BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Baylis and TVWorks Ltd - 2010-079

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Brian Baylis
Number
2010-079
Programme
3 News
Broadcaster
TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News
– item on house fire in the North Shore reported that a person had been found dead in the garage – included brief footage of the complainant and his wife who owned the house – allegedly in breach of privacy


Findings

Standard 3 (privacy) – item did not disclose private facts about the complainant or his wife – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on 3 July 2010, reported on a house fire on the North Shore. The news reader stated that police were investigating after a person had been found dead in a car in a burning garage, and that the death was being treated as suspicious. Part way through the item, the reporter said, “The owners of the house arrived this afternoon and took exception to the presence of media.” The complainant and his wife were briefly shown on the street talking to police and then asking the camera crew to leave. His wife could be heard saying, “You’re intruding on privacy, aren’t you...” before a policeman tried to escort them both away from the camera.

Referral to the Authority

[2]   Brian Baylis lodged a direct privacy complaint with the Authority under section 8(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He argued that “the photographs shown have been taken from private property and of my wife speaking to the police together with the soundtrack of what she was saying”. Mr Baylis considered that this was “a total breach of privacy, not only for her but also for the family and relatives of the deceased.” He said that as a result of this media presence other media were able to obtain his unlisted phone number and subsequently rang him for further comment, which was refused. The complainant said that they had told media not to broadcast the item “in deference to the deceased”, and that the media were told to disperse but ignored their requests. He stated that the broadcast had caused them considerable personal damage and they were considering legal action.

Standards

[3]   Standard 3 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice and privacy principle 1 of the Authority’s Privacy Principles are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:

Standard 3 Privacy

Broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Privacy principle 1

It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[4]   TVWorks stated that it must first determine whether the person whose privacy was allegedly interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. It noted that the item clearly showed images of the complainant and his wife, “therefore there is no issue here with visual identification”, it said. However, it noted that neither of them was named and that the exact location of the property was not revealed. On balance, the broadcaster accepted that the couple were identifiable in the broadcast.

[5]   The next issue, TVWorks said, was whether the item disclosed private facts about the complainant or his wife. It said that it was unclear from the complaint which private facts the complainant considered had been disclosed.

[6]   TVWorks did not consider that ownership of an undisclosed property could be regarded as a private fact which an individual may reasonably expect to remain private. TVWorks argued that, even if it was a private fact, disclosure of that fact would not be regarded as offensive or objectionable by a reasonable person. Further, it contended that the circumstances were of considerable public interest, and it noted that both the cameraman and the complainant and his wife were in a public place at the time they were filmed.

[7]   The broadcaster also considered whether the couple’s conversation with police was a private fact. It noted that the details of the conversation were not broadcast and that the police did not appear concerned with the filming, and in fact took steps to discourage a potential confrontation between the complainant and his wife and the camera crew.

[8]   TVWorks stated that it could not identify any other private material in the broadcast. It said it had consulted the newsroom, which was unaware of any information or action in the broadcast that would have alerted other media to the complainant’s unlisted phone number. The broadcaster said that it also could not identify any such information.

[9]   The broadcaster said that it regretted that the complainant and his wife were distressed “as a result of both the event and of the media attention”. However, it was confident that their interest in privacy had been protected by the newsroom’s adherence to the privacy principles.

[10]   TVWorks therefore declined to uphold the privacy complaint.

Authority's Determination

[11]   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.

[12]   Mr Baylis argued that the item amounted to “a total breach of privacy, not only for [his wife] but also for the family and relatives of the deceased.”

[13]   When the Authority considers a privacy complaint, it must first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. With respect to the family of the deceased, we find that they were not identified in any way in the item. Accordingly, we find that the family’s privacy was not breached in this instance.

[14]   We are satisfied that, as Mr Baylis and his wife were clearly shown in the item, they were identifiable for the purposes of Standard 3. The next step is to consider whether any private facts were revealed about the couple in the broadcast. The item disclosed that they owned the property where the dead body had been found, had spoken to police outside the property, objected to the presence of the media, and that Mr Baylis’ wife had told the camera crew she believed they were intruding on their privacy. In our view, none of this information amounted to a “private fact” for the purposes of Standard 3.

[15]   In any event, we are of the view that the disclosure of the above information about, and footage of, the couple would not be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person. The event reported on was newsworthy and carried a level of public interest, and the item made no connection between the couple and the dead body beyond the fact that they owned the property where it had been found.

[16]   We note that Mr Baylis also complained that media had obtained their unlisted phone number. We are satisfied that their phone number was not disclosed during the broadcast of the 3 News item and therefore find no breach of privacy in that respect.

[17]   Accordingly, we find that the item did not breach the couple’s privacy, and we decline to uphold the Standard 3 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
26 October 2010

Appendix

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

1.          Brian Baylis’ direct privacy complaint – 5 July 2010

2.         TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 3 August 2010