Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up – reported on vandalism at Horowhenua Rowing Club – included footage of the complainant verbally abusing a kayaker, and interview with complainant – allegedly in breach of broadcasting standards
Standard 6 (fairness) – item suggested that the complainant may have been responsible for the vandalism – however, the complainant was provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to rebut that suggestion and the reporter made it clear that no one had been charged for the vandalism – the complainant explained his behaviour as depicted in the footage – use of the term “uncle” to link the complainant and a young rower would not have changed viewers’ impression of the complainant or the situation – reference to assault conviction was correct at the time of broadcast – overall, complainant treated fairly – not upheld
Standard 5 (accuracy) – use of the term “uncle” was not material to the item – reporter’s reference to the complainant’s assault conviction was accurate at the time of broadcast – item was accurate on all points of fact and would not have misled viewers in any material respect – not upheld
Standard 4 (controversial issues) – focus of the item was vandalism at the rowing club in the context of a wider dispute over public access – whether or not this amounted to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance, the complainant was provided with a sufficient opportunity to comment on the issues and to provide balance – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on Close Up reported on vandalism at the Horowhenua Rowing Club. It included cell phone footage of the complainant, Philip Taueki, verbally abusing a kayaker. Mr Taueki was interviewed about his views on public access to the lake and about his behaviour as depicted in the footage. The item was broadcast on TV One on 16 October 2012.
 Philip Taueki made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item “contained a number of factual errors and was biased, slanderous and inflammatory”. He said the item contained implications and allegations, including that he was responsible for the vandalism, which was damaging to his reputation and the mana of his whanau.
 Mr Taueki did not explicitly raise any broadcasting standards, and TVNZ considered the complaint as a possible breach of all standards in the Code. We consider that standards relating to balance, fairness and accuracy are most relevant to the complaint and we have limited our determination accordingly.
 The issue therefore is whether the broadcast breached standards of balance (Standard 4), accuracy (Standard 5), or fairness (Standard 6) as outlined in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Close Up was a long-running current affairs show reporting on topical local issues, ranging from daily news stories to human interest pieces. The item subject to complaint reported on vandalism at the Horowhenua Rowing Club, in the context of an ongoing land dispute over public access to the Horowhenua Lake Domain. It was introduced as follows:
It has been a golden year for our rowing community, except at Lake Horowhenua. The rowing club there claims it’s being intimidated by Māori activists. Recently their club rooms were vandalised and the culprits haven’t been found. It’s put their season in jeopardy and scared locals away from the lake just next to Levin.
 It was reported that the Lake Horowhenua Domain was on private Māori land, and that while the Muaūpoko iwi was happy for the public to use the lake and for the rowing club to occupy their land, “not everyone in the iwi agrees”. The disagreement, it became apparent, was from Mr Taueki, a well-known figure in the community. Mr Taueki expressed concern about how members of the public, including the rowing club, treated the area and the damage caused, for example by not making proper use of public toilets.
 By way of background, Mr Taueki provided the Authority with documentation indicating that issues relating to Māori ownership and control of the Horewhenua Lake Domain versus public rights of access are longstanding and controversial. He referred us to a Listener article in support of his views on contamination, and which describes the lake as an “environmental disgrace” and New Zealand’s “most conflict prone body of water”.1
 We recognise that the Close Up series, and the item subject to complaint, carried a level of public interest, and were valuable in terms of freedom of expression.
 This value must be balanced against the potential harm that is likely to result from allowing the unfettered dissemination of the speech.2 We may only limit the right to freedom of expression to an extent that is reasonable, and with proper justification. Here, the alleged harm, in terms of the underlying objectives of the relevant broadcasting standards, was said to derive from unfair and misleading allegations and implications about Mr Taueki which reflected badly on his character and conduct.
 The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.
 One of the purposes of the fairness standard is to protect individuals and organisations from broadcasts which provide an unfairly negative representation of their character or conduct. Programme participants and people referred to in broadcasts have the right to expect that broadcasters will deal with them justly and fairly, so that unwarranted harm is not caused to their reputation and dignity.3
 Mr Taueki argued that he was treated unfairly because:
 First, we have considered whether the item created an unfair impression that Mr Taueki was responsible for the vandalism. We have then gone on to consider the remaining aspects of Mr Taueki’s fairness complaint.
 TVNZ considered that Mr Taueki was treated fairly. It noted that the item clearly stated that the police had not laid any charges for the vandalism at the rowing club, and there was no implication that the complainant was responsible. The broadcaster maintained that Mr Taueki was provided with ample opportunity to present his perspective, which was fairly reflected in the programme. Furthermore, the item reported that NIWA4 supported the complainant’s position in regards to the contamination of the lake, it said.
