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Shaw and TVWorks Ltd - 2013-050

Members

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

Complainant

  • Elizabeth Shaw of Auckland

Dated

1st October 2013

Number

2013-050

Programme

The Nation

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TVWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
The Nation – discussed the Labour Party’s proposal to increase the number of female caucus members – allegedly in breach of controversial issues, fairness, and discrimination and denigration standards

Findings
Standard 4 (controversial issues) – Labour Party’s proposal was a controversial issue of public importance – two of four panellists who discussed the issue expressed views in support of the proposal – gender of panellists not relevant and spectrum of views meant sufficient balance provided – broadcaster made reasonable efforts and gave reasonable opportunities to provide balance on the issue in the programme – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – panellists did not comment on women in general – programme did not encourage discrimination or denigration against women as a section of the community – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  An item on The Nation reported on the Labour Party’s proposal to introduce gender equality rules around the selection of party candidates to increase the number of female caucus members. The programme was broadcast on TV3 on 7 July 2013.

 [2]  Elizabeth Shaw made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme was not fair or balanced because only one woman featured among nine panellists, which was contrary to the discussion about gender equality.

 [3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached standards relating to controversial issues, and discrimination and denigration, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Ms Shaw also raised the fairness standard, but this applies only to individuals and organisations, not women in general, and is therefore not applicable.

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

Did the broadcaster make reasonable efforts or give reasonable opportunities to provide balance in the programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest?

[5]  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, where necessary, to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.1

[6]  A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual 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”.2

[7]  The Nation is a New Zealand political current affairs show which includes reports, interviews and analysis of contemporary issues. The item subject to complaint focused on the Labour Party’s proposal to increase the number of female caucus members to achieve a 50 percent gender balance in Parliament by 2017. This was a controversial issue of public importance as it was an issue of concern to members of the New Zealand public and attracted conflicting opinion and debate.

[8]  The discussion involved a studio interview with the Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs and a male left-wing political commentator, followed by interviews with two male panellists representing different ends of the political spectrum. In total, there were four panellists who engaged in a robust and informative discussion on the Labour Party’s proposal, expressing views both for and against the proposal and its underlying rationale.

[9]  Ms Shaw was concerned that the programme as whole was unbalanced because it contained interviews with eight male panellists and only one female panellist. The additional panellists featured in other parts of the programme discussing unrelated issues including New Zealand’s meat industry, a possible merging of two political parties, and media ratings. Our determination is limited to whether balance was provided in the discussion of the Labour Party’s proposal (see paragraph [7]), and the gender of the panellists in other segments of the programme is irrelevant.

[10]  We are satisfied the panellists in the relevant segment expressed significant alternative viewpoints, and were appropriate people to obtain comment from, regardless of their gender. We note that two of the four panellists – that is, the Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs and the male left-wing commentator – expressed views in support of the Labour Party’s proposal, for example:

  • “…what I’ve got great faith in is the collective wisdom of our party membership to actually make a practical decision about how we improve the representation of women in our Parliament.” (Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs)
  • “The first thing we’ve got to address is making sure we’ve got representation for the majority of the population in this country; 51 percent of our population are women. Our party wants to be more representative, we want to represent what the society looks like.” (Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs)
  • “We’ve got to 41 percent, and it’s getting there, but we want 50 percent in 2017, so that we can really stand up and say ‘here we are representing the New Zealand community, we look like the New Zealand community, and here we are in Parliament’.” (Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs)
  • “The modern Labour party is a progressive party; it understands that there are hegemonic structures that keep people out of the party loop, and they want to be proactive in changing that…” (left-wing commentator)
  • “…the supporters want real change, they want a democratic Labour Party…” (left-wing commentator)

[11]  We are satisfied that TVWorks made reasonable efforts and gave reasonable opportunities to provide balance on the relevant issue under discussion in the programme. Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 4 complaint.

Did the programme encourage discrimination or denigration against women as a section of the community?

[12]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. The term “denigration” has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people.3  “Discrimination” has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment.4 

[13]  The item comprised a serious discussion about a legitimate political issue, and while some panellists made comments that were critical of the Labour Party’s proposal, no comment was made about women in general. Nothing in the programme encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of, women as a section of the community.

