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Hadley and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2017-102 (8 May 2018)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Christopher Hadley

Dated

8th May 2018

Number

2017-102

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 explored issues of climate change in the lead up to the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Bonn, Germany. During the introduction to the item, presenter Simon Dallow stated that ‘New Zealand emits a tiny fraction of the world’s greenhouse gases’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Dallow’s statement was unbalanced, as no information was provided to viewers about New Zealand’s high per capita greenhouse gas emissions. The precise levels of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions were not ‘discussed’ during this item, which is required in order for the balance standard to apply. The introductory segment covered a wide range of topics related to climate change and the item as a whole primarily focused on the impact of climate change on low-lying nations such as Fiji. While Mr Dallow referred to New Zealand’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement and the new Government’s response to climate change issues, his reference to greenhouse gas emissions was brief. In this context, viewers would not have expected the item to cover New Zealand’s precise levels of greenhouse gas emissions in-depth.

Not Upheld: Balance  


Introduction

[1]  An item on 1 News explored issues of climate change in the lead up to the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Bonn, Germany. During the introduction to the item, presenter Simon Dallow stated that ‘New Zealand emits a tiny fraction of the world’s greenhouse gases’.

[2]  Christopher Hadley complained that Mr Dallow’s statement regarding New Zealand’s low emission levels was unbalanced, as no information was provided to viewers about New Zealand’s high per capita emissions.

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

[4]  The item was broadcast on TVNZ 1 on 6 November 2017 at 6pm. 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 item discuss a controversial issue of public importance which required the presentation of alternative viewpoints?

[5]  The balance standard (Standard 8) states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest. The standard exists to ensure that competing viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.

The parties’ submissions

[6]  Mr Hadley submitted that:

  • Currently, New Zealand was the fifth-highest per capita greenhouse gas emitter of wealthy developed nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
  • By omitting this information, the broadcast was unbalanced, as viewers were likely to be misled as to the significance of New Zealand’s contribution to climate change issues.

[7]  TVNZ submitted that:

  • The statement made was correct and it was not necessary to discuss the per capita emissions made by New Zealanders.
  • The general outtake from the segment was that New Zealand had pledged to reduce emissions by a third and that the new Government ‘has much greater ambitions for a leadership role for New Zealand in the global fight against climate change’.

Our analysis

[8]  A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programmes which discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The subject matter must be an issue ‘of public importance’, it must be ‘controversial’, and it must be ‘discussed’.1

[9]  In this case, we consider that New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and the steps taken by the New Zealand Government in response, amounts to a controversial issue of public importance. The issue attracts significant public debate and is of concern to many New Zealanders.

[10]  The precise levels of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions were not, however, the focus of the item and were not ‘discussed’ during this item, which is required in order for the balance standard to apply.

[11]  We understand that it is correct that, while New Zealand’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is small (0.17 percent), it has the fifth-highest level of emissions per person of the 35 countries in the OECD.2 However, the introductory segment presented by Mr Dallow covered a wide range of topics relating to climate change and the primary focus of the item as a whole was on the impact of climate change on low-lying nations such as Fiji. While Mr Dallow referred to New Zealand’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement and the new Government’s aim to take a greater leadership role in the ‘fight against climate change’, the reference to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions was brief, and the precise levels were not examined in-depth during the item.

[12]  In this context, we do not consider viewers would have expected to be presented with further contextual information around New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. We therefore find that the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast has not outweighed the right to freedom of expression – both the broadcaster’s right to impart ideas and information, and the public’s right to receive that information. We consider that this item had value, in keeping viewers informed about climate change issues likely to be discussed at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference. For the reasons set out above, we do not believe listeners would have been left uninformed on the issue of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and the Government’s response to climate change, and we have not identified any harm arising from the broadcast that would outweigh the right to freedom of expression. 

[13]  We therefore do not find a breach of the balance standard.

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


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
8 May 2018

 


Appendix

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

1     Christopher Hadley’s formal complaint – 7 November 2017
2     TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 5 December 2017
3     Mr Hadley’s referral to the Authority – 6 December 2017
4    TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 27 February 2018


Guideline 8a

2 ‘New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series: Our atmosphere and climate 2017’, http://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/media/our-atmosphere-and-climate-2017-final.pdf (Data to 2016), October 2017, Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand, page 6