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Kelly and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2006-101

Members

  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Helen Kelly of Wellington

Dated

29th November 2006

Number

2006-101

Programme

One News

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Chair Joanne Morris declared a conflict of interest and declined to take part in the determination of this complaint.


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item about proposed Private Member’s Bill – said “a National MP’s plan to give more young people a chance of a job looks doomed to fail” – allegedly unbalanced and inaccurate

Findings
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not leave the impression that the bill was a positive thing – focused on the fact that the bill looked set to fail – appropriate range of significant perspectives presented – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – introduction did not state as a fact that the bill would give young people more jobs – only stated that this was “a National MP’s plan” – not inaccurate – 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 23 August 2006, was introduced as follows:

A National MP’s plan to give more young people a chance of a job looks doomed to fail. Wayne Mapp’s Private Member’s Bill proposed a 90-day probation for all new employees, but its success hinged on the support of the Māori Party, which will now oppose the bill.

[2]   The item included scenes from a union rally in Auckland, and showed Māori Party MP Pita Sharples announcing that there was “no way in the world” the party would support the bill. Carol Beaumont from the Council of Trade Unions expressed the unions’ view that the bill would have put thousands of workers at risk without any rights.

Complaint

[3]   Helen Kelly made a formal complaint about the item to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. She said that the introduction to the item was not fair and balanced reporting. Ms Kelly stated that the workers had been protesting because they believed the bill would remove workers’ rights, and there was no evidence that it would create jobs. In the complainant’s view, even though the item canvassed a number of issues surrounding the bill, the introduction left the impression that “effectively the bill was a good thing”.

Standards

[4]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 4 and 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard 4 Balance

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.

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVNZ disagreed with Ms Kelly’s view that the introduction to the item indicated that the bill was a “good thing”. The opening sentence, it said, had simply stated what Dr Mapp’s plan was. It added:

You can disagree with it (as you obviously do), but the fact is that from [Dr] Mapp’s viewpoint this was a plan to give more young people a chance of a job. That the unions felt differently, and that the Māori Party had turned against it, was made clear in the item.

[6]   TVNZ noted that the item had told viewers about Dr Mapp’s plan and why he favoured it, and it had shown Pita Sharples of the Māori Party announcing that the party would not support the bill. Further, it said, the item had summarised the position of the unions that the bill would give employers the right to fire employees without explanation. Additional comment had been provided by Carol Beaumont of the Council of Trade Unions.

[7]   Contending that an appropriate range of views had been presented in the item, TVNZ did not consider that Standard 4 (balance) was breached. Similarly, it found that Standard 5 (accuracy) was not contravened because the item had accurately summarised Dr Mapp’s hopes for the bill, and the unions’ reason for opposing it.

Referral to the Authority

[8]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Kelly referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She noted that nothing in the bill itself mentioned the creation of employment, and stated that she would not have complained if TVNZ had introduced the item by saying “a National MP’s Bill claimed to be intended to give more young people a chance of a job looks doomed to fail”. Ms Kelly asserted that the item’s introduction was made as a factual statement about what the bill would achieve.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[9]   In its response to the Authority, TVNZ said that it did not see any difference between what Ms Kelly would have accepted and what the item actually said. The word “plan” had implied that it was a claim made by the MP, it said, and was a lot shorter than “claimed to be intended to give…”.

[10]   TVNZ maintained that the item had not stated as a fact that the bill would give more young people a chance of a job. Rather, it had made it clear that this was the view of one MP.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[11]   In her final comment, Ms Kelly maintained that the “purpose of the bill was given as an editorial and not attributed to the MP”. She disagreed that the word “plan” was the same as a “claim”.

Authority's Determination

[12]   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.

Standard 4 (balance)

[13]   Standard 4 requires that balance be provided when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. On this occasion, One News reported that a Private Member’s Bill proposing a 90-day probation period for all new employees, which was opposed by the unions, looked set to fail without the support of the Māori Party. The Authority considers this to be an issue to which Standard 4 applies.

[14]   Ms Kelly accepted that the item covered a number of issues surrounding the bill. However, she argued that the introduction to the item left the overriding impression that the bill was a “good thing”. In the Authority’s view, the introduction did not leave any particular impression about the merits or otherwise of the bill; it simply reported that it was Wayne Mapp’s plan that the bill would create job opportunities. Even if the introduction to the item had created the impression that the bill was "a good thing", as alleged by the complainant, the Authority considers that the item as a whole would have dispelled that impression, given the range of views presented in the item.

[15]   Further, the Authority notes that the item was not intended to be an investigation into the pros and cons of the bill. Instead, it focused on the fact that the bill looked set to fail because the Māori Party had withdrawn its support, and it presented the views of Dr Mapp, Pita Sharples, and the Council of Trade Union Workers’ representative. In this respect, the Authority considers that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to present an appropriate range of views on the controversial issue. It does not uphold the balance complaint.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[16]   Ms Kelly has complained that the item’s introduction made a factual statement about what the bill would achieve. The Authority disagrees. In the Authority’s view, the item’s introduction did not state as a fact that the bill would give young people more job prospects. Rather, it stated that this was “a National MP’s plan”. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the accuracy complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Tapu Misa
Member
29 November 2006

Appendix

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

1      Helen Kelly’s formal complaint – 23 August 2006
2     TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 13 September 2006
3     Ms Kelly’s referral to the Authority – 26 September 2006
4     TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 12 October 2006
5     Ms Kelly’s final comment – 26 October 2006