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Hamilton and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2001-034

Members

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

Complainant

  • D J Hamilton of Christchurch

Dated

3rd May 2001

Number

2001-034

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TV3 Network Services Ltd


Complaint
3 News – map used as backdrop factually inaccurate/misleading – New Zealand depicted as same length as north/south axis of Australia

Findings
Standard G1 – graphic – not a fact – no uphold

Standard G14 – not news – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

The graphic which forms the backdrop to 3 News features a map of the world with New Zealand depicted as being the same length as the north/south axis of Australia.

D J Hamilton complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the map was factually inaccurate. He said it could be "subconsciously misleading" to students of geography and to the viewing public.

TV3 responded that it did not consider the accuracy or otherwise of the studio backdrop to raise any issue of broadcasting standards. The broadcaster said the backdrop did not purport to be a fact. It was an artistic representation which was "so clearly out of proportion" that it "could not possibly be said to be misleading."

Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, the complainant referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

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

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape which shows the subject backdrop and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

The graphic which forms the backdrop to 3 News features a map of the world with New Zealand depicted as being the same length as the north/south axis of Australia.

D J Hamilton complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the map was factually inaccurate. He said it could be "subconsciously misleading" to students of geography and to the viewing public.

TV3 considered the complaint under standards G1 and G14 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In the preparation and presentation of programmes, standard G1 requires broadcasters:

G1  To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

The other standard reads:

G14  News must be presented accurately, objectively and impartially.

The broadcaster said it did not consider the accuracy or otherwise of the studio backdrop to raise any issue of broadcasting standards. It said:

It is a graphic, a design which in this [Standards] Committee’s view does not require to be accurate. The Committee understands that the rationale for the depiction (if one is required) is the focus the News Department places on New Zealand.

In the broadcaster’s view, if standards G1 and G14 were applicable, neither had been breached. It said the backdrop did not purport to be a fact. It was an artistic representation which was "so clearly out of proportion" that it "could not possibly be said to be misleading." The broadcaster wrote:

Furthermore, the backdrop is not "News" any more than the presenters’ outfits on the night are "News"; it is not required to be accurate, objective or impartial.

Mr Hamilton referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, stating that his complaint had been "trivialised in feeble rationalisations offered to justify something clearly wrong and undesirable."

He continued:

Nationally there is serious concern about sinking standards of education amongst school pupils, university students and many younger teachers. TV has a strong influence on this and as a simple, clear-cut example, an inaccurate image displayed daily has a strong subconscious influence on the human memory data-bank.

He suggested TV3 "rectify the error."

The Authority’s Finding

The Authority concurs with TV3 that the accuracy or otherwise of the map is not a broadcasting standards matter. Having viewed a tape showing the map complained about, the Authority is clearly of the view that it is designed to highlight that this is a bulletin of world news from a New Zealand perspective. Standard G1 is not relevant because the map is not purporting to be a "point of fact". Similarly, the map is not "news" as envisaged by standard G14.

If the Authority had considered the map as being central to a news broadcast and purporting to be an accurate representation of the world, it might have reached a different conclusion.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
3 May 2001

Appendix

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

1.  D J Hamilton's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 30 December 2000
2.  TV3's Response to the Formal Complaint – 7 February 2001
3.  Mr Hamilton's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 15 February 2001
4.  TV3's Response to the Authority – 26 February 2001