Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – item reported on anti-whaling demonstrations targeted at Japan – reporter stated, “... protesters marched through the streets of Auckland calling for illegal whaling to be stopped” – allegedly inaccurate
Standard 5 (accuracy) – reference to “illegal whaling” not a material point of fact – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on Friday 5 November 2010, reported on New Zealand anti-whaling activists that took part in worldwide demonstrations targeted at Japan. The newsreader introduced the item as follows:
Today is International Whaling Day and to mark it hundreds of protestors marched in Auckland and Wellington. Their main target was Japan, and leading the protests was Pete Bethune, who spent four months in a Japanese prison after clashing with the whalers last season.
 Footage of the protestors was shown, accompanied by a voiceover from the reporter, who stated, “With an inflatable whale, banners and in some cases little more than body paint, protestors marched through the streets of Auckland calling for illegal whaling to be stopped.”
 The protestors were shown trying to enter the Japanese consulate in Auckland, as the reporter said, “Even a Japanese protestor wasn’t allowed on Japanese territory”. The item included an interview with Peter Bethune on the Japanese whaling fleet, and informed viewers that demonstrations against whaling were taking place in 60 cities worldwide.
 Masaru Hashimoto made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the newsreader’s statement, “Japan’s illegal whaling”, was “totally wrong and inaccurate” as no international judicial system had found that the whaling was illegal.
 TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:
Standard 5 Accuracy
Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:
- is accurate in relation to all material points of fact; and/or
- does not mislead.
 TVWorks maintained that at no point during the item subject to complaint was Japan credited with illegal whaling or labelled as illegal whalers. The broadcaster noted that the item did not contain the statement “Japan’s illegal whaling”, as alleged by the complainant. Rather, it said, the item reported that “protestors marched through the streets of Auckland calling for illegal whaling to be stopped.”
 The broadcaster accepted that the reporter’s statement was a material point of fact, but maintained that it was accurate. TVWorks provided comment from the 3 News reporter, who said, “In my script I was saying that’s what protestors were calling for, I was not saying that [the broadcaster] thinks it’s illegal”.
 Accordingly, the broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Masaru Hashimoto referred the complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 The complainant maintained that the statement was inaccurate and misleading in breach of Standard 5. They said that the term “illegal whaling” was used on the premise that either whaling was illegal, or a specific case of whaling was illegal, and that in the context of the statement the “main target” was Japan. As the item did not include footage of protestors at the consulates and embassies of other pro-whaling countries, the complainant argued that the term “illegal whaling” was clearly directed at Japan.
 With regard to the broadcaster’s contention that it was the protestors who claimed that whaling was illegal, Masaru Hashimoto argued that the reporter should have therefore used the phrase “allegedly illegal”, in order to make it clear that it was not an established or proven fact.
 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.
 Standard 5 states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead.
 First, we note that the item did not contain the literal statement “Japan’s illegal whaling”, as alleged by the complainant. Rather, the reporter stated, “With an inflatable whale, banners and in some cases little more than body paint, protestors marched through the streets of Auckland calling for illegal whaling to be stopped.” Although the comment was not explicitly directed at Japan, we agree with the complainant that in light of the item’s predominant focus on Japan as the “main target” of the demonstrations, the statement clearly related to that country by implication.
 We consider that the statement was intended to express the opinion of the protestors and was not adopted by the reporter as a material point of fact. The word “illegal” must be considered in the context of the entire statement, which in our view clearly points to the conclusion that it constituted opinion and was therefore exempt from accuracy under Guideline 5a to Standard 5.
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
3 May 2011
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Masaru Hashimoto’s formal complaint – 7 November 2010
2 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 10 December 2010
3 Masaru Hashimoto’s referral to the Authority – 11 January 2011
4 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – undated