[14]  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

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 October 2013

Appendix

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

1               Elizabeth Shaw’s formal complaint  – 7 July 2013

2              TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 9 July 2013

3              Ms Shaw’s referral to the Authority – 9 July 2013

4              TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 9 August 2013


1Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014

2For 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).

3See, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks, Decision No. 2006-030.

4For example, see Teoh and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-091.

Introduction

[1]              An item on The Nation reported on the Labour Party’s proposal to introduce gender equality rules around the selection of party candidates to increase the number of female caucus members. The programme was broadcast on TV3 on 7 July 2013.

[2]              Elizabeth Shaw made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme was not fair or balanced because only one woman featured among nine panellists, which was contrary to the discussion about gender equality.

[3]              The issue is whether the broadcast breached standards relating to controversial issues, and discrimination and denigration, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Ms Shaw also raised the fairness standard, but this applies only to individuals and organisations, not women in general, and is therefore not applicable.

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

Did the broadcaster make reasonable efforts or give reasonable opportunities to provide balance in the programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest?

[5]              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, where necessary, to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.[1]

[6]              A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual 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”.[2]

[7]              The Nation is a New Zealand political current affairs show which includes reports, interviews and analysis of contemporary issues. The item subject to complaint focused on the Labour Party’s proposal to increase the number of female caucus members to achieve a 50 percent gender balance in Parliament by 2017. This was a controversial issue of public importance as it was an issue of concern to members of the New Zealand public and attracted conflicting opinion and debate.

[8]              The discussion involved a studio interview with the Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs and a male left-wing political commentator, followed by interviews with two male panellists representing different ends of the political spectrum. In total, there were four panellists who engaged in a robust and informative discussion on the Labour Party’s proposal, expressing views both for and against the proposal and its underlying rationale.

[9]              Ms Shaw was concerned that the programme as whole was unbalanced because it contained interviews with eight male panellists and only one female panellist. The additional panellists featured in other parts of the programme discussing unrelated issues including New Zealand’s meat industry, a possible merging of two political parties, and media ratings. Our determination is limited to whether balance was provided in the discussion of the Labour Party’s proposal (see paragraph [7]), and the gender of the panellists in other segments of the programme is irrelevant.

[10]           We are satisfied the panellists in the relevant segment expressed significant alternative viewpoints, and were appropriate people to obtain comment from, regardless of their gender. We note that two of the four panellists – that is, the Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs and the male left-wing commentator – expressed views in support of the Labour Party’s proposal, for example:

·         “…what I’ve got great faith in is the collective wisdom of our party membership to actually make a practical decision about how we improve the representation of women in our Parliament.” (Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs)

·         “The first thing we’ve got to address is making sure we’ve got representation for the majority of the population in this country; 51 percent of our population are women. Our party wants to be more representative, we want to represent what the society looks like.” (Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs)

·         “We’ve got to 41 percent, and it’s getting there, but we want 50 percent in 2017, so that we can really stand up and say ‘here we are representing the New Zealand community, we look like the New Zealand community, and here we are in Parliament’.” (Labour Party’s spokesperson for Women’s Affairs)

·         “The modern Labour party is a progressive party; it understands that there are hegemonic structures that keep people out of the party loop, and they want to be proactive in changing that…” (left-wing commentator)

·         “…the supporters want real change, they want a democratic Labour Party…” (left-wing commentator)

[11]           We are satisfied that TVWorks made reasonable efforts and gave reasonable opportunities to provide balance on the relevant issue under discussion in the programme. Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 4 complaint.

Did the programme encourage discrimination or denigration against women as a section of the community?

[12]           The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. The term “denigration” has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people.[3] “Discrimination” has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group to their detriment.[4]

[13]           The item comprised a serious discussion about a legitimate political issue, and while some panellists made comments that were critical of the Labour Party’s proposal, no comment was made about women in general. Nothing in the programme encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of, women as a section of the community.

[14]           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

Peter Radich
Chair

1 October 2013
Appendix

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

1                 Elizabeth Shaw’s formal complaint  – 7 July 2013

2                 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 9 July 2013

3                 Ms Shaw’s referral to the Authority – 9 July 2013

4                 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 9 August 2013



[1] Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014

[2] For 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)

[3] See, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks, Decision No. 2006-030

[4] For example, see Teoh and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-091