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Steens and TVWorks Ltd - 2013-020

Members

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

Complainant

  • Maria Steens of Whakatane

Dated

25th July 2013

Number

2013-020

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – reported on parole of a man who was jailed in relation to the so-called “Urewera anti-terror raids” – newsreader said men were “jailed over military-style training camps” – showed photograph of Tame Iti wearing a balaclava-type headpiece and holding a gun – allegedly in breach of controversial issues, accuracy and fairness standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – while newsreader’s statement that the men were “jailed over military-style training camps” was technically inaccurate, the position was immediately clarified when the newsreader said they were sentenced for firearms offences – photograph of Tame Iti was relevant to the subject matter and would not have misled viewers – item not inaccurate or misleading – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – newsreader’s introductory comment and photograph of Tame Iti did not create unfair impression that the men were terrorists – not upheld

Standard 4 (controversial issues) – item did not contain a “discussion” of a controversial issue of public importance requiring the presentation of alternative viewpoints – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  A 3 News bulletin reported on the granting of parole to Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, who was jailed in relation to the so-called “Urewera anti-terror raids”.1  The item was introduced by the newsreader as follows:

The second of two men jailed over military-style training camps in the Urewera Ranges has been granted parole. 

[2]  The newsreader continued by voiceover, “Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for unlawful use of a firearm, will be released on the 4th of March, less than a year into his sentence. Tame Iti, who was also sentenced to two-and-a-half-years on firearms charges, was granted parole last week”. As the newsreader said this, a photograph of Tame Iti wearing a balaclava-type headpiece and holding a gun appeared briefly onscreen, first close up and then from a distance. The item was broadcast on 18 February 2013 on TV3.

[3]  Maria Steens made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the newsreader’s reference to “military-style training camps” was inaccurate and unfair because the two men were not found guilty of being part of a criminal gang, but were convicted on firearms offences. In addition, she argued that the photograph of Tame Iti “dressed as a terrorist” was used out of context, which was inaccurate, unfair and in breach of the controversial issues standard.

[4]  In addition to the controversial issues, fairness and accuracy standards, Ms Steens also raised standards relating to privacy and discrimination and denigration. However, after receiving the broadcaster’s response, which set out the requirements for each of the standards and their application, Ms Steens withdrew her complaints under the latter two standards when she referred her complaint to this Authority. 

[5]  The issue therefore is whether the broadcast breached standards relating to controversial issues (Standard 4), accuracy (Standard 5), and fairness (Standard 6), as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[6]  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?

[7]  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.2

[8]  As noted above (see paragraph [3]) there are two aspects to Ms Steens’ accuracy complaint. In determining whether the item was inaccurate or misleading in the manner alleged by the complainant, we have considered the following questions:

  • Was the newsreader’s reference to “military-style training camps” inaccurate?
  • Was the photograph of Tame Iti presented out of context, in a manner that was misleading?

Was the reference to “military-style training camps” inaccurate?

[9]  Ms Steens argued that the newsreader’s introductory statement that Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Tame Iti were “jailed over military-style training camps” was inaccurate because they were actually convicted of firearms offences.

[10]  The complainant’s concerns in this respect relate to a distinction between the nature of the charges on which Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Tame Iti were convicted, as opposed to other charges brought by the Crown but which, ultimately, were unsuccessful. The men were found guilty on some firearms charges, but the jury was unable to agree on the more serious charge of participation in an organised criminal group, being a group of people attending military-style training camps.

[11]  In this sense, the newsreader’s introductory comment that the men were “jailed over military-style training camps” was technically inaccurate when taken in isolation. However, in assessing how the comments would have been interpreted and understood by the average viewer, context is all important. We agree with TVWorks that the position was clarified by context because the newsreader explicitly stated, immediately following the introduction, that both men were convicted of firearms offences, as follows:

  • “Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, who was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for unlawful use of a firearm, will be released on the 4th of March, less than a year into his sentence.” [our emphasis]
  • “Tame Iti, who was also sentenced to two-and-a-half-years on firearms charges, was granted parole last week.” [our emphasis]

[12]  We also accept the broadcaster’s contention that it was well-known the charges were in relation to firearms. The extensive media coverage relating to the Urewera raids and the subsequent controversy surrounding the court case and the men’s convictions meant that viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of, or could easily find out about, the nature of the convictions.

[13]  We are therefore satisfied that the newsreader’s introductory comment was not inaccurate in context, and that viewers would not have been misled.

Was the photograph of Tame Iti presented out of context, in a way that was misleading?

[14]  Ms Steens asserted that the item contained photographs of Tame Iti which were taken in her home and confiscated by police during the raids in 2007. She argued that the images were used out of context to reinforce “in the public mind that Tame Iti was about to create some sort of mayhem”.

[15]  TVWorks noted that the photograph shown in the item was produced as evidence in court and was a “public document”. It did not consider that the photograph was used out of context, or that it would have misled viewers.

[16]  The item contained one photograph of Tame Iti wearing a balaclava-type headpiece and holding a firearm, shown very briefly, first close up and then from a distance. This photograph of Tame Iti holding a firearm was not in our view “out of context” given it accompanied a statement that he was sentenced “on firearms charges”. While we acknowledge the complainant’s concerns and that initially there was confusion about the nature of the charges including allegations of terrorism, this has since been clarified and the outcome of the case has been extensively publicised throughout the media.

[17]  Overall, we are satisfied that the item was not inaccurate and would not have misled viewers in the manner alleged, and we therefore decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Was Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara or Tame Iti treated unfairly?

[18]  The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.

[19]  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

[20]  Ms Steens argued that the broadcast was “inflammatory” and “provocative” because it presented Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, and particularly Tame Iti, as terrorists. She reiterated her arguments under accuracy, stating that the newsreader’s reference to “military-style training camps” reinforced the false belief Tame Iti has “terrorist tendencies”, and the photograph of Tame Iti was used out of context to unfairly depict him as a terrorist.

[21]  For the reasons expressed in regard to accuracy, we are satisfied that the newsreader’s introductory comment, and the use of the photograph, did not create an unfair impression that the men were terrorists.

[22]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

Did the news item contain a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance requiring the presentation of alternative viewpoints?

[23]  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.4

[24]  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”.5

[25]  Ms Steens argued that the police raid on Tuhoe and Operation 86  was a controversial issue of public importance. She reiterated her view that the images of Tame Iti were used out of context to portray him as a terrorist.

[26]  While the police raid, and the circumstances surrounding the raid (including the police investigation and subsequent court case), amounted to controversial issues of public importance, the focus of this brief news report was the granting of release on parole to Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, following the recent parole of Tame Iti. As the item did not discuss the case or the nature of the allegations and charges, it was not necessary for the broadcaster to present competing viewpoints on those issues. In any event, the complainant’s concerns in regard to the photograph of Tame Iti are better addressed as matters of accuracy and fairness.

[27]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the balance complaint. 

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
25 July 2013

Appendix

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

1           Maria Steens’ formal complaint – 8 March 2013

2          TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 9 April 2013

3          Ms Steens’ referral to the Authority – 3 May 2013

4          TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 31 May 2013


1http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/page/so-called-anti-terror-raids-ureweras


2Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036

3Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014

4Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014

5For 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).

6This was the name given to the police investigation into alleged criminal activity in Te Urewera National Park.