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Dickson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2017-003 (15 May 2017)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Alister Dickson

Dated

15th May 2017

Number

2017-003

Programme

1 News

Channel/Station

TVNZ 1

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

An item on 1 News reported on an upcoming boxing match between Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz for the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) heavyweight champion title. The presenter introduced the item by saying, ‘Well, the fight is set to make history whichever way it goes. There’s never been a New Zealand or Mexican world heavyweight champion’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s statement was inaccurate because a New Zealander, Robert ‘Bob’ Fitzsimmons, was the first heavyweight champion in 1897. The complaint related to a technical interpretation of Fitzsimmons’ nationality, which was not a material point of fact that was likely to mislead viewers in the context of this news item. In any event, the Authority noted that Robert Fitzsimmons was born in the United Kingdom and had lived in a number of other countries, and it was therefore not unreasonable for the presenter to refer to Joseph Parker as the first potential New Zealand heavyweight champion.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  An item on 1 News reported on an upcoming boxing match between Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz for the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) heavyweight champion title. The presenter introduced the item as follows:

Well, the fight is set to make history whichever way it goes. There’s never been a New Zealand or Mexican world heavyweight champion.

[2]  Alister Dickson complained that the presenter’s statement was inaccurate, as Robert ‘Bob’ Fitzsimmons, who was born in England but raised in Timaru, was the first New Zealand heavyweight champion in 1897.

[3]  The issue raised in Mr Dickson’s complaint is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast on 9 December 2016 on TVNZ 1. 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 9) 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 being significantly misinformed.

The parties’ submissions

[6]  Mr Dickson acknowledged that Fitzsimmons was born in England, but argued Fitzsimmons moved to Timaru with his family when he was nine years old in 1873 and at that time, most New Zealanders were immigrants from Britain. He noted that newspapers at the time referred to ‘Fitzsimmons the New Zealander’, and numerous history books also referred to him as a New Zealander.

[7]  TVNZ did not agree that the presenter’s statement was a material point of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. In any event, it said that BoxRec1 recorded Fitzsimmons as being born in England in 1863 and moving to New Zealand in 1873, before beginning his professional boxing career in Australia and eventually settling in the United States.

Our analysis

[8]  The accuracy standard is concerned only with accuracy on points which are material to the programme as a whole. Technical or unimportant points unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the programme are not material.2

[9]  While Joseph Parker’s potential record title was a relevant point to raise during the item, the argument made by the complainant related to a technical interpretation of Robert Fitzsimmons’ nationality that in our view does not amount to a material point of fact. The remainder of the item focused on Mr Parker’s preparations and chances of winning against his upcoming opponent, and the statement made by the presenter was not referred to again during the item.

[10]  In any event, we note there are arguments for and against recognising Robert Fitzsimmons’ title ahead of Joseph Parker’s, as demonstrated by differing terms used in surrounding media and coverage leading up to, and following, the match.3 As noted by the broadcaster, our understanding is that Robert Fitzsimmons was born in the United Kingdom, raised in New Zealand, became a professional boxer in Australia, and lived and died in the United States as a US citizen. It was while in the US that Fitzsimmons achieved success and won the title.4

[11]  We acknowledge the complainant’s view that, by being raised in New Zealand at a time when most residents were immigrants to the country, Mr Fitzsimmons should therefore be considered a New Zealander. Nevertheless, we consider it was reasonable for the presenter to refer to Joseph Parker as the first New Zealander to potentially win the title, given that Mr Fitzsimmons was in fact born in the United Kingdom and lived in several countries over the course of his boxing career. Referring to Mr Parker in this way would not have misled viewers in relation to the item as a whole.

[12]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under Standard 9.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
15 May 2017

 

Appendix

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

1      Alister Dickson’s formal complaint – 9 December 2016
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 20 January 2017
3      Mr Dickson’s referral to the Authority – 1 February 2017
4      TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 24 March 2017

  


1  BoxRec is an online boxing records archive which holds updated records of professional boxers: http://boxrec.com/
2  Guideline 9b 
3  See, for example: Top 10 British heavyweight boxers of all time (The Telegraph, 8 April 2016); BoxRec: Bob Fitzsimmons (BoxRec, last modified 21 June 2016); Pound for pound, who is the greatest ever British boxer? (Boxing Monthly, 12 October 2016); Head to head: Who is New Zealand's best ever heavyweight boxer? (Stuff.co.nz, 10 November 2016); Parker's shot to end 126-year Kiwi drought (NZ Herald, 10 December 2016); From Bob to Joe: New Zealand has its first heavyweight boxing champion since 1899 (Vice Sports, 11 December 2016); Champion of the world! Joseph Parker wins historic victory over Andy Ruiz Jr to claim WBO title (NZ Herald, 11 December 2016); Joseph Parker wins WBO world heavyweight title (Stuff.co.nz, 11 December 2016);   
4  See Fitzsimmons the Kiwi? (Boxing Monthly, 8 December 2016)