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Stewart and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-031 (18 June 2018)

Members

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

Complainant

  • David Stewart

Dated

18th June 2018

Number

2018-031

Programme

1 News

Channel/Station

TVNZ 1

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

A 1 News item discussed corruption charges being laid against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Brief footage from US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in May 2017 was shown at the end of the item. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of this footage created an unduly negative impression of President Trump and implied he was involved in the corruption, which was unfair. The Authority found the use of the footage in no way implicated President Trump in the alleged corruption. The footage was brief and President Trump was not referred to verbally.

Not Upheld: Fairness


Introduction

[1]  A 1 News item discussed corruption charges being laid against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At the end of the item, very brief footage from a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu in May 2017 was shown.

[2]  David Stewart complained that the use of this footage implied that President Trump had some involvement in the alleged corruption and created ‘guilt by association’, leaving viewers with an unduly negative impression of President Trump, which was unfair.

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

[4]  The item was broadcast on TVNZ 1 on 14 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.

Was President Trump treated unfairly?

[5]  The fairness standard (Standard 11) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. One of the purposes of the fairness standard is to protect individuals and organisations from broadcasts which provide an unfairly negative representation of their character or conduct. Programme participants and people referred to in broadcasts have the right to expect that broadcasters will deal with them justly and fairly, so that unwarranted harm is not caused to their reputation and dignity.

The parties’ submissions

[6]  Mr Stewart submitted:

  • The use of this footage was a ‘blatant attempt to create the impression of guilt by association’.
  • To remedy the unfairness the broadcaster must apologise and make it clear that President Trump was not involved in the allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu.

[7]  TVNZ submitted: 

  • While the item discussed allegations of corruption levelled at Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Trump was not mentioned and there was no inference or statement that President Trump was involved.
  • The footage was simply used as ‘visual wallpaper’ to the discussion about Prime Minister Netanyahu.
  • The type of discussion and analysis included in the item is an accepted part of news broadcasting and is permitted under the standards.

Our analysis

[8]  When we determine a complaint alleging a breach of broadcasting standards, we first consider the right to freedom of expression. We weigh the value of the broadcast, 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.

[9]  This particular news item regarding Prime Minister Netanyahu carried a level of public interest, in keeping the public informed on global current events.

[10]  In assessing the level of harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast, we agree with TVNZ that the broadcast did not verbally refer to President Trump or in any way suggest he was involved in the alleged corruption. The use of footage of Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Trump and their spouses in this brief item merely served as a visual background. In these circumstances viewers were unlikely to have been left with an unduly negative impression of President Trump. Therefore, we find no reason to limit the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion.

[11]  Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint.

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

 


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
18 June 2018

 


Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1       David Stewart’s formal complaint – 15 February 2018
2       TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 15 March 2018
3       David Stewart’s referral to the Authority – 26 March 2018
4       TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 24 April 2018