[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Sunday, which investigated gay conversion therapy in New Zealand, was unbalanced and inaccurate. The Authority found the existence of differing viewpoints was pointed to throughout the programme, with balancing comments provided by those featured and in final comments from the presenter. The broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the programme, relying on authoritative medical opinion from health experts regarding current views on gay conversion therapy and the potential harm that could be caused by the practice. In making these findings, the Authority recognised the high public interest in this story and found that upholding the complaint would represent an unjustified and unreasonable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
 On 17 June 2018, TVNZ’s Sunday programme investigated gay conversion therapy and whether this practice was happening in New Zealand. The story featured interviews with three men about their experiences with gay conversion therapy, and a clinical psychologist. It also featured hidden camera footage of three individuals who appeared to be offering gay conversion therapy to an undercover reporter.
 In determining this complaint, the members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast, and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Reuben Chapple complained that:
 TVNZ responded that:
 The issues raised in Mr Chapple’s complaint are whether the broadcast breached the balance and accuracy standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The balance standard (Standard 8) aims to ensure that significant points of view are presented in news, current affairs and factual programmes, to enable viewers to form their own informed and reasoned opinion about controversial issues of public importance.
 Guideline 8b to the standard states that ‘no set formula’ can be advanced for the allocation of time to interested parties on controversial issues of public importance. This means that, depending on the context of the broadcast, it may be sufficient that differing viewpoints are pointed to or acknowledged, so that audiences are aware of the existence of competing arguments.
 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 source of the material (including whether the programme relied on an authoritative expert) will be a relevant consideration when assessing whether the broadcaster’s efforts to ensure accuracy were reasonable.2
 When we consider a complaint that broadcasting standards have been breached, we first take into account the right to freedom of expression. We may only interfere and upho ld a complaint where the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society. This involves weighing the right to freedom of expression on one hand, and on the other, the harm that is alleged to have been caused by the broadcast. Where there is a potential for harm we must consider whether our intervention in limiting the exercise of the right to freedom of expression is justified.
 Among the members of this Authority, we all agreed that this programme had high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, and carried a high level of public interest. The programme highlighted an issue that might not have otherwise been known to the wider New Zealand public, reporting on an allegedly misleading practice which has been recognised to cause significant harm to vulnerable people.
 We then considered whether any real or potential harm arose from the broadcast in the manner alleged in Mr Chapple’s complaint, and concluded it did not.
 Looking first at the balance standard, we agreed that the programme discussed a controversial issue of public importance, namely the potential harm that could be caused through gay conversion therapy and whether this practice was occurring in New Zealand. This meant that the requirements of the balance standard were triggered in this case.
 We were also satisfied that a range of significant points of view on the issue of gay conversion therapy were pointed to throughout this programme, meeting the requirements of the standard.
 While the programme clearly approached the topic from the perspective that gay conversion therapy was harmful, it provided viewers with alternative perspectives, through the comments of those featured and through critical questioning by the reporter. For example:
 Given the views expressed above, we do not consider it was necessary for the item to include positive comment directly from an individual who had experienced gay conversion therapy.
 We were also satisfied that TVNZ made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of this programme, relying on a number of authoritative sources both in New Zealand and overseas for its position that gay conversion therapy could result in harm. As we have outlined above, the programme also featured comments from individuals who claimed that change was possible, pointing viewers to the existence of other perspectives on the issue.
 Overall, we do not consider viewers would have been materially misled by the programme’s references to sexual orientation, or by the omission of information, such as that provided by the complainant, which alleged sexual orientation was caused by early childhood experiences. TVNZ relied on authoritative sources for the claims made and in these circumstances, we consider that our intervention in upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
26 February 2019
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Reuben Chapple’s formal complaint – 18 June 2018
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 16 July 2018
3 Mr Chapple’s referral to the Authority – 5 August 2018
4 TVNZ’s further comments – 23 August 2018
5 Mr Chapple’s final comments – 23 August 2018
1 Including the Human Rights Commission, the New Zealand Association of Counsellors, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the New Zealand Psychologists Board and the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK.
2 Guideline 9d