BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Alexander and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-099

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • T Alexander
Number
2007-099
Channel/Station
TV2

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Nailed, Sorted, Exposed – promos for the programme contained footage not used in the actual broadcast – allegedly unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair

Findings
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – complainant did not specify any alleged inaccuracies or provide any evidence of inaccuracy – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – person alleged to have been treated unfairly did not take part in and was not referred to in the item – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  An item on Nailed, Sorted, Exposed, broadcast on TV2 at 10pm on 3 July 2007, focused on a man, MR, who was concerned about Transpower’s upgrading of the Kapiti Coast power grid, and the effect the upgrade was having on his family and property. The item included interviews with MR and a representative from Transpower. 

Complaint

[2]   T Alexander made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item had breached standards of accuracy, balance and fairness.

[3]   Mr Alexander noted that the item was originally to be screened on 19 June 2007 and that promos for the programme showed another man, BH, pointing to transmission lines that were close to his house. The complainant stated that the item was not broadcast on 19 June 2007 and that, just prior to the replacement programme, promos of the Transpower item were broadcast again including footage of BH.

[4]   The complainant pointed out that when the Transpower item did screen on 3 July 2007, BH did not appear in the item. He argued that the withdrawal of the footage of BH from the item and a “lack of verification of Transpower’s comments resulted in the item being inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair”.

[5]   Mr Alexander also maintained that “further issues [BH] raised on the maintenance of law and order were not addressed or were excluded” from the item.

Standards

[6]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 4, 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide:

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Standard6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7]   TVNZ argued that when determining a formal complaint about a programme it had to consider the material that had been broadcast, not the material that was filmed in preparation for the item. It maintained that there was no requirement for the production company to use all or any of the footage it filmed when developing a story.

[8]   The broadcaster noted that BH had signed a standard consent form agreeing to the interview and his images being edited and used in any subsequent broadcast. It maintained the use of material from BH’s interview in the promos was covered by this consent.

[9]   TVNZ stated that in the case of the Transpower item, the programme’s makers had decided that the interview with MR had covered the issue succinctly, so it only used the material from MR’s interview in the programme. 

[10]   The broadcaster argued that the Transpower representative who took part in the item was given an opportunity to address the issues as he saw fit. It maintained that it was the representative’s choice not to supply any expert proof to back up what he was saying even though MR did, and that “this provided its own balance to the viewer”. It found that the item had not breached Standard 4 in any way.

[11]   In terms of accuracy, TVNZ maintained that Nailed, Sorted, Exposed was an advocacy programme for people to try and get a resolution to a problem they were having. It argued that MR’s concerns about the power lines on his property were discussed at length and that his comments were supported by consultants whom he had hired to advise him. The broadcaster believed MR’s concerns were answered by Transpower and “that if these answers were found wanting by viewers, that this too may have been an accurate reflection of the issue at hand”.

[12]   TVNZ argued that there was no requirement to force Transpower to supply analytical support for the views it had expressed and that neither party had complained that they had been treated in an inaccurate manner. The broadcaster declined to uphold a breach of Standard 5.

[13]   With respect to fairness, TVNZ stated that the production company decided to use the piece from MR rather than one from BH because MR’s interview was concise and focused. It noted that the issues relating to health, safety and trespass by Transpower that were raised by BH were not discussed in the item and that the production company was entitled to include or exclude any pieces it wished to.

[14]   The broadcaster pointed out that programmes often do not screen as advertised for commercial reasons and that the item was not re-edited or censored to remove footage. TVNZ maintained that the item had been fair to all involved and it found no breach of the fairness standard.   

Referral to the Authority

[15]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision Mr Alexander referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated the arguments contained in his original complaint.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[16]   TVNZ reiterated that the original date for broadcast was changed for scheduling reasons and that the programme had not been changed in any way.

[17]   The broadcaster maintained that the use of footage from BH’s interview in the promos was covered by the consent form he had signed and that there was no requirement to use any of the footage taken of BH in the item.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[18]   Mr Alexander stated that he did not believe TVNZ when it said that the date of the broadcast was changed for scheduling reasons. He noted that as a replacement for the episode advertised, a different episode of Nailed, Sorted, Exposed was broadcast.

[19]   The complainant maintained that the item had been altered from what was originally intended to be broadcast and that the item had included “set-up scenes” and “broken footage” which was proof of re-editing.

[20]   Mr Alexander considered that the item presented an image of a disgruntled individual rather than a collective issue concerning many citizens. He argued that it “presented only one interview, with one concerned citizen” and that it was unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair as a result.

[21]   The complainant argued that “the programme did not provide the viewer with an accurate reflection of the facts and did not provide guidance on the statutory obligations” of Transpower.

Authority's Determination

[22]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[23]   At the outset, the Authority observes that it does not have jurisdiction to deal with the complainant’s concerns regarding the programme being re-scheduled and re-edited. Those are matters of editorial discretion, not broadcasting standards, and therefore the Authority focuses on the other aspects of Mr Alexander’s complaint.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[24]   Standard 5 (accuracy) applies to news, current affairs and “other factual programmes”. Nailed, Sorted, Exposed is not a news or current affairs programme, and therefore the Authority must decide whether the programme falls within the definition of a factual programme.

[25]   The Authority has previously found that factual programmes are those which present themselves, and are reasonably understood by the audience, to be authoritative sources of information. The important criterion is whether a reasonable viewer or listener is entitled to expect that the information given in the programme will be truthful and authoritative (see Decision No. 2006-126). In the Authority’s view, Nailed, Sorted, Exposed was a factual programme for the purposes of Standard 5.

[26]   The Authority notes that Mr Alexander’s main concern is that the failure to include BH in the item “and the lack of verification of Transpower’s comments resulted in the programme becoming inaccurate”. However, the complainant has not specified any statements of fact in the item which he contends were inaccurate. Because the Authority has not been presented with any evidence upon which it could reasonably conclude that the item was inaccurate, it declines to uphold the accuracy complaint.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[27]   Standard 6 requires broadcasters to deal justly and fairly with people taking part or referred to in a programme. The Authority notes that BH did not take part in and was not referred to during the item. As a consequence, the fairness standard does not apply to BH, and the Authority declines to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

Standard 4 (balance)

[28]   Standard 4 requires that balance be provided only when “controversial issues of public importance” are discussed. On this occasion, the item focused solely on MR’s individual situation and his dissatisfaction with Transpower; it did not canvass any wider issues about power line upgrades in general. As a result, the Authority concludes that the item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance to which the balance standard applies. It declines to uphold the Standard 4 complaint.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
21 December 2007

Appendix

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

1.            T Alexander’s formal complaint – 27 July 2007
2.           TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 29 August 2007
3.           Mr Alexander’s referral to the Authority 28 September 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 30 October 2007
5.           Mr Alexander’s final comment – 21 November 2007