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Fergusson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-099

Members

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

Complainant

  • Lindsay Fergusson of Auckland

Dated

4th December 2012

Number

2012-099

Programme

One News

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item contained graphic of sign “For Sale, NZ SOEs” – allegedly in breach of controversial issues, accuracy, fairness and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – graphic displayed in the introduction was not a “material point of fact” – given the extensive coverage on the Government’s proposed partial asset sales, viewers would not have been misled – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  A One News item reported on the continuing debate over who owns New Zealand water, as part of the wider discussion about the Government’s proposal to sell state-owned enterprises (SOEs). A graphic of a sign saying, “For sale, NZ SOEs” was displayed behind the newsreader during the 18-second introduction to the item. The item was broadcast on TV One on 10 July 2012.

[2]  Lindsay Fergusson made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, arguing that the graphic was “highly misleading” because the Government was only selling a minority shareholding (49 percent) in the SOEs concerned, thus maintaining a majority shareholding and control.

[3]  The complainant nominated Standards 4 (controversial issues), 5 (accuracy), 6 (fairness) and 8 (responsible programming) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In our view, Standard 5 is most relevant to the complainant’s concerns, and we have limited our determination accordingly. In summary, the other standards were not breached because:

  • The use of the graphic did not in itself amount to a discussion of a controversial issue which required the presentation of alternative viewpoints (Standard 4).
  • The complainant did not identify any individual or organisation treated unfairly (Standard 6).
  • One News was an unclassified news programme targeted at adults, and the use of the graphic would not have disturbed or alarmed viewers (Standard 8).

[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 use of the graphic inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  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

[6]  The use of the graphic was not a “material point of fact” as envisaged by the standard,2 so the question is whether it was misleading.

[7]  The image was an example of a standard tool employed by broadcasters, used as a visual accompaniment to the introduction to the item. Reasonable viewers would not have been misled given the focus of the item, namely, the Waitangi Tribunal hearing in relation to water ownership rights, and the Prime Minister’s comment that the Tribunal’s findings were not binding, which had caused controversy. In addition, the Government’s proposed asset sales policy had been covered extensively in the media since before the 2011 general election, so viewers could reasonably be expected to understand the terms of the proposed sales, including that they were only partial sales. The perspectives of both Pita Sharples, co-leader of the Māori Party, and the Prime Minister were included.

[8]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the use of the graphic breached Standard 5.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
4 December 2012

Appendix

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

1           Lindsay Fergusson’s formal complaint – 10 July 2012

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 August 2012

3          Lindsay Fergusson’s referral to the Authority – 25 August 2012

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 26 September 2012


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

2See, for example, Federated Farmers New Zealand and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-165.