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Vincent and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-058 (26 October 2018)

Members

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

Complainant

  • Todd Vincent

Dated

26th October 2018

Number

2018-058

Channel/Station

TVNZ 1

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about the action taken by a broadcaster in response to a complaint it received about incorrect reporting of casualties in an event in Gaza. Three news bulletins on 1 News and 1 News Midday reported inconsistent numbers of Palestinians killed and injured following protests in Gaza. The broadcaster upheld a complaint that two of the bulletins were inaccurate, however the complainant was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster in response to these breaches and referred the complaint to the Authority on this basis. The Authority found that TVNZ took sufficient action, noting the broadcaster apologised in its decision to the complainant and circulated a reminder to all newsroom staff about the importance of reporting this type of information correctly.

Not Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken)


The broadcasts

[1]  Three news items on 1 News and 1 News Midday, broadcast on TVNZ 1, reported inconsistent numbers of Palestinians killed and injured following protests in Gaza, as follows:

  • ‘After ten weeks of protests on the Gaza-Israel border more than 100 Palestinians have died and 13,000 have been injured.’ (1 News, 4 June 2018)
  • ‘Israel has blamed Iran for the recent violence on the Gaza border where hundreds of people have been killed in recent weeks.’ (1 News Midday, 8 June 2018)
  • ‘Since the protests began in March more than 120 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 4,000 wounded by Israeli army fire.’ (1 News, 9 June 2018)

The complaint

[2]  In his complaint to TVNZ, Todd Vincent complained that the inconsistent reporting of casualties breached the accuracy standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. Mr Vincent also considered the public should have been provided with further contextual information about those injured (for example, whether injuries were recorded as moderate or light injuries).

[3]  In response to Mr Vincent’s complaint, TVNZ confirmed that the figures reported in the 4 June 2018 story were correct, citing the United Nations,1 and acknowledged that the figures reported in the latter items were inaccurate. TVNZ apologised for the errors and an email was sent to newsroom staff indicating that these errors were unacceptable and special care needed to be taken in such reports.

[4]  Mr Vincent referred his complaint to the Authority on the basis he was dissatisfied with TVNZ’s action in response to his original complaint. Mr Vincent submitted to the Authority that, while TVNZ acknowledged the breach, as a public broadcaster it should be required to make a public statement correcting the misinformation for viewers. Mr Vincent said the public should also be made aware of TVNZ’s sources and whether such sources were independently verified.

The accuracy standard

[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 receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.

Our findings

[6]  In this case the question for the Authority is whether the action taken by TVNZ was sufficient to remedy the accuracy breach, which it acknowledged in its decision on Mr Vincent’s complaint.

[7]  We accept that significant errors were made in the latter two items. In the context of reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict, which carries a high level of public interest, it is particularly important for figures such as these to be accurately reported and verified.

[8]  However, TVNZ has accepted, and apologised for, the errors that were made during these broadcasts. The email, sent to TVNZ’s newsroom staff, emphasises the seriousness of the errors, particularly in the context of reporting on this conflict. The email also urged staff to check their sources, highlighting the importance of verification, even when relying on stories supplied by international broadcasters.

[9]  We consider these were adequate and proportionate steps to take in the circumstances, especially taking into account that the situation in Gaza was developing rapidly and the figures were likely to continue to change (meaning a public correction may not be effective). We therefore do not uphold the complaint that the action taken by TVNZ was insufficient.

[10]  Turning to the remainder of Mr Vincent’s concerns, we do not consider further contextual information about the seriousness of injuries suffered was required in the items, in order to prevent audiences from being materially misled about the protests and the scale of the issue. We find no breach of accuracy in this respect.

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

 

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
26 October 2018

 

 

Appendix

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

1     Todd Vincent’s formal complaint – 9 June 2018
2     TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 9 July 2018
3     Mr Vincent’s referral to the Authority – 16 July 2018
4     TVNZ’s further comments – 31 August 2018
5     Mr Vincent’s final comments – 11 September 2018


 1 The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Humanitarian Snapshot: casualties in the context of demonstrations and hostilities in Gaza 30 March – 7 June, published 8 June 2018, reports 131 deaths and 13,900 injuries.