The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interviewee’s language, broadcast during an item on Morning Report on 10 December 2018, was violent and inappropriate. The item reported on the declining memberships of sports clubs in New Zealand and featured an interview with the Club Captain of a tennis club. The interviewee commented that the tennis courts were so empty ‘you could… fire a machine gun and hit no one.’ The Authority noted that the right to freedom of expression allows individuals to express themselves in their own words, provided this does not cause undue harm. In this case, the comment made by the interviewee was brief, was not overly graphic or targeted at a particular individual or group, and was not intended to be taken literally. Taking into account contextual factors, such as the adult target audience of Morning Report and RNZ National, the broadcast was unlikely to unduly distress or disturb listeners, or any children that might have been listening, and was not so graphic as to require an audience advisory for violent content.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interview broadcast on Newstalk ZB in December 2018, regarding a proposed Police seizure of military style semi-automatic weapons, was unbalanced and inaccurate. The Authority first found that a valid formal complaint had been lodged with the broadcaster (which was required before the complaint could be referred to the Authority), as sufficient information was provided by the complainant for the correct broadcast to be identified and for the broadcaster to respond to the issues raised. The Authority then determined the complaint, finding that balancing perspectives on the issue of Police seizure were presented during news items prior to and following the interview. While the Authority agreed that information conveyed during the introduction to the interview could have been made more clear by the presenter, the presenter’s statement did not amount to a material error of fact in the context of the interview as a whole. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the harm alleged did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression, and any intervention in upholding the complaint would be unreasonable and unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that an item on 1 News, which reported on the United States (US) government shutdown, breached the accuracy standard. The Authority found the statement: ‘The crisis began after Democrats refused to sign off on the President’s demands for eight and a half billion dollars to build a border wall with Mexico’, was unlikely to mislead or misinform viewers about the latest events in the US government shutdown, reported on during the item. The Authority noted that in the context of the item as a whole, the presenter’s comment was an acceptable shorthand introduction to the key issues reported on. Finally, in this case the Authority found that the broadcaster was not required, in the interests of accuracy, to specify that the amount sought for the border wall was reported in New Zealand dollars.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a Newshub item, which featured blurred footage of a child, was in breach of the children’s interests standard. The item reported on the conviction of a British tourist for stealing from a service station and featured blurred footage of the woman’s child as the pair exited a New Zealand court. The Authority noted that the children’s interests standard is designed to protect children when viewing and listening to broadcasts. Complaints about children featured in broadcasts are more appropriately dealt with under other standards. In any event, there was no material in this item that might have adversely affected child viewers. The child was fully blurred throughout the item, protecting their identity, and while the item contained footage of the child making an obscene gesture, the item as a whole was focused on the actions of the adult family members and the resulting convictions. There was no element of exploitation or humiliation of the child, and the Authority found the harm alleged did not reach the threshold required to find a breach of broadcasting standards.
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interview on The Weekend, which covered various aspects of racism in Canada, breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. The Authority found that the interviewee’s use of ‘goddamn’ as an expletive was unlikely to undermine or violate widely shared community norms. Further, the interviewee’s reference to the colonial treatment of Canada’s indigenous people did not breach the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority found that the comments did not apply to a recognised section of the community consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993. The Authority therefore found any restriction on the right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that comments made by Duncan Garner on The AM Show regarding Don Brash’s visit to Te Tii Marae as a part of Waitangi Day celebrations breached broadcasting standards. During the broadcast, Mr Garner made comments about Dr Brash’s potential reception at Te Tii Marae including: ‘good luck Don, nice knowing you and yeah I think you need security’, ‘hope you return in one piece’ and ‘Rest in Peace’. The Authority found Mr Garner’s comments were unlikely to undermine widely shared community standards and did not amount to unduly disturbing violent content, considering the context of the broadcast and the flippant nature of the comments. The Authority also found the balance and fairness standards were not breached.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the use of the term ‘booted out’, in reference to the Speaker of the House, Hon Trevor Mallard, ejecting the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Simon Bridges, from the House, was inaccurate. The Authority found there was no reason to suggest the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcasts complained about. The Authority found that the use of terms such as ‘booted out’ and ‘kicked out’, in reference to Members of Parliament who have been ordered by the Speaker of the House to leave the House, is common in New Zealand and therefore its use was unlikely to mislead or misinform listeners.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a news item on Newshub Live at 6pm was insensitive and encouraged the denigration of Christians. The item covered the controversy around an Australian advertisement, which featured two Roman soldiers asking Jesus on the cross to consent to organ donation via an app. The Authority found that while the advertisement made light of the crucifixion, the news item itself was a balanced discussion of the controversy that did not contain any statements encouraging the denigration of, or discrimination against, Christians.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
A complaint that a segment on Checkpoint that discussed vaccinations was inaccurate was not upheld by the Authority. WAVESnz complained that several statements made by Professor John Fraser during the segment regarding the safety of vaccinations and the contents of vaccines were inaccurate and misleading. The Authority noted that it was not its role to determine the scientific accuracy of Professor Fraser’s statements. It found, however, that RNZ made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast, taking into account a number of factors including Professor Fraser’s reputation and the lack of any reason to question the accuracy of the views expressed by Professor Fraser. The Authority did not identify any real or potential harm and therefore found any restriction on RNZ’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a broadcast of Punjabi talkback programme, Dasam Granth Da Sach, in which the hosts identified the complainant and broadcast audio clips of him speaking about various religious topics. While the complainant was clearly identified, the Authority found no private information or material was disclosed during the broadcast over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The information disclosed during the broadcast was available in the public domain, and in these circumstances, the Authority found that its intervention in upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression. The Authority noted, however, that there were steps available to the broadcaster to mitigate the potential for harm, particularly in its use of social media content, and encouraged the broadcaster to consider the Authority’s guidance on these issues before broadcasting such content in the future.
Not Upheld: Privacy