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Butler and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-157

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Rynae Butler of Tauranga

Dated

1st May 2012

Number

2011-157

Programme

Good Morning

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Good Morning – included interview with author and Associate Professor of Psychology Niki Harrè about her new book – Ms Harrè was referred to as a “psychologist” in ‘coming-up’ teaser – allegedly in breach of accuracy standard

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – single reference to “psychologist” in the ‘coming-up’ teaser was not a material point of fact – term used colloquially and not intended to denote technical meaning – any impression created was clarified by the item itself – not inaccurate or misleading – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]  An episode of Good Morning was broadcast on TV One on 19 October 2011. The episode included an interview with Niki Harrè who was introduced as “author and Associate Professor of Psychology”, about her new book on the psychology of sustainability. In a ‘coming-up’ teaser for the item, the presenter stated, “Well just ahead we’ll talk to a psychologist about why the green movement’s focus on doom and gloom doesn’t work.”

[2]  Rynae Butler made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the reference to Ms Harrè as a “psychologist” was inaccurate. She noted that the title was legally restricted to practitioners registered with the New Zealand Psychologists’ Board, and contended that her complaint about the inaccurate use of the term “psychologist” was supported by the Health and Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCA). Section 7 of that Act makes it an offence for a person to use the title “psychologist” unless registered and qualified to be registered as such. 

[3]  We agree with the broadcaster that an alleged breach of the HPCA is not a matter of broadcasting standards, and we have therefore limited our determination as to whether the item was inaccurate or misleading in terms of the Code. We note that a complaint about a breach of the HCPA has been made to the New Zealand Psychologists’ Board on this occasion, and in our view, this is the appropriate avenue of redress.

[4]  The issue therefore is whether the item, and specifically the single reference to Ms Harrè as a “psychologist” in the ‘coming-up’ teaser, breached Standard 5 (accuracy) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  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 inaccurate or misleading?

[6]  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. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[7]  In our view, the single reference to “psychologist” in the ‘coming-up’ teaser was not a material point of fact in the context of the item and its focus on Ms Harrè’s book (as opposed to her job title or qualifications). We note that Ms Harrè was not named in the teaser and was only linked to the term “psychologist” once she was introduced in the item itself, which screened some four-and-a-half minutes later.

[8]  Having found that the use of the term “psychologist” was not material, we must consider whether it was misleading in the sense that it gave viewers a “wrong idea or impression of the facts”.2

[9]  The presenter’s use of the term “psychologist” in the ‘coming-up’ teaser was colloquial and intended as a shorthand phrase for the title “Associate Professor of Psychology”, to indicate, in a general sense, the topic of the upcoming item – namely, Ms Harrè’s book on the psychology of sustainability. It was not used in a technical sense to distinguish between those practitioners who are registered and those who are not.

[10]  In any event, we consider that any impression or expectation created by the presenter’s use of the term “psychologist” in the ‘coming-up’ teaser would have been clarified by the item itself. In the item, Ms Harrè was introduced as an “author and Associate Professor of Psychology”, and the focus of the discussion was clearly her new book. At no point during the interview was she referred to as a psychologist and she did not make any claims to that effect.

[11]  Taking into account the focus of the item, we do not consider that viewers would have been misled by the single reference to “psychologist” in the ‘coming-up’ teaser, or that in this context any harm was caused in terms of the objectives of Standard 5. The complainant herself acknowledged that the “risks to public safety [in this case] were minimal”.

[12]  Accordingly, we consider that upholding the complaint would place an unreasonable and unjustifiable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and we therefore 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

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 May 2012

Appendix

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

1                  Rynae Butler’s formal complaint – 31 October 2011

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 28 November 2011

3                 Ms Butler’s referral to the Authority – 28 November 2011

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 15 February 2012

5                 Ms Butler’s final comment – 6 March 2012

6                 TVNZ’s final comment – 20 March 2012


1Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036

2Attorney General of Samoa v TVWorks Ltd, CIV-2011-485-1110 PDF1.92 MB