3 News – child participants – mother’s consent – children of gang member sought by police
Privacy principle (i) – uphold
Privacy principle (vii) – mother’s consent insufficient – not in children’s best interests – uphold
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
An item about the "Screwdriver Gang" being sought by police was broadcast on 3 News on 25 January 2000 between 6.00–7.00pm. Footage was shown of two pre-school children whose father was a member of the gang.
Miriam Rea complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s. 8(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 that the broadcast breached the children’s right to privacy. She said regardless of whether the mother had given permission for the filming, she deplored TV3’s decision to include the footage of the children in the item.
TV3 acknowledged tht the broadcast of this footage was a breach of the children’s privacy. It advised that its reporter had been counselled over her error of judgment.
The Authority upholds the complaint that the children’s privacy was breached. No order is imposed.
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. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
A news item broadcast on 3 News on 25 January 2000 between 6.00–7.00pm reported that members of the "Screwdriver Gang" were being sought by police in connection with a number of armed robberies. Four men were identified as being members of the gang and a photograph of each one was shown on screen. The police reported that they were seeking the help of the families of the men to persuade them to turn themselves in. The report included footage filmed at the home of one of the men. His partner said she did not wish to be interviewed, but footage of the man’s two pre-school children was shown.
Miriam Rea complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 that the item was an invasion of the children’s privacy. In her view, TV3 had failed to protect those children as required under s.21 of the Broadcasting Act. She wrote:
Regardless of whether or not the children’s mother gave permission for filming to take place, I think the children’s right to privacy supersedes the mother’s right to grant this permission. I deplore the decision of TV3’s management to include this footage in the news item.
Ms Rea submitted that, given the nature of their father’s alleged crimes, the children were sufficiently disadvantaged without having to endure national media scrutiny and its possible negative consequences.
In its response to the Authority, TV3 explained that the item was broadcast on a day when its Director of News and the Senior News Producer were both absent. It noted that both were conversant with the Authority’s privacy principles and would have had no hesitation in stopping that element of the story from going to air. TV3 reported that its Director of News had advised that the reporter had mistakenly believed that it was sufficient for her to have obtained the permission of the children’s guardian. TV3 noted that the family had hoped that the children’s father would see the item and give himself up, and that they were concerned that he might be shot by the police should he not do so. According to TV3, the reporter had believed she had acted in the best interests of the family, but had obviously not thought through the implications for the children concerned.
TV3 acknoweldged that the programme breached the children’s privacy. It advised that it had removed all pictures of the children from its tape archive to avoid any possibility of a repeat broadcast of the material, and that the reporter involved had been "counselled at length" over her error of judgment. It added that the news producers on the day of the broadcast had also been spoken to and now fully understood their responsibilities in relation to filming young children.
TV3 apologised for any distress the item had caused Ms Rea.
The Authority agrees with TV3 that the item breached the children’s privacy. The complaint has been assessed in relation to principles (i) and (vii) of the Authority’s Privacy Principles, which read:
i) The protection of privacy includes protection against the public disclosure of private facts where the facts disclosed are highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.
(vii) An individual who consents to the invasion of his or her privacy, cannot later succeed in a claim for a breach of privacy. Children’s vulnerability must be a prime concern to broadcasters. When consent is given by the child, or by a parent or someone in loco parentis, broadcasters shall satisfy themselves that the broadcast is in the best interest of the child.
As TV3 correctly observed, notwithstanding that consent had been given by the children’s mother for them to be filmed, the broadcast was not in the best interests of the children. These were particularly vulnerable children whose father was alleged to have been involved in a number of serious crimes. Their presence in the item was not in their best interest and neither was there any overriding public interest. The Authority therefore upholds the complaint that the children’s privacy was breached.
As a further point, the Authority notes that TV3 undertook to remove all pictures of the children from its tape archive to avoid any possibility of a repeat broadcast of the material and advised that all of its news staff had been made aware of their responsibilities in relation to children’s privacy. It also notes the complainant’s apparent satisfaction with the action taken by TV3.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast of an item by TV3 Network Services on 3 News on 25 January 2000 between 6.00–7.00pm breached s.4(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make orders under s.13 and s.16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It makes no order on this occasion given TV3’s acknowledgment of the breach, and its assurance that file footage would not be retained for future use. Furthermore it notes the complainant’s apparent satisfaction with those remedial measures.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
30 March 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Miriam Rea’s Formal Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority
– 14 February 2000
2. TV3’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 29 February 2000
3. Ms Rea’s Final Comment – 9 March 2000