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Lord and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-011

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • B Hayward
  • J H McGregor

Complainant

  • Kenneth Lord of Whangaparaoa

Dated

21st February 2002

Number

2002-011

Programme

One News

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
One News item reported survey of teenagers’ attitudes – suggested amongst other things trend to drugs away from alcohol and disrespect for New Zealand Flag and Anthem – inaccurate – biased

Findings
Standard G1 – not inaccurate – no uphold

Standard G5 – no disrespect for principles of law – no uphold

Standard G6 – not unfair or unbalanced – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] The findings of a survey of teenagers were reported in an item on One News broadcast on TV One at 6.00pm on 29 October 2001. Among the findings were changes in attitudes to drugs, the National Anthem and the New Zealand Flag.

[2] Kenneth Lord complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the findings were biased and amounted to propaganda.

[3] In responding, TVNZ said that the item had reported accurately the findings of a professional survey, and declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response Mr Lord referred his 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 item 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] One News, broadcast at 6.00pm on 29 October 2001, included an item which reported the findings of a survey of teenagers carried out in Auckland and Wellington over three years. The item recorded some common attitudes said to be held among teenagers.

The Complaint

[7] Kenneth Lord complained to TVNZ about the item. He described the findings as "very biased, anti-social and pure propaganda". He reported that he had 12 grandchildren, none of whom shared the views advanced in the item.

[8] Mr Lord considered that the item was an attack on the National Anthem and the New Zealand Flag, and he objected strongly to what he saw as the promotion of drugs.

The Standards

[9] TVNZ assessed the complaint under standards G1, G5 and G6 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Those standards require broadcasters, in the preparation and presentation of programmes:

G1 To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

G5 To respect the principles of law which sustain our society.

G6 To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[10] TVNZ explained that the item provided information about the findings of "a professionally conducted survey of teenager attitudes". It noted that Mr Lord disagreed with some of the conclusions advanced, and suggested that he had confused the message with the messenger.

[11] One News, TVNZ wrote, had "accurately and impartially" reported the results of the survey, adding:

While you are perfectly at liberty to observe different behaviour among teenagers known to you, that does not alter the fact that an extensive survey was undertaken and produced the results as broadcast.

[12] TVNZ listed some of the survey findings contained in the news item, and argued that they were accurately reported. The item, it said, reported the trend among teenagers towards drugs and away from alcohol. As the item did not "advocate" the use of drugs, TVNZ considered that standard G5 had not been transgressed.

[13] Asserting that the item reported on the survey in a way which was balanced, impartial and fair, TVNZ did not accept that standard G6 was breached. It concluded:

While the [complaints] committee was sorry you found fault with this item, the committee believed that you wrongly placed the blame for the findings on One News when in fact it was simply passing on information of public interest – a prime role of a news service. If you dispute the findings of the survey, your argument is surely with the agency which carried it out and the teenagers who participated, and not with TVNZ? The committee found no breach of the Codes of Broadcasting Practice. Accordingly your complaint was not upheld.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[14] When he referred his complaint to the Authority, Mr Lord described TVNZ’s response as "peculiar", maintaining that TVNZ must be responsible for the information transmitted. He said that he and his wife, as grandparents, were disturbed by the message that "Drugs…are the thing now". He also expressed his disbelief that the views about the National Anthem and the Flag were an accurate representation of the views of teenagers.

[15] Questioning the value of the survey, as it was limited to teenagers in Auckland and Wellington, Mr Lord said he was proud of his grandchildren, and the enthusiasm with which the National Anthem was sung by young people at some sporting fixtures.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[16] TVNZ repeated its argument that the report was a legitimate news item reporting the results of a professionally conducted survey of teenagers. It wrote:

Mr Lord disagrees with the findings of the survey – but he cannot in fairness blame that on TVNZ.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[17] In his final comment, Mr Lord repeated his claim that neither the New Zealand Flag nor the New Zealand Anthem were criticised within his family or by other young adults he had contact with. The comment that young people now favoured drugs rather than alcohol, he wrote, would mean a "big surge" in drug use. He again expressed concern that the views were confined to young adults in Wellington and Auckland. Because of this limitation, he considered the item to be unbalanced.

The Authority’s Determination

[18] The findings of a survey of teenagers were reported in an item on One News. The item advised viewers that the survey was undertaken by an advertising agency. In addition, the visuals of a person who explained the survey were accompanied by a caption which recorded his name and that of the agency.

[19] In these circumstances, the Authority accepts that TVNZ was reporting the results of a professionally conducted survey, and that it was not necessary to provide balance to those results which the complainant considered to be "propaganda".

[20] The Authority concludes that the findings of the survey were not reported in a way which breached the standards and, accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint.

[21] The Authority observes that to find a breach of the nominated standards would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to place too great a limit on the broadcaster’s statutory freedom of expression in s14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and prefers to adopt an interpretation of the standards which is consistent with the Bill of Rights.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
21 February 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Kenneth Lord’s Formal Complaint – 1 November 2001
  2. Television New Zealand Ltd’s Initial Reply to Mr Lord – 7 November 2001
  3. Mr Lord’s Response to TVNZ – 8 November 2001
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 26 November 2001
  5. Mr Lord’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 3 December 2001
  6. Mr Lord’s further letter to the Authority – 11 December 2001
  7. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 17 December 2001
  8. Mr Lord’s Final Comment – 30 December 2001