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Faidley and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2013-052

Members

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

Complainant

  • Phil Faidley of Auckland

Dated

1st October 2013

Number

2013-052

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 reported that 65 police officers failed their Physical Competency Test because they were unfit – allegedly in breach of accuracy, fairness, discrimination and denigration, and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – reported figure of 65 unfit officers came from police and was not intended to reflect the proportion of officers who failed their PCT – lack of information pertaining to reasons for failure was due to reluctance of police to reveal information – item would not have misled viewers – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – use of shot of person eating pizza was legitimate to suggest that diet may be a reason why officers were unfit, and was not unfair – lack of detail due to police reluctance to reveal information – police provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment and response included in the story – New Zealand police force not treated unfairly – not upheld 

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  An item on One News reported on 65 unfit police officers failing their Physical Competency Test (PCT), and the reluctance of police management to release information on this topic. The item was broadcast on 30 May 2013 on TV One.

[2]  Phil Faidley made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item was misleading in the way it presented information on the number of police officers who failed their PCT. He argued that the item was unfair to, and denigrated, police by portraying them as “fat and unfit”. 

[3]  The focus of our determination is whether the item breached the accuracy and fairness standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. We have limited our determination to the standards we consider to be the most relevant. The other standards raised by the complainant are addressed at paragraph [17] below.

[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 item inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  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.1

[6]  Mr Faidley argued that the item was misleading because the number of police officers who failed their PCT was “not presented as a proportion” of the total number of officers who undertook the test. In addition, he said it was misleading not to canvass the underlying reasons for officers failing, saying this included injury, pregnancy, and illness.

[7]  TVNZ stood by the veracity of the claims made in the item, and said the information came from the police. 

[8]  The main focus of the brief news item was that some police officers had failed their PCT because they were unfit. The reported figure of 65 unfit officers came from police and was not intended to reflect the proportion of officers who failed, but simply the fact that some officers had failed, yet were continuing to receive their taxpayer-funded salaries to perform back office functions. In this context, viewers would not have been misled by the omission of information on the total number of police officers who underwent the test, as alleged by the complainant.

[9]  The item did not contain information about the reasons for unfit officers failing their PCT because police management refused to provide this information. The reporter interviewed the Police Human Relations General Manager and explicitly asked him, “Why are [65 police] so unfit that they can’t have a current pass?”, to which he responded, “Well for a whole host of different reasons”. The lack of detail around the reasons for officers failing their PCT was not the fault of the broadcaster.

[10]  Accordingly, we find that the item was not misleading, and we decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Was the New Zealand police force treated unfairly?

[11]  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.2

[12]  Mr Faidley argued that footage of a person eating pizza unfairly suggested police were unfit because they “ate junk food”. He said the item presented an unfair picture by omitting detailed information about the reasons for police officers failing their PCT, and he considered police management were “understandably reticent” to provide information.

[13]  TVNZ considered that the footage of a person eating a slice of pizza was appropriate and acceptable, saying it was well known that a poor diet could contribute to unfitness. It noted that the item contained extensive footage of police carrying out fitness training. It said police were given an opportunity to address the issues and provide viewers with their perspective. 

[14]  We agree with the broadcaster. The inclusion of a brief shot of someone eating pizza was legitimate to suggest that diet might be one reason why officers were unfit. It was not unfair, and in any event, the item also contained extensive footage of police engaging in healthy behaviour, as noted by the broadcaster.

[15]  We reiterate that the omission of information about the reasons for officers failing their PCT on account of their fitness levels was due to the reluctance of police management to disclose this information. Police management was provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment and its response was fairly presented in the item.

[16]  We are satisfied that the New Zealand police force was not treated unfairly and we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

Did the broadcast breach the other standards raised in the complaint?

[17]  Mr Faidley also raised the discrimination and denigration, and responsible programming standards. In summary, these standards were not breached because:

  • The responsible programming standard is primarily aimed at ensuring that programmes are correctly classified and screened in appropriate timeslots. One News was an unclassified news programme targeted at adults, so the standard is not relevant to this complaint (Standard 8).
  • The discrimination and denigration standard protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. The New Zealand police force is not a section of the community to which the standard applies, and in any event, the brief shot of a person eating pizza did not portray the police as “being fat and unfit”, as contended by the complainant (Standard 7).

[18]   Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that these standards were breached.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 October 2013

Appendix

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

1           Phil Faidley’s formal complaint letters – 31 May 2013

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 28 June 2013

3          Mr Faidley’s referral to the Authority – 19 July 2013

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority –  8 August 2013


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

2Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014