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Blaker and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2012-129

Members

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

Complainant

  • David Blaker of Auckland

Dated

27th February 2013

Number

2012-129

Programme

Spectrum

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Spectrum – reported on The Nelson Ark APART programme – presenter interviewed graduates, including a young woman, about their involvement in the programme – woman was asked about her background and how she came to be on the programme – allegedly in breach of her privacy

Findings
Standard 3 (privacy) – woman was not identifiable for the purposes of the privacy standard – woman did not say she was raped, as alleged – no private facts were disclosed in a manner that would be considered highly offensive – high value speech – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  An item on Spectrum reported on The Nelson Ark APART programme, an eight-week dog training course designed to teach young people discipline, compassion and tolerance through empathy. During the programme, the presenter interviewed young graduates, including a young woman, about their participation in the programme and the reasons for their participation, and how the programme had benefited them. The item was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National on 11 November 2012.

[2]  David Blaker made a direct privacy complaint to the Authority, alleging that the presenter’s persistence in questioning the young woman about “what went wrong”, and the woman’s alleged answer, “I was raped when I was young”, amounted to a “gross intrusion of privacy”.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast 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 programme breach the woman’s privacy?

[5]  The privacy standard (Standard 3) 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]  Mr Blaker raised privacy principle 1 of the Authority’s Privacy Principles 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 is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

[7]  We find that the item did not breach the woman’s privacy, for the following reasons:

  • the woman was not identifiable
  • she did not say that she was raped, as alleged by the complainant
  • the disclosure was not highly offensive because the woman voluntarily participated in the programme and disclosed the information
  • the programme and the information broadcast carried a high level of public interest, and were valuable in terms of freedom of expression.
Identification

[8]  When we consider a privacy complaint, we must first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. The Authority has previously stated that in order for an individual’s privacy to be breached, that person must be “identifiable beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about the matter dealt with in the broadcast.1

[9]  Here, the young woman was not named in the item, and we do not consider that her voice would have otherwise identified her to anyone beyond her family and close friends who already knew the information disclosed in the broadcast – that is, that she took part in The Nelson Ark APART programme, and the reasons for her participation.

Alleged comment

[10]  We are satisfied, having listened to the broadcast, that the interviewee did not say “I was raped when I was young”, as alleged. Rather, the young woman said that she was “going through a really rough stage”, had “bad experiences”, and had self-harmed in the past.

Highly offensive disclosure

[11]  It is clear from the tone of the interview and the woman’s comments, that she was happy to take part in the broadcast and that her participation was voluntary. She freely disclosed the information about her background, and the presenter did not apply undue pressure on the woman to disclose the reasons for her participation in the programme. That the woman had participated in the training programme was already indicative that she had a troubled background. We do not consider that the discussion in the interview would have been highly offensive to objective reasonable listeners.

Public interest and freedom of expression

[12]  The item subject to complaint was broadcast on Spectrum, which is described on RNZ’s website as “a long-running documentary series… which captures the essence of New Zealand through stories, landscape and people... [where the] narrator’s role is to facilitate the telling of stories using the voices of the participants”.2 In this episode, which reported on The Nelson Ark APART programme, the presenter joined participants, dogs, educators and volunteers as they came together a year on, after the animals had been adopted out into the community. The presenter said that her purpose in questioning the woman about her background was to help other young people in similar situations who may have been able to identify with her, which was legitimate and valuable.

[13]  The Spectrum programme, and this particular item, carried a level of public interest, and had a high value in terms of freedom of expression. Upholding the complaint would be an unreasonable limit on the right to free speech.

[14]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
27 February 2013

Appendix

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

1           David Blaker’s direct privacy complaint to the Authority – 24 November 2012

2          RNZ’s response to the Authority – 18 January 2013