BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Allan and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2017-026 (30 June 2017)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Alvin Allan
Number
2017-026
Programme
1 News Coming Up
Channel/Station
TVNZ 1

Summary

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

An item referred to during 1 News Coming Up reported on a meeting between the President of the United States of America, President Trump, and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. During the update, the newsreader said, ‘So, what did Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau say about Trump’s Muslim ban?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the term ‘Muslim ban’ was inaccurate, in the context of the brief ‘coming up’ teaser which aimed to convey a lot of information in a short period of time. In this particular case it was acceptable shorthand referring to Executive Order 13769, and briefly highlighted a topic of discussion between the two leaders. The Authority did not consider that the use of the term – which was not used in the full news item – would have materially affected viewers’ understanding of the main thrust of the report.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  An item referred to during 1 News Coming Up reported on a meeting between the President of the United States of America, President Trump, and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. During the update, the newsreader said:
Also, face-to-face – two political neighbours who might seem poles apart. So, what did Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau say about Trump’s Muslim ban?

[2]  The term ‘Muslim ban’ was not used during the full news item.

[3]  Alvin Allan complained that the reference to a ‘Muslim ban’ was inaccurate. He said that the term ‘Muslim ban’ implied the ban was ‘religiously motivated’, when actually the nations temporarily banned from entry did not have ‘governments [able to] supply proper information to US immigration’. Mr Allan said that the ban affected all people from these countries, not only Muslims.

[4]  The issue raised in Mr Allan’s complaint is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  The item was broadcast on 14 February 2017 on TVNZ 1. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[6]  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 being significantly misinformed.

The broadcaster’s submissions

[7]  TVNZ submitted that:

  • The newsreader’s use of the term ‘Muslim ban’ referred to Executive Order 13769 (the Order). The genesis of this Order occurred during the US Presidential campaign. TVNZ provided examples of references made to a total ban on Muslims during President Trump’s campaign.
  • The Order was a ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and the description of the Order as a ‘Muslim ban’ would not have significantly misinformed viewers about the issue.

Our analysis

[8]  Our task in determining this complaint is to weigh the value of the news item (as well as the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and the audience’s right to receive information) against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast. In this case, the question is whether the use of the term ‘Muslim ban’ in this news report justifies the imposition of a limit on the broadcaster’s right to impart information in this case.

[9]  First, we acknowledge that there has been considerable debate about whether the term ‘Muslim ban’ is correct, on the basis that the Order did not target all Muslims (ie, it was not religion-based) or all Muslim-majority countries. We acknowledge the complainant’s submissions in this respect.

[10]  On the other hand, we have also had regard to the broadcaster’s submission that a ‘ban’ on Muslims entering the US was an election promise made by President Trump during his Presidential campaign. The broadcaster’s position, therefore, is that the term was introduced by the President’s own use, it was subsequently coined to describe the Order, and it became commonly used among both media and the public.

[11]  The context of the item is key in assessing the likely impact of the alleged inaccuracy on the audience. In this case the focus of the item referenced in the brief ‘coming up’ teaser, was not the Order or its implications. The focus of the item (which did not use the phrase ‘Muslim ban’) was the meeting that took place between President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau. We have reached the view that the newsreader’s use of the phrase ‘Muslim ban’, in the context of this brief teaser which aimed to convey a lot of information to viewers in a short period, was an acceptable shorthand description of the Order, which suspended entry to the US of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days.1 The phrase was used in the teaser to briefly highlight a potential point of contention between the two leaders. We do not consider that the use of shorthand in this particular case, in place of the full title of the Order or a detailed description of its terms, would have materially affected viewers’ understanding of the main thrust of the report.

[12]  Having said this, however, in our view journalists and news reporters need to be cautious about adopting globally or locally used shorthand terms. The use of shorthand or commonly adopted terms may not always be acceptable and may be insufficient in some circumstances to meet the requirements of the accuracy standard. In some cases, shorthand phrases ought not to be used when additional words or more specific terminology would ensure clarity for viewers, particularly where the issue is the focus of the item rather than peripheral.

[13]  In this case, we have not identified any harm arising from the broadcast which outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive the broadcast in this case. Accordingly we do not uphold the accuracy complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich

Chair

30 June 2017

 

Appendix

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

1      Alvin Allan’s formal complaint – 14 February 2017
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 13 March 2017
3      Mr Allan’s referral to the Authority – 29 March 2017
4      TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment - 28 April 2017

 


1 Section 3(c), Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, 27 January 2017. Admission to the US of refugees from these countries was suspended for 120 days and Syrian refugees were barred indefinitely under the Order (see section 5(a) and (c)).