BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Chapple and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2013-039

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Reuben Chapple
Number
2013-039
Programme
60 Minutes
Channel/Station
Prime TV

Complaint under section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
60 Minutes – personal story about a same-sex couple and their experience of parenthood through surrogacy – allegedly in breach of controversial issues standard

Findings
Standard 4 (controversial issues) – item focused on one same-sex couple and their personal experience of parenthood through the use of an off-shore surrogate – it did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance requiring the presentation of alternative viewpoints – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  An item on 60 Minutes, titled “The Two Dads Story”, reported on a same-sex couple and their personal experience of parenthood through the use of an off-shore surrogate. The item screened as a follow-up to a story that aired on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes in Australia in 2009. It was introduced by the presenter as follows:

Last week our MPs again voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill allowing same-sex marriage. It could now be passed into law as early as next month. While the gay marriage debate continues to divide those in power, in the suburbs many same-sex couples are simply getting on with life, settling down and having kids. One of those couples is Australians [names], who four years ago welcomