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Stables and RadioWorks Ltd - 2012-105

Members

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

Complainant

  • George Stables of Picton

Dated

4th December 2012

Number

2012-105

Channel/Station

The Edge

Broadcaster

RadioWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Jay-Jay, Mike and Dom Show – hosts discussed court appearance of radio broadcaster Iain Stables on violence charges – made comments that he was guilty and about his bipolar condition – allegedly in breach of privacy

Findings
Standard 3 (privacy) – Iain Stables was identifiable – programme did not reveal any private facts about him because information about the charges he faced, his previous altercations, and that he had bipolar disorder was already in the public domain – as the broadcast did not disclose any private facts, Iain Stables’ privacy was not breached – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  During the Jay-Jay, Mike and Dom Show on The Edge, the hosts discussed charges being faced by radio broadcaster Iain Stables, following an altercation with his ex-girlfriend’s parents. One host mentioned that Mr Stables had bipolar disorder, and offered the view that it was “only a matter of time” before something like this happened and he was sentenced, and that it should be up to Mr Stables to take responsibility for managing his condition. The programme was broadcast on The Edge on 31 August 2012.

[2]  George Stables made a direct privacy complaint to this Authority, alleging that, “The broadcast stated that there was no doubt that [Mr Stables] was guilty of this offence and that there had been similar violent episodes in the past which had not been reported or gone to court. It also stated that he was not taking responsibility for his bipolar condition, which they called a ‘disease’.”

[3]  The issue is whether the programme, and specifically the hosts’ comments, breached Standard 3 (privacy) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Did the broadcast breach Iain Stables’ privacy?

[5]  Standard 3 (privacy) states that broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. The privacy standard exists to protect individuals from undesired access to, and disclosure of, information about themselves and their affairs, in order to maintain their dignity, choice, mental wellbeing and reputation, and their ability to develop relationships, opinions and creativity away from the glare of publicity.

[6]  The first question, in determining an alleged breach of privacy, is whether the person whose privacy was allegedly interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. Iain Stables was named in the programme, so he was clearly identifiable.

[7]  The complainant raised privacy principle 1 in his complaint. This states that it is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the disclosure would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person. The alleged private facts disclosed in the broadcast were:

  • that Mr Stables was guilty of the offences mentioned
  • that he had been involved in similar violent incidents not reported
  • that he did not take responsibility for his bipolar condition.

[8]  In our view, the information disclosed in the broadcast did not amount to “private facts” about Iain Stables. The charges faced by him and his previous altercations received widespread publicity and were reported extensively in other media. The hosts’ comments were clearly framed as their personal opinions and amounted to speculation based on their experiences with Mr Stables. While information about a person’s mental health status will usually amount to a private fact,1 here, the fact that Mr Stables had bipolar disorder was already in the public domain; there are numerous articles available on the internet about Mr Stables and his condition.

[9]  Given the publicity surrounding Mr Stables and the charges he was facing, and the way the comments were framed, the information disclosed in the broadcast did not amount to private facts. On this basis we decline to uphold the Standard 3 complaint.

General comments

[10]  While we have found that the item did not breach Iain Stables’ privacy, we express our view that the hosts’ comments were ill-considered and of questionable professionalism. They revealed a lack of understanding and knowledge about bipolar disorder. Further, at the time of the broadcast, the charges being faced by Iain Stables and the offences alleged had not been ruled on. The case was before the court and this was explicitly acknowledged in the programme. Despite this, the hosts proceeded to discuss the charges and to express their views that Iain Stables was guilty. The hosts appeared to display a lack of respect for, and knowledge of, court rules which prevent public comment on cases before the courts, in a way that may prejudice the outcome.2 A failure to comply with this rule may lead to contempt of court proceedings. We recommend that the broadcaster take steps to ensure that programme hosts are made aware of their responsibilities in this respect.

 

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

1           George Stables’ direct privacy complaint – 6 September 2012

2          RadioWorks’ response to the complaint – 5 October 2012


1See, for example, du Fresne and CanWest TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2007-017.

2Referred to as the sub judice rule.