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NR and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2015-064 (1 December 2015)

Members

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

Complainant

  • NR

Dated

1st December 2015

Number

2015-064

Programme

Neighbours at War

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

The introduction to a Neighbours at War story showed brief footage of a man, GR, on a street outside a bar. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from GR’s son that the broadcast breached GR’s privacy. The footage was very brief, was taken in a public place and would not be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

Not Upheld: Privacy


Introduction

[1]  The introduction to a Neighbours at War story showed brief footage of a man (GR) on a street outside a bar. The man lifted up his t-shirt and appeared to be showing off for the camera.

[2]  NR, GR’s son, complained that the broadcast breached his father’s privacy, in particular because the filming had taken place a number of years before.

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

[4]  The programme was broadcast on TV2 on 20 August 2015. 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 broadcast breach GR’s privacy?

[5]  The privacy standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. The standard exists to protect individuals from undesired access to, and disclosure of, information about themselves and their affairs. This is in order to maintain their dignity, choice, mental wellbeing and reputation, and their ability to develop relationships and opinions away from the glare of publicity.

[6]  When we consider a privacy complaint, we first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. While the footage of GR was brief – approximately five seconds – we are satisfied that it was sufficient to visibly identify him. His face and body were shown in a full-length shot and the small town in which GR lived was also named.

[7]  Privacy principle 1 of the Authority’s Privacy Principles has the widest application to alleged breaches of privacy. It provides that it is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective, reasonable person.

[8]  NR said that broadcasting the footage of his father several years after it had been obtained had caused hurt and embarrassment to his father and their family, as they would have preferred it to remain private.

[9]  TVNZ noted that the story in question did not relate to GR, and apart from the brief footage in the introduction, he was not featured or otherwise discussed during the episode. It stated that GR was filmed in a public place, was aware he was being filmed and did not request the camera crew to stop filming or request that the footage not be used. TVNZ argued the footage did not disclose any private facts about GR nor contain any nasty or pejorative comment about him. It argued that GR’s act of lifting up his t-shirt ‘seems to be playful and intended to be amusing’. TVNZ maintained the disclosure of the footage would not be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

[10]  A person will not usually have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. The footage shown of GR was taken while he was on a public street in the centre of his small town. We accept the broadcaster’s explanation that GR was aware he was being filmed as he did appear to be reacting to the presence of the camera and did not object to the filming.

[11]  We understand that the complainant’s main concern was the length of time between the footage being obtained and the broadcast in August 2015. We have held in a number of previous cases that the practice of re-broadcasting footage or of using older footage in repeat broadcasts may in some circumstances raise an issue in terms of participants’ right to privacy and fair treatment, depending on the level of sensitivity and the nature of the information or footage disclosed.1

[12]  In this instance, however, GR was not named, referred to verbally or otherwise discussed in relation to the Neighbours at War story which followed. Viewers were not given any information about GR apart from the brief footage of him, his location outside a bar and the name of the town. He was not visibly intoxicated. Overall the content was relatively innocuous and we do not think the average viewer would have drawn any conclusions about GR from the footage. The footage was merely part of setting the scene for the upcoming story and giving context to the location and community where a dispute between two neighbours had occurred.

[13]  In these circumstances, we do not think that the programme disclosed any private facts about GR or that the broadcast of the footage would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person. Accordingly we decline to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached GR’s privacy.

[14]  In his complaint NR also nominated privacy principles 4 and 8. Privacy principle 4 concerns the disclosure of an individual’s name, phone number or address for the purposes of encouraging harassment.2 For the reasons we have outlined, we do not think that the broadcast of the footage of GR disclosed any details about him in a manner that encouraged people to harass him. Privacy principle 8 provides a defence to a breach of privacy where the matter disclosed is in the public interest. As we have not found any breach of privacy in this instance we do not need to go on to consider whether this defence was available to the broadcaster.

Name Suppression

[15]  Although we have not found any breach of privacy, having regard to the nature of the complaint and the relationship between NR and GR, we consider it appropriate to suppress their 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
1 December 2015

 

Appendix

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

1      NR’s direct privacy complaint – 24 August 2015
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 September 2015

 


1 See, for example, FS and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2012-036 and MQ and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-033

2 See, for example, Spring and The Radio Network Ltd, Decision No. 2007-108