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Hepworth and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2003-126

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Margo Hepworth of Mana 

Dated

20th November 2003

Number

2003-126

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Location, Location, Location – property sale – gratuitous exposure of the vendors’ relationship – allegedly insensitive and unfair

Findings
Standard 6 – argument pivotal to transaction– no adverse reflection on complainant – not unfair – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1]  An episode in the series Location, Location, Location was broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on Monday 7 July 2003.  One part of the programme featured Mr and Mrs Hepworth attempting to sell their home.   

[2]  Mrs Hepworth complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme was unfair to her by including an argument between her and her husband that was incidental to the programme.   

[3]  TVNZ maintained that it could not identify any aspect of the programme where the complainant had been treated unfairly.  Accordingly, it declined to uphold the complaint. 

[4]  Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mrs Hepworth referred her complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. 

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint. 

Decision 

[5]  The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing. 

The Programme 

[6]  Location, Location, Location is a series which follows vendors, purchasers and agents through the process of buying and selling properties.  On 7 July 2003 at 7.30pm on TV One, the programme featured Mr and Mrs Hepworth as they attempted to sell their home near Wellington.

The Complaint

[7]  Mrs Hepworth expressed her distress at seeing the broadcast of an argument she and her husband had had during the negotiation of the sale price on their house.  She described herself as being portrayed as a “foul mouthed, mean person”.

[8]  Mrs Hepworth also referred to other matters relating to the exposure she and her husband received by allowing their home to be marketed on the programme.  One related to an anticipated price for the property and another related to the appointment of the real estate agent.   

The Standards

[9]  TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice as nominated by the complainant.  The Standard reads: 

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. 

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant 

[10]  TVNZ noted that Mrs Hepworth, although initially reluctant to appear on the programme, gave no indication once filming commenced that she wanted the camera crew to stop recording.     

[11]  TVNZ contended that the broadcast of the argument between the complainant and her husband was a true recording of the events that took place during the negotiation of the house price.  The comments were properly placed in context and the broadcaster maintained that the argument occurred “in the full knowledge that the camera was present and recording”.

[12]  TVNZ concluded by denying the allegations made by the complainant in association with the house price.  It similarly denied being associated with the choice and/or change in the appointment of an agent.  TVNZ wrote: 

... the programme’s director, Howard Taylor, denies telling you that appearing on Location, Location, Location would result in a higher house price or fewer expenses.

… On another of the points in your letter, the [complaints] committee learnt that the change in agents (the introduction of Mr Davidson) was a decision made by L J Hooker, and was not instigated by the production team.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[13]   Mrs Hepworth contended that her comments during the programme confirmed the price she wanted, and indeed expected, from the sale of her home.  She explained the confusion she felt over the appointment of the agent and described the “umbrage” she took at TVNZ’s response to her complaint.

[14]   Mrs Hepworth reiterated that she felt she had been treated unfairly and, specifically, referred to the broadcast of a derogatory remark made by her husband after she had left the room.  She argued that, contrary to TVNZ’s submission, she was clearly unaware that the camera was present and recording his reaction.  

The Complainants’ Final Comment

[15]   The complainant noted that Guideline 6e of Standard 6 requires broadcasters to “… take particular care when dealing with distressing situations …”.  In the complainant’s view, losing her home was a distressing situation.  She also referred to Guideline 6g of Standard 6 and maintained that she was humiliated, denigrated and discriminated against by the programme makers.         

The Authority’s Determination

[16]   Location, Location, Location is a television series which looks at the sale and purchase of real estate in New Zealand.  The sale of the Hepworths’home was filmed against the background of their deteriorating relationship and their differing financial expectations.  The Authority observes that by the time filming of the complainant’s house sale commenced, the complainant had agreed to the process being televised.  The segment complained about included an argument between Mr and Mrs Hepworth and Mr Hepworth’s subsequent comment and conduct, after Mrs Hepworth had left the room. 

[17]   In the Authority’s view, the inclusion of the argument was warranted because the couple’s unhappy situation was pivotal to the transaction being discussed.  The Authority considers that Mr Hepworth’s subsequent comment, although incidental to the programme, was mainly an expression of his frustration which would not have influenced viewers’ own assessments of the complainant’s character.  These assessments were able to be formed from the programme’s inclusion of a number of discussions, interviews and events directly involving the complainant and from which the unfortunate and unsatisfactory nature of her situation was apparent.

[18]   The Authority understands the stressful nature of the complainant’s personal situation at the time the programme was filmed.  While it is of the view that the inclusion of Mr Hepworth’s comments after Mrs Hepworth had left the room bordered on exploitative, it did not consider its inclusion unfair to Mrs Hepworth in the context of the programme as a whole.  Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint. 

[19]   The Authority notes that in her final comment Mrs Hepworth raised the possibility that the broadcast breached Guideline 6e of Guideline 6 which requires broadcasters to take particular care when dealing with distressing situations.  As this Guideline was raised for the first time by the complainant in her final comment, the Authority is unable to determine that aspect.  However, it notes that Guideline 6e is concerned with situations involving death and similar matters and is therefore not applicable to the situation dealt with in this programme.   

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
20 November 2003

Appendix

 

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

1.       Mrs Hepworth’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 16 July 2003
2       TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 14 August 2003
3.      Mrs Hepworth’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 1 September 2003 
4.      TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 5 September 2003
5.      Mrs Hepworth’s Final Comment – 15 September 2003