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QA and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-015

Members

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

Complainant

  • QA of Auckland

Dated

15th July 2014

Number

2014-015

Programme

One News

Channel/Station

TV ONE

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A ONE News item reported on Maritime New Zealand’s lifejacket awareness campaign and featured footage of a female boatie, QA, at the Takapuna Beach boat ramp. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that showing her in the item breached her privacy, and that her comment to the reporter was taken out of context which was inaccurate and unfair.

Not Upheld: Privacy, Accuracy, Fairness


Introduction

[1]  A ONE News item reported on Maritime New Zealand’s lifejacket awareness campaign, in light of six drownings in the first week of summer. Introducing the item, the presenter stated, ‘[Our reporter] found Auckland boaties were complacent about the dangers’. In a pre-recorded item, the reporter said, ‘We’ve been at Takapuna boat ramp for just 15 minutes, and out of three boats, six of eight people on board weren’t wearing lifejackets’. This was followed by footage of the ‘boaties’, including a man who said, ‘We took them off as we came in’. The reporter asked a female on the boat, ‘Why did you take it off before you pulled in?’ She was shown saying, ‘I’m quite a good swimmer’. The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 8 December 2013.

[2]  QA, the female shown in the item, made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, saying that she was not informed the footage would be broadcast on national television, and that the use of her image breached her privacy. She said that she had a protection order and ‘have always gone out of my way to lie low’. She also argued that her comments were taken out of context which was inaccurate and unfair.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the privacy, accuracy and fairness standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[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 complainant’s privacy breached?

[5]  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]  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. As QA was shown on camera in the item, we are satisfied that she was identifiable.

[7]  The next step is to consider whether the broadcast disclosed any private facts about the complainant, in a manner that would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

[8]  The filming occurred outside in a space open to the public, at the Takapuna Beach boat ramp. A person’s image and general location will not usually be considered private, unless it is attached to information that is sensitive or private in nature. While we appreciate that the complainant has a protection order in place, it appears from both parties’ version of events that she willingly engaged with the reporter and the camera for two or three minutes. There has been no suggestion from the complainant that she asked not to be filmed or that she informed the reporter of the protection order so that her identity could be protected. As she was in a public place, she was fully aware she was on camera, and she did not object to the filming, it was unreasonable to expect that the footage of her, and her interview, would remain private.

[9]  Accordingly, we are satisfied that no private facts about the complainant were disclosed in a manner that was highly offensive, and we decline to uphold the privacy complaint.

Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[10]  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

[11]  QA argued that the footage was misleading because she took her lifejacket off as they pulled into the boat ramp but the reporter ignored this, and her comment ‘I am quite a good swimmer’ was broadcast out of context to make it sound like she took her lifejacket off as the boat came into the harbour. TVNZ rejected the contention the brief comment broadcast in the item misrepresented the ‘tone’ of the interview. It stated, ‘The reporter has advised that you did say you removed your lifejacket at the ramp but they filmed you coming in and you didn’t have a lifejacket on’.

[12]  It appears there is a dispute about when exactly the complainant removed her lifejacket. Whether the complainant removed it as she was ‘coming in’ to the ramp or when she was ‘on the ramp’ was not, in our view, material to viewers’ understanding of the item as a whole. The complainant’s comment, ‘I’m quite a good swimmer’ was relevant as it offered one explanation to the audience for why she had removed her lifejacket, and also raised what was probably a common reason for others not wearing lifejackets. The overarching message of the item was one of water safety, following the recent numerous drownings.

[13]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaint that the item was inaccurate.

Was the complainant treated unfairly?

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

[15]  QA argued that she was treated unfairly because her comment was taken out of context and she was not informed of the nature of her participation. TVNZ maintained that the interview with the complainant was not edited in a way that distorted her comment, and it said there was no ‘blame’ attached to the footage. It maintained that at the end of the interview the reporter told the complainant her name and that she was working for ONE News, and at no stage did the complainant ask not to be filmed or say that she needed identity protection.

[16]  As we have said above, we think the complainant’s comment was relevant as it served to explain to the audience one reason why she removed her lifejacket, or why others perhaps do not wear lifejackets. When exactly she removed her lifejacket – whether on the boat ramp or as they were coming in to the boat ramp – did not alter the fact that she told the reporter she is a confident swimmer, so we do not think the comment resulted in the complainant being treated unfairly overall.

[17]  Whether the complainant was informed of the nature of her participation is also an area of dispute between the parties. However, as we have already noted in relation to privacy, QA willingly engaged with the reporter and with the camera for two or three minutes. She did not during that time object to the filming or inform the reporter that she required identity protection. If she had, the reporter and the broadcaster could have acted on this information and taken steps to mask her identity. We note in this respect that as a result of the complaint, the broadcaster has attached a note to the footage advising it should not be used again unless the complainant’s image is pixelated.

[18]  Overall, we are satisfied that the complainant was not treated unfairly, and we do not think that viewers would have been left with an unfairly negative impression of her.

[19]  Accordingly we decline to uphold the fairness complaint.

Name suppression

[20]  While we have not upheld the privacy complaint, taking into account the circumstances surrounding the complaint and the complainant’s protection order, we consider it appropriate to suppress her details in this decision.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
15 July 2014

Appendix

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

1                 QA’s formal complaint – 11 December 2013

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 29 January 2014

3                 QA’s referral to the Authority – 17 February 2014

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 22 May 2014


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