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Stamilla and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-130

Dated

20th December 2011

Number

2011-130

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd

 


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – reported on a disagreement between two individuals about their input into a Rugby World Cup statue – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order, controversial issues, accuracy, fairness, discrimination and denigration, and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 6 (fairness) – item was a balanced and straightforward news report – neither party presented as more credible or worthy than the other – included comment from both parties – no evidence to suggest interview footage unfairly edited – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – item was a straightforward news report – broadcaster was not required to explain the complainant’s position in more detail – viewers would not have been misled – not upheld

Standard 2 (law and order) – complainant’s concerns relate to issues of copyright – Authority cannot assume the role of a court – standard not applicable – not upheld

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – standard aimed at sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence – standard not applicable – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – item formed part of an unclassified news programme – standard not applicable – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – standard applies to sections of the community and not individuals – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on 28 July 2011, reported on a disagreement between two individuals, Natalie Stamilla and Richard Wells, about their respective input into a Rugby World Cup statue of All Black Michael Jones.

[2]  Natalie Stamilla, made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached standards relating to good taste and decency, law and order, controversial issues, accuracy, fairness, discrimination and denigration and responsible programming.

[3]  The issue is whether the news item breached Standards 1 (good taste and decency), 2 (law and order), 5 (accuracy), 6 (fairness), 7 (discrimination and denigration) and 8 (responsible programming) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8, though Mrs Stamilla also raised Standard 4 in her original complaint. As the item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance, we consider that the broadcaster assessed the complaint under the most relevant standards, and we proceed to determine it accordingly.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the item unfair to the complainant?

[5]  Standard 6 (fairness) requires broadcasters to deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.

[6]  Mrs Stamilla argued that the item questioned her integrity and reputation based on Mr Wells’ unsubstantiated claims. In her view, it misrepresented the nature of her input into the statue by using images and statements to create the impression that she merely constructed the foam form, while Mr Wells did all the clay sculpting. She considered that the item used “emotive phrases” to imply that there was a “row” or “dispute” between “artists over artistic input”, and that she had merely come up with the idea and had hired Mr Wells to do the “grunt work”. In addition, she argued that the interview footage of her was “strategically edited” to make it appear that she was claiming she deserved credit for the statue.

[7]  In our view, the item was a balanced and straightforward news report on a disagreement between two individuals, and neither was presented as more worthy or credible than the other. We agree with TVWorks that the item did not contain any statements about Mrs Stamilla’s ability to create the clay pattern, or allow Mr Wells to “lay claim” to anything. Further, we do not consider that the language in the item, for example use of the terms “dispute”, “artist” and “grunt work”, created any impression about either party’s capabilities.

[8]  We note that, during the item, the reporter summarised the position of each party, and both were given an opportunity to present their viewpoint in extracts from interviews dispersed throughout the story. It contained the following dialogue, in consecutive order:

  • “Sculptor Richard Wells says he’s been cheated out of money and the co-authorship he deserves for a one-and-a-half times the life size statue of Michael Jones.” (reporter)
  • “I’ve changed it from something that looks like a robot, to something which is actually flying through the air.” (Wells)
  • “The idea to immortalise Jones in bronze came from Natalie Stamilla, daughter of the photographer... who took the original image. She says she hired Wells to do the grunt work, and that his artistic input was minimal.” (reporter)
  • “Artistically very, very little. It was me and my dad, and you know, that was it really.” (Stamilla)
  • “This is a testament to my ability as an artist, I’ve been sculpting all my life, and never done a bronze, but you know, that’s the next step.” (Stamilla)
  • “There’s no way they could work it out, if you don’t have a history and a body of work that leads to something like this, there’s no credibility to it.” (Wells)
  • “I want recognition of my artistic input as they’ve always promised, and also what goes with that.” (Wells)
  • “You know, it’s somebody doing a spell-check – that was how much he did.” (Stamilla)

[9]  In this respect, we consider that the item fairly and impartially presented Mrs Stamilla’s and Mr Wells’ respective positions, without favouring either. There is no evidence to suggest that the interview footage of the complainant was unfairly edited, and we do not consider that viewers would have been left with an unfairly negative impression of her.

[10]  Accordingly, we find that the complainant was treated fairly, and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 6.

Was the item inaccurate or misleading?

[11]  Standard 5 (accuracy) 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.

[12]  As noted above, Mrs Stamilla asserted that the item misrepresented the nature of her input into the statue. In particular, she referred to the reporter’s statement, “The dispute hinges around these images and two very different accounts of how this was transformed into this,” accompanied by an image of a foam sculpture and then a clay statue. The complainant stated that the report “failed to describe what happens when an artist is contracted to produce an artwork and he has allowed a disgruntled foundry owner to lay claim to something that clearly isn’t his”.

[13]  In our view, the complainant’s concerns have been adequately addressed under our consideration of fairness. To reiterate, we do not consider that the item favoured either party’s position, but was a straightforward report which included comment from both sides. In this context, the statement and images referred to above did not create a misleading impression about the nature of the complainant’s artistic input, and we do not consider that the broadcaster was required to explain the complainant’s position in more detail.

[14]  Accordingly, we find that the item was not inaccurate and would not have misled viewers, and we decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Did the item encourage viewers to break the law or condone criminal activity?

[15]  Mrs Stamilla’s concerns under this standard relate to the item’s alleged unauthorised use of copyright images.

[16]  The Authority has previously stated that it cannot assume the role of a court and determine whether an action amounts to an offence; its task is to determine whether the programme breached broadcasting standards.1 The intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity (see, for example, Keane and TVNZ2).

[17]  In our view, nothing in the item could be seen to encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise condone or glamorise criminal activity. Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 2 (law and order).

Did the item breach standards of good taste and decency?

[18]  We note that Standard 1 is primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, coarse language or violence. The material subject to complaint did not fall within any of these categories. Nor did it contain anything that was likely to disturb or offend viewers. We therefore decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

Did the item breach the responsible programming standard?

[19]  Standard 8 requires that programmes are correctly classified and adhere to the time-bands set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code. As news programmes are unclassified due to their distinct nature, and given that Mrs Stamilla’s concerns are more matters of fairness, we find that Standard 8 is not applicable in the circumstances. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 8.

Did the item encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, a section of the community?

[20]  Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. It does not apply to individuals, and therefore cannot be considered in relation to Mrs Stamilla. Accordingly, we find that Standard 7 is not relevant in the circumstances and we decline to uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
20 December 2011

Appendix

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

1                  Natalie Stamilla’s formal complaint – 11 August 2011

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 22 September 2011

3                 Mrs Stamilla’s referral to the Authority – 18 October 2011

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 16 November 2011


1E.g. Grieve and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-104

2Decision No. 2010-082