 In our view, the item did suggest that Mr Taueki may have been responsible for the vandalism at the rowing club. The reporter said, with regard to the vandalism, “While the attack was a shock, it didn’t come out of the blue”, before noting that Mr Taueki disagreed with the public’s use of the lake and the rowing club’s occupation of a building situated on the lake domain. Cell phone footage of Mr Taueki verbally abusing a kayaker, while continuously making reference to “my land”, was broadcast several times during the item.
 In addition, comments from local residents indicated that the complainant was under tough scrutiny and suspicion from some members of the community, who described their experiences with Mr Taueki. For example, a young woman stated, “I’ve been on the water and not wanted to come back in because I’ve seen him on the shore scream and stuff at me.” Another woman stated, “I just heard this man’s voice yelling all the f-bombs and c-bombs at all these people… and he just kept threatening to, you know, come back tomorrow and your boats won’t be here”.
 Towards the end of the item, a young rower made a plea to Mr Taueki, stating:
Phil, I want you to look at me from an uncle to a nephew and I want you to apologise because you’ve really hurt me bro, and I don’t know how you can sit there and do that kind of stuff while your own nieces and nephews are crying over what you’ve done and what your whanau’s done. If they call themselves rangatira, show some rangatiratanga.
 However, while it was obvious that some members of the community believed Mr Taueki was responsible for the vandalism, it was made clear in the story that the person(s) responsible had not been found and no one had been charged for the offence. The reporter stated, “No one has been charged with causing the damage to the rowing club and police are still investigating. Phil Taueki insists he was not involved”. Mr Taueki was provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment on the vandalism and to mitigate any unfairness in this respect. The suggestion that he was responsible for the vandalism was put directly to him by the reporter, and he stated unequivocally, “The only thing I am going to say about this… is that your allegations are unjustified… I did not break into the rowing club… No, I didn’t [damage the boats].”
 Mr Taueki was also provided with a fair opportunity to explain his behaviour as depicted in the cell phone footage of his interaction with a kayaker, and he was shown displaying a more moderate, calm and collected demeanour. His viewpoint was summarised by the reporter as well. The item contained the following comments:
 Overall, we think that viewers were provided with enough information to make up their own minds about Mr Taueki, any suggested link between him and the acts of vandalism, and his behaviour in the cell phone footage.
 We are therefore satisfied that the item was not unfair in this respect.
 Mr Taueki also argued that it was inaccurate for the young rower to refer to him as “uncle” because they were not related (see paragraph ). In our view, the use of the term had no bearing on the focus of the story, and we do not think that it would have influenced viewers’ impression of Mr Taueki, or the wider issues relating to the dispute over public access to the lake domain. It was obvious that the rower was appealing to their cultural connection, and that he was offering his personal views.
 The complainant argued that the reporter’s statement “last week [Mr Taueki] was convicted of assaulting a kayaker”, was inaccurate and therefore unfair. We are satisfied that the statement was not unfair because it was true at the time of the broadcast. While the conviction was quashed, this did not occur until around two months after the broadcast.
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the remainder of the fairness complaint.
 The accuracy standard (Standard 5) 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.5
 Mr Taueki argued that the item was inaccurate and misleading for the reasons outlined at paragraph  above.
 We are satisfied that the item was accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and that viewers would not have been misled in any material respect, because:
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the accuracy complaint.
 The balance standard (Standard 4) states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest. The balance standard exists to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.6
 A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to programmes which discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The subject matter must be an issue “of public importance”, it must be “controversial”, and it must be “discussed”.7
 TVNZ agreed that a land dispute over public access to a lake was a controversial issue of public importance, and considered that appropriate viewpoints on that issue were sought and presented in the item. It noted that the complainant was interviewed and his perspective was presented to viewers.
 The focus of the item was vandalism at the Horowhenua Rowing Club, in the context of wider issues relating to Māori ownership and public rights of access to the lake domain. While those wider issues may have been controversial and of public importance, we are not convinced that the narrow focus of this item amounted to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance to which Standard 4 applied and which required the presentation of alternative views.
 In any case, we are satisfied that the complainant was provided with ample opportunity to present his perspective on the issues discussed, and that his perspective was adequately included (see paragraphs  and  above).
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
2 April 2013
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Philip Taueki’s formal complaint – 31 October 2012
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 4 December 2012
3 Mr Taueki’s referral to the Authority – 21 December 2012
4 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 21 February 2013
5 Mr Taueki’s final comment – 25 February 2013
1New Zealand Listener (March 2–8 2013) "Lake of Shame" by Karl du Fresne
2See sections 5 and 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
3Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014
4The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research
5Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036
6Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014
7For further discussion of these concepts see Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Television (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2010) and Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Radio (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2009).