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Holubicki and Sky Network Television Ltd - 2016-020 (27 June 2016)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Robert Holubicki

Dated

27th June 2016

Number

2016-020

Programme

Prime News

Channel/Station

Prime TV

Broadcaster

SKY Network Television Ltd

Summary

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

A Prime News item reported on the trial of a former Nazi guard at Auschwitz and referred to the camp as a ‘Polish camp’. The complainant alleged this statement was inaccurate because it was not a ‘Polish camp’, but was rather a Nazi camp located in Poland. The Authority recognised that the labelling of concentration camps as part of the Nazi regime remains a sensitive issue and one of historical importance, which broadcasters should be mindful of when choosing the language to be used. Nevertheless, in the context of the item the Authority did not consider that viewers would have been misled.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness


Introduction

[1]  An item on Prime News reported on the trial of a former Nazi guard as follows:

A former Auschwitz guard has gone on trial in Germany for 170,000 counts of accessory to murder... Reinhold Hanning is accused of serving at the Polish camp when hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were killed.

[2]  Robert Holubicki complained that the reference to a ‘Polish camp’ was inaccurate, as there were not ‘Polish camps’ but instead Nazi camps located in Poland. He also complained that the item was unfair to the Polish people and Poland as a nation.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy and fairness standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1

[4]  The item was broadcast on Prime on 12 February 2016. 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 broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  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.2

[6]  Mr Holubicki argued that ‘it takes very little to change history’ and that ‘it takes saying “Polish camps” for the generations to come to believe that the Poles were the Nazis and were responsible for [the] death of millions of human beings’. He said that rather than ‘Polish camps’, there were ‘Nazi camps located in Poland’.

[7]  SKY conceded that the statement was ‘poorly worded’ and assured the complainant that it would take greater care in future, but maintained that there was no intention to mislead and that broadcasting standards had not been breached.

[8]  In the context of this news item, we do not consider the reference to ‘Polish camps’ was inaccurate or misleading. In a geographical sense, as Auschwitz was located in Poland, the description of the camp as ‘Polish’ was not inaccurate and we consider viewers would have understood the comment to mean that Auschwitz was located in Poland, rather than being led to believe it was run by the Polish people.

[9]  Having said that, we agree with the complainant that broadcasters ought to be mindful of the issue he raises. We acknowledge that clarity around the labelling of concentration camps (regardless of location) as part of the Nazi regime remains a sensitive issue and one of historical importance. In these circumstances care should be taken with nuances of language that may affect viewers’ interpretation of the intended message of the broadcast. The broadcaster in this case has accepted that the statement, although geographically correct, was poorly worded, and indicated it will take greater care in future.

[10]  We do not uphold the complaint under Standard 5.

Was any individual or organisation taking part or referred to in the broadcast treated unfairly?

[11]  The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. Mr Holubicki complained that the item was unfair to the Polish people and Poland as a nation.

[12]  The fairness standard applies only to specific individuals or organisations. It cannot be applied to groups of people, such as all Polish people, or to the Polish nation. We therefore find that the standard does not apply and we do not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
27 June 2016

 

 

Appendix

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

1     Robert Holubicki’s formal complaint – 15 February 2016
2     SKY’s response to the complaint – 14 March 2016
3     Mr Holubicki’s referral to the Authority – 24 March 2016
4     SKY’s response to the Authority – 12 May 2016

 

 


1 This complaint was determined under the previous Free-to-Air Television Code, which applied up until 31 March 2016. The new Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook took effect on 1 April 2016 and applies to any programmes broadcast on or after that date: http://bsa.govt.nz/standards/overview

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