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Field and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-012 (5 July 2016)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Michael Field

Dated

5th July 2016

Number

2016-012

Programme

ONE News

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

ONE News reported on the recent death of a woman in Remuera and said her alleged attacker (who had name suppression) had appeared in the Auckland District Court that day. The reporter described the alleged attacker as a ‘24-year-old Pacific Island man’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the reference to the alleged attacker’s race was offensive and racist. The Authority acknowledged that the reporter’s commentary, which included racial identification, could be seen as unnecessary given that the ethnicity of the alleged attacker was no longer critical following his arrest. However, the reporter’s description of the man was factual, and the comments did not reach the high threshold for finding that the item encouraged discrimination against, or denigration of, Pacific Islanders as a section of the community.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


Introduction

[1]  ONE News reported on the case of a woman who had been found dead in Remuera, and stated her alleged attacker had appeared in court and been granted interim name suppression. The reporter said:

Earlier this afternoon a 24-year-old Pacific Island man appeared at the Auckland District Court charged with her murder... There’s still a lot of mystery around this case. Firstly, why was he in the area at that particular time?

[2]  Michael Field complained that ‘there was no reason given as to why the race of the man mattered at all’ and that the reference to his race was offensive and racist.

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

[4]  The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 8 January 2016. 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 encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, Pacific Islanders as a section of the community?

[5]  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.

[6]  Mr Field argued that TVNZ ‘singled out’ the race of the accused and ‘implied that the accused, by being a Pacific Islander, had no right to be in the neighbourhood’.

[7]  TVNZ argued that the comment was ‘simply a statement of fact concerning the accused and [did] not portray any section of the community as having inherent negative characteristics’. Therefore it did not consider that the comment encouraged discrimination or denigration.

[8]  The term ‘denigration’ has consistently been defined by the Authority as tarnishing the reputation of a class of people.2 ‘Discrimination’ has been consistently defined as encouraging the different treatment of the members of a particular group, to their detriment.3

[9]  It is also well-established that in light of the requirements of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard.4

[10]  We share the complainant’s view that it was unnecessary for the reporter to refer to the race of the alleged attacker in the way he did. While an individual’s race may be a relevant detail to disclose while a search is underway, in this case – when the alleged attacker had been arrested and appeared in court – his race ceased to be critical to the story. Some viewers may also have interpreted the reporter’s surrounding comments as implying that it was unusual for a 24-year-old Pacific Islander to be in Remuera.

[11]  That being said, guideline 7a to the discrimination and denigration standard states the standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is factual. The reference to the man’s ethnicity, alongside mention of his age, was descriptive and was information the broadcaster had apparently already been provided by Police. While it may have been unnecessary detail, in the context of a brief and straightforward news report, we do not consider the factual description of the alleged attacker – which included reference to his ethnicity – could be said to have reached the high threshold necessary for finding that the item encouraged discrimination against, or denigration of, Pacific Islanders as a section of the community.

[12]  We therefore do not uphold the Standard 7 complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
5 July 2016

 

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      Michael Field’s formal complaint – 8 January 2016
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 12 February 2016
3      Michael Field’s referral to the Authority – 25 February 2016
4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 21 April 2016

 


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 See, for example, Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks, Decision No. 2006-030

3 For example, Teoh and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-091

4 E.g. McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network, Decision No. 2002-152