BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Baxter and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2016-013 (12 May 2016)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Iain Baxter
Number
2016-013
Programme
Newshub
Broadcaster
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 4

Summary

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

Newshub reported on a Christchurch earthquake memorial service, which marked the five-year anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item breached the privacy of grieving families attending the memorial service. Families in attendance at the memorial generally cannot be considered under the privacy standard, which is concerned with identifiable individuals. In any case, the coverage was duly sensitive and respectful, was not overly intrusive and did not focus on any particular individuals at length.

Not Upheld: Privacy


Introduction

[1] Newshub reported on a Christchurch earthquake memorial service, which marked the five-year anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake. The item included footage of attendees at the memorial service.

[2] Iain Baxter complained that the item breached the privacy of grieving families who attended the memorial service.

[3] The issue is whether the broadcast breached the privacy standard as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4] The item was broadcast on TV3 on 22 February 2016. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast breach the privacy standard?

[5] The privacy standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. The standard exists to protect individuals from undesired access to, and disclosure of, information about themselves and their affairs. This is in order to maintain their dignity, choice, mental wellbeing and reputation, and their ability to develop relationships and opinions away from the glare of publicity.

[6] At the outset, we acknowledge the significance and sensitive nature of the memorial service, and we are sympathetic to the complainant’s concerns that broadcasts of the service ought to be handled appropriately.

[7] In his original complaint, Mr Baxter alleged that the broadcast breached the privacy of grieving families attending the memorial service. He did not point to any particular individuals or any particular footage that was shown. Later, in his final comments to the Authority, Mr Baxter said, ‘Having myself and my kids stopped by strangers, saying they saw us on [television]... is an invasion of my privacy’.

[8] We are limited in our determination to considering only matters that were raised in the original complaint.1 Because Mr Baxter did not refer to his or his family’s privacy being breached in his original complaint to the Authority, we cannot now consider whether their privacy was breached. We also note that we do not know where exactly in the footage they appeared so it would be difficult for us to assess whether particular images in the item breached the standard.

[9] It is also well-established that privacy complaints may only be brought in relation to individuals who are identifiable in a broadcast.2 Grieving families at the memorial are a group of people, and without more specific information about who was shown and in what parts of the footage, we are unable to assess whether particular individuals in that group had their privacy breached.

[10] It seems to us that the complainant’s main concern resulted from his understanding that one of the conditions of filming the memorial service was that media would not film grieving families, however MediaWorks broadcast footage of families and children who were ‘clearly upset’. Mr Baxter felt the footage used was disrespectful, ‘showed poor judgement’ and demonstrated a ‘lack of integrity’ by the broadcaster.

[11] MediaWorks maintained that while news media were asked to be ‘sensitive to the occasion’, they did not receive any instruction to refrain from filming families at the memorial. It said the cameras were positioned in plain sight in a public area. MediaWorks argued the footage broadcast was not intrusive and did not identify any child, and the item overall was a ‘respectful, sensitive and genuine attempt to capture and represent the nature and spirit of the memorial’.

[12] From the material and submissions before us, it does not appear that news media received an explicit request not to film attendees at the memorial. We note, however, that any such request would be just one factor in considering whether the broadcast breached the privacy standard and would not be determinative. Even if media had been asked not to film grieving families at the service, this would likely have been a request at most rather than any legal or enforceable obligation. Filming the families in these circumstances, at a public event, would not automatically mean that their privacy was breached. Finding a breach of privacy involves several considerations, including whether the individual whose privacy was allegedly breached was identifiable; whether the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy; and whether private information was disclosed about the individual in a manner that was highly offensive.

[13] The issue here seems to be a disparity in the complainant’s and the broadcaster’s ideas of what would constitute due sensitivity and respect when reporting on the memorial service. Although we cannot formally consider whether or not the item breached the privacy of the families in attendance (for the reasons stated above at paragraph [9]), we record our view that the coverage demonstrated an appropriate level of sensitivity and was not unreasonably intrusive. The footage in the item largely comprised wide shots of the crowd taken from some distance, and to most viewers, attendees who were families of victims would have been indistinguishable from members of the public or other attendees. While there were one or two shots included of individuals who were visibly upset, these were not in close-up, unnecessarily prolonged or gratuitous. The item did not reveal any information about any identifiable individual beyond the fact they were present at the memorial and were, at times, upset. This was a public memorial service where some emotion and grief was to be expected, and was part of the spirit of the event.

[14] Overall we are satisfied that the broadcaster’s coverage of the event was respectful and appropriate care was taken. Accordingly we do not uphold the privacy complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich

Chair

12 May 2016

Appendix

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

1      Iain Baxter’s direct privacy complaint to the Authority – 24 February 2016

2      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 23 March 2016

3      Mr Baxter’s final comment – 3 April 2016

4      MediaWorks’ response to the Authority’s request for further information (regarding alleged request not to film and/or other conditions of filming) – 12 April 2016

5      Mr Baxter’s response to MediaWorks’ response to request for further information – 17 April 2016


See, for example, White and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2015-042 at [27] and Dunstan and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2015-052 at [7]

2 Practice Note: Privacy Principle 1 (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2011)