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Ferguson and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2006-119

Members

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

Complainant

  • Shirley Ferguson of Christchurch

Dated

22nd February 2007

Number

2006-119

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

CanWest TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – item reporting that 17-month-old girl had suffered head injuries at a Christchurch home – showed street name and number of house – allegedly in breach of privacy

Findings
Standard 3 (privacy) – complainant did not identify an individual whose privacy was allegedly breached – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on 26 October 2006, reported that a 17-month-old girl had been flown to Starship Hospital after she had suffered serious head injuries while visiting a Christchurch home. It said that police were investigating how the injuries had occurred, and whether they were accidental or intentional. The reporter referred to the name of the street where the home was located, and the street sign was shown. The item also contained an image of the house and the street number was visible on the letterbox.

Complaint

[2]   Shirley Ferguson complained directly to the Authority under s.8(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She argued that giving the address where the girl had been injured was “an invasion of privacy and of no concern to the viewing public”. Rather, she said, it was a police matter.

Standards

[3]   Standard 3 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint:

Standard 3 Privacy

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[4]   In its response to the Authority, CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, stated that the 17-month-old child was not identifiable in the item beyond those people who resided in the immediate vicinity of the property. It contended that those people would already know all of the information in the news item. Accordingly, it said that the broadcast did not breach the privacy of the child.

[5]   In a subsequent response, CanWest also maintained that the other occupants of the property were also not identifiable to anybody beyond the immediate neighbourhood who would have already known about the incident.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[6]   Ms Ferguson agreed that no person was identified in the broadcast. However, she wrote, identifying the address to viewers made it untenable for the occupants of the house to remain there without fear. Furthermore, the complainant noted that it would affect the value of the house, and she maintained that the item breached the privacy of “the occupant(s) and owner(s) of the house”.

Further Information from the Broadcaster

[7]   In response, CanWest asserted that the reporting did not identify the occupants of the house, because only those who already knew those individuals could link them to the house. Even if it did, the broadcaster wrote, there was no disclosure of private facts offensive to the reasonable person and no suggestion that the occupants had done anything wrong.

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]   Standard 3 (privacy) requires that broadcasters maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. Therefore, complaints about breaches of privacy must relate to specific, identifiable individuals.

[10]   In this case, Ms Ferguson has made a general complaint about the privacy of “the occupant(s) and owner(s) of the house”. Ms Ferguson is essentially asking the Authority to make a finding that the broadcast breached the privacy of whoever occupies and/or owns the house, without providing any information from which the Authority could identify those individuals.

In these circumstances, the prerequisites for a breach of privacy are not satisfied. The Authority therefore declines to uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
22 February 2007

Appendix

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

1             Shirley Ferguson’s formal complaint – 1 November 2006
2            CanWest’s response to the Authority – 28 November 2006
3            Further response from CanWest – 4 December 2006
4            Ms Ferguson’s final comment – 20 December 2006
5            Further information from CanWest – 9 February 2007