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Insley & Soryl and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2015-028

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose

Complainants

  • Claire Insley
  • Yolanda Soryl

Dated

23rd September 2015

Number

2015-028

Programme

Breakfast

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

A segment on Breakfast featured an interview with the chair of the Eating Disorders Association, who discussed that some individuals may mask eating disorders with particular 'fad diets'. Although the chair did not specifically mention veganism, banners shown on-screen during the segment read, 'Fears teens use veganism to restrict food intake' and 'Fears people use veganism to restrict food intake'. The Authority did not uphold complaints that the banners were misleading by suggesting veganism was an eating disorder and encouraged bullying of vegans. Viewers would not have been misled by the broadcast as a whole or encouraged to bully vegans. In any case, vegans are not a section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness, Responsible Programming


Introduction

[1]  A segment on Breakfast featured an interview with the chair of the Eating Disorders Association, who discussed that some individuals mask eating disorders with particular 'fad diets'. Although the chair did not specifically mention veganism, banners shown on-screen during the segment read, 'Fears teens use veganism to restrict food intake' and 'Fears people use veganism to restrict food intake'.

[2]  Claire Insley and Yolanda Soryl complained that the banners were inaccurate and misleading, as veganism was not mentioned in the programme. They said the banners wrongly suggested that veganism was an eating disorder. They also argued that the segment would encourage bullying of vegans.

[3]  Apparently the banners shown during the Breakfast segment related to a story on ONE News the previous night which did specifically discuss veganism in relation to eating disorders.

[4]  The issue is whether the Breakfast broadcast breached the accuracy, discrimination and denigration, fairness and responsible programming standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 17 March 2015. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Jurisdictional matters

[6]  Ms Soryl also complained that the headline to the associated online story read 'Veganism – the new eating disorder?' Our powers under the Broadcasting Act 1989 relate to television and radio broadcasts only, so we do not have any powers in relation to this kind of online content. In any case, we note the headline was amended after TVNZ received complaints.

[7]  Ms Soryl raised the good taste and decency standard in her referral, but did not raise it in her original complaint to the broadcaster. Accordingly, the Authority is not able to consider the good taste and decency standard at this stage of the process. We are limited to matters identified in the original formal complaint.

Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[8]  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

[9]  Ms Insley argued that the banners were inaccurate as veganism was not mentioned at all in the segment. She also said that it was 'inappropriate to assume that the same people who watched the ONE News piece would be watching the Breakfast piece'. Ms Soryl argued that as the segment did not show 'in any way that veganism is the new eating disorder', the broadcast was inaccurate.

[10]  TVNZ argued that 'the banners did not state or imply that following a vegan diet leads to eating disorders'. Although it conceded that the 'singling out of veganism in the banner was regrettable', it considered overall the item was not materially inaccurate or misleading.

[11]  We acknowledge that TVNZ has admitted its error in broadcasting the banners, and do agree that it was careless given the interview itself made no mention of veganism. However, we think that reasonable viewers would have taken the broadcast as a whole and would have recognised that the banners were shown mistakenly. In any case, the banners did not suggest that veganism is an eating disorder; rather, they suggested – when read alongside the interview discussion – that there is concern that some people with eating disorders may be legitimising or disguising their behaviour by labelling it veganism. We do not think viewers would have been left with the impression alleged by the complainants or that they would have been misled.

[12]  Accordingly we do not uphold the complaints under Standard 5.

Did the broadcast encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, vegans as a section of the community?

[13]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

[14]  Ms Insley argued that '[v]eganism is not a "fad" diet... and many [members of the Vegan Society] felt insulted and were extremely unhappy' with the segment. Ms Soryl argued that it was 'not okay to publicly label the vegan community as a group of people with eating disorders'. She said that '[v]egans are a group who are constantly bullied', and that the broadcast made her and her children, who are vegan, feel 'unsafe'.

[15]  TVNZ argued that the banners were 'not pejorative or nasty', so they could not amount to encouraging discrimination against or the denigration of any group.

[16]  The discrimination and denigration standard applies only to recognised 'sections of the community', which are consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993.2 People who make particular dietary choices, including vegans, do not in our view qualify as a section of the community as envisaged by the standard. In any case, we agree with TVNZ that the banners did not contain any level of vitriol or disparagement against vegans and could not reasonably be said to have encouraged bullying of them.

[17]  As a result we decline to uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

Did the broadcast breach any other broadcasting standards?

[18]  Ms Insley also argued that the banners breached the fairness standard and 'may have caused panic, unwarranted alarm or undue distress to parents of vegan children' in breach of the responsible programming standard.

[19]  These standards were either not applicable or not breached because:

  •  Ms Insley did not specify any individual or organisation who she believed was treated unfairly in the item (Standard 6); and
  •  The item could not reasonably be said to have caused panic, alarm or distress to viewers in the context of a breakfast news and current affairs programme targeted at adults (Standard 8).

[20]  We therefore decline to uphold these aspects of the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich

Chair

23 September 2015

 

 

Appendix

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

Claire Insley's complaint

1      Claire Insley's formal complaint – 23 March 2015

2      TVNZ's response to the complaint – 22 April 2015

3      Ms Insley's referral to the Authority – 17 May 2015

4      TVNZ's response to the Authority – 24 July 2015

Yolanda Soryl's complaint

5      Yolanda Soryl's formal complaint – 17 March 2015

6      TVNZ's response to the complaint – 16 April 2015

7      Ms Soryl's referral to the Authority – 12 May 2015

8      TVNZ's response to the Authority – 24 July 2015

 


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

https://www.hrc.co.nz/enquiries-and-complaints/what-you-can-complain-about/