[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An episode of The Project featured an item about several aspects of the gun control debate in New Zealand, including the Police Association’s call to introduce a firearm registry and tighter restrictions on firearm ownership and importation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was materially inaccurate in relation to the number of firearms being legally imported every year into New Zealand. The Authority also found that it was not misleading to use Police Association survey statistics (rather than NZ Police data) in the broadcast as the source of the statistics was clearly identified. Overall, the Authority was satisfied that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the item was accurate and not misleading, so the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression in this case.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
 An episode of The Project featured an item about several aspects of the gun control debate in New Zealand, including the Police Association’s call to introduce a firearm registry and tighter restrictions on firearm ownership and importation. The item included some statistics about the use of firearms in New Zealand, including:
 The item featured interviews with Police Association President Chris Cahill and Gun City owner David Tipple.
 Peter Dennis complained that the item created an incorrect picture of the extent of the firearms issue because: the actual number of firearms imported into New Zealand every year is significantly lower than 55,000; the Police Association survey is not a reliable source of information; and the number of officers who were allegedly threatened with a firearm last year does not match up with the ‘constantly falling’ number of firearms offences.
 The issue raised in the complaint is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The item was broadcast on Three on 15 February 2018. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 When we determine a complaint alleging a breach of broadcasting standards, we first give consideration to the right to freedom of expression. We weigh the value of the broadcast item, as well as the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast. We may only interfere and limit the right to freedom of expression where doing so is reasonable and justified.1
 In our view this broadcast carried a high level of public interest. It explored a topical, contentious and wide-ranging issue – gun control and firearm regulation in New Zealand – about which people in the New Zealand community will hold a variety of views, and they are entitled as part of the right to freedom of expression to see these issues discussed and analysed on television. This encourages robust public discourse, which is an important feature of freedom of expression and democratic society.
 The question for us to consider is whether the harm that is alleged to have been caused – that the item broadcast inaccurate or misleading information – is such that it warrants our intervention and warrants limiting the right to freedom of expression in this case.
 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 receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.
The parties’ submissions
 Mr Dennis submitted:
 MediaWorks submitted:
 We have identified the following statements from the broadcast as being relevant to the complainant’s concerns under the accuracy standard:
55,000 firearms imported into New Zealand each year
 The first question is whether the figure identified by the complainant amounted to a material point of fact in the context of this item. We are satisfied that, as a statistic, this figure could be verified and therefore that it was a point of fact (rather than an opinion, which is someone’s view, and contestable).2
 We also consider that it was a material point, for the purposes of this item. The Authority has previously found that audience members are likely to take note of highlighted statistics, so it is important to ensure that the figures used are correct, particularly where they are used to frame an item’s focus.3 In this particular case, the statistic was used to highlight the significant amount of firearms in circulation in New Zealand considering the level of firearms licence holders, and to introduce the argument for a compulsory firearm registry in New Zealand, as advocated for by the Police Association.
 Based on the information available to us, we are satisfied that there was a reasonable basis for the figure used. A response under the Official Information Act from NZ Customs, to a request querying the 55,000 figure, attaches a document showing the average number of firearms legally imported into New Zealand from 2013-2017 was 51,5284. The response states however that the figures for the last five years do not include types of firearms for which, when imported, the importer is not required to declare the quantity, for example pistols and revolvers.5 Therefore the exact number of firearms imported annually is unknown.
 In these circumstances we do not consider the estimation used by the presenter was materially inaccurate.
Number of Police who have been threatened with a firearm
 Regarding Mr Dennis’ second concern, we note that he has not suggested that the figure itself, as reported from the survey findings, is incorrect or that it was incorrectly reported. Rather, he submitted that the figure is not consistent with the ‘actual figures for firearms offending’, which Mr Dennis submits, have ‘been falling for many years’. He is also concerned that the broadcaster used the Police Association survey data in this broadcast.
 As noted by the broadcaster, the number of police who reported in the survey they were ‘threatened’ with a firearm does not necessarily correlate with the number of actual arrests or offences. We therefore do not consider the use of the figure was misleading in this respect.
 We note however that the item did include a countering view, through interviewing Gun City owner David Tipple. Mr Tipple countered the veracity of the statistics and the Police Association’s view, saying, for example, ‘Police are not being confronted with firearms more and more. There are a number of imitation firearms. These comments are fearmongering.’ This gave viewers an alternative perspective as to the weight to be given to the statistics reported.
 Additionally, the source of the statistics was clearly identified in the broadcast as the Police Association, originating from a survey of its members. It was reasonable for the broadcaster to refer to the Police Association survey findings, and we do not consider that the broadcaster’s decision to report on the survey results (rather than referring to NZ Police data) resulted in the item being misleading, given the source was clearly identified.
 For these reasons, we find the harm alleged to have been caused by this item did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression in this case. Accordingly, we do not uphold Mr Dennis’ complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
18 June 2018
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined these complaints:
1 Peter Dennis’ formal complaint – 15 February 2018
2 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 15 March 2018
3 Mr Dennis’ referral to the Authority – 16 March 2018
4 MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 9 April 2018
1 See sections 5 and 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and Introduction: Freedom of Expression, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6.
2 See the Authority’s Guidance: Accuracy – Distinguishing fact and analysis, comment or opinion, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 62
3 Laven and Radio New Zealand Ltd (Decision No. 2015-076)
4 NZ Customs Service response to OIA Request (CR OIA 18-039), https://fyi.org.nz/request/7273/response/24094/attach/4/OIA%20data.pdf, February 2018
5 NZ Customs Service response to OIA Request (CR OIA 18-039), https://fyi.org.nz/request/7273/response/24094/attach/3/Letter.pdf, 8 March 2018