story.  However, it added, she had not requested that her name not be used.  TRN acknowledged that the complainant had been named in two news items, but added and her son had not been named in those items.

[7] TRN argued that the broadcast had not involved a breach of privacy for the following reasons: 

  • the child had not been named in the broadcast
  • he had been named and photographed in the article in the Christchurch Mail
  • he was unlikely to be placed in a vulnerable position as, at three and a half years, was not yet of school age.

Complainant's Final Comment

[8] Ms Baines noted that she had not been interviewed on radio before and there had been no discussion about the use of names.  She had assumed that her surname would not be used.  She added that had been the practice during the interview when she and her son had been referred to only by their first names.

[9] Ms Baines argued strongly for her right to be an advocate for her child.  The breach of privacy, involved in the broadcasts, she said, meant that her family “were put at risk of negative harassment from the public”.

Further Correspondence

[10] In response, TRN pointed out that Ms Baines had made no request for name suppression at the time of the interview and argued that it was reasonable for anyone going on air to expect that their name would be used.  Her son’s name, it noted, had not been broadcast.  Further, it observed that Ms Baines was at the forefront of the pressure group protesting against the pool closure and, in that role, had received publicity elsewhere.

Authority's Determination

[11] The members of the Authority have read a transcript of the broadcast complained about and have listened to audio of the complainant and the Mayor included in the item.  That material was supplied by the broadcaster.  The members have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[12] Privacy principles 1 and 4 are potentially relevant to this complaint.  Privacy principle 1 protects against the offensive disclosure of private facts.  In the present case, due to the print media coverage of the exchange between the child and the Mayor, the facts disclosed by the broadcast were already in the public domain.  Accordingly, the Authority concludes that the broadcast did not disclose any private facts, and declines to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached privacy principle 1.

[13] Privacy principle 4 protects against the offensive disclosure of an individual’s name, address or telephone number.  Again because of the print media publicity already given to the complainant and her son, including the use of their names, the Authority concludes that the disclosure of Ms Baines’ name in the item was not offensive, and did not breach her or her son’s privacy.

[14] In any event, the Authority records its view that, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, a person who agrees to be interviewed on radio consents by implication to their name being broadcast.  

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
27 November 2006

Appendix

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

1    Kirsty Baines complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 28 August 2006

2    The Radio Network Ltd’s response to the Authority – 26 September 2006

3    Ms Baines’ final comment – 9 October 2006

4    TRN’s response - 12 October 2006