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Boyce and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2014-135

Members

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

Complainant

  • Simon Boyce of Kapiti

Dated

5th February 2015

Number

2014-135

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

MediaWorks TV Ltd

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

During 3 News coverage of the results of the 2014 general election, a reporter was shown persistently attempting to interview the Internet-Mana Party leader Laila Harré. The Authority declined to uphold the complaint that the reporter's treatment of Ms Harré was unfair. The reporter's behaviour did not cross the high threshold for finding unfairness to politicians and public figures, particularly in the context of an important political broadcast.

Not Upheld: Fairness


Introduction

[1]  The 3 News election coverage, 'Decision '14, Election Night', included footage of a reporter persistently questioning and aiming a microphone at the Internet-Mana Party leader Laila Harré as she attempted to make her way into the party's post-election gathering. Ms Harré mostly ignored the reporter but when she tried to speak the reporter interrupted and spoke over her.

[2]  Simon Boyce complained that the reporter's actions amounted to 'hectoring' and 'harassment'.

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

[4]  The item was broadcast on 20 September 2014 on TV3. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the relevant segment and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was Laila Harré treated unfairly?

[5]  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.1

[6]  Mr Boyce argued that the reporter 'tried to intervene in [Ms] Harré greeting a supporter to try to get a comment, and then continued to berate [her] for some form of concession comment' and when she did try to speak 'TV3 decided to cut away'.

[7]  MediaWorks said there was no evidence of Ms Harré being 'physically harassed' and 'For the most part, [she] ignored the reporter' and with her 'entourage carried on walking through the premises'. It provided comment from the reporter, as follows:

On election night news media were given permission to greet and interview Laila Harré as she entered the venue where her supporters had gathered. This was facilitated by Internet Party secretary Pam Corkery who texted us in advance of her arrival, and around 15 media assembled at the front door to talk to Harré as she arrived. As is clear from the broadcast, there were a lot of media present, and it was difficult to get up the stairs to where her supporters were gathered, however everyone behaved respectfully and did their very best to clear a path for Harré...

[8]  The broadcaster said that a debrief was held among senior news staff, following the coverage, and 'In the context of the intensity of the election night, where all party leaders are aware they will be expected to express their thoughts about the outcome for their party and the wider election result, the consensus was that the interview fell within the expectations for the genre and was fair to Ms Harré'. It emphasised that no complaint had been received from Ms Harré or anyone claiming to represent her.

[9]  The Authority has previously recognised that the threshold for finding a breach of the fairness standard in relation to politicians or public figures is higher than for a lay person or someone unfamiliar with dealing with the media.2 While some viewers may have considered the reporter's approach to be somewhat rude in persistently questioning Ms Harré and then interrupting her when she did try to speak, we are satisfied that it did not cross the high threshold necessary to find unfairness to a politician. The reporter was doing her job and was trying to obtain comment from a politician in the context of a high intensity political event, namely, the results of the 2014 general election. This was acceptable treatment in the circumstances, given that Ms Harré was experienced in dealing with the media and would have expected to answer questions regarding the election results and what they meant for her party and the wider New Zealand public. We think she handled herself well and viewers would not have been left with a negative impression of her character or conduct.

[10]  We are therefore satisfied the broadcast was not unfair and we decline to uphold the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
5 February 2015

 

Appendix

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

1      Simon Boyce's formal complaint – 23 September 2014
2      MediaWorks' response to the complaint – 28 October 2014
3      Mr Boyce's referral to the Authority – 30 October 2014
4      MediaWorks' response to the Authority – 21 November 2014
5      Mr Boyce's final comment – 26 November 2014
6      MediaWorks' final comment – 27 November 2014

 

 


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

2 Kiro and RadioWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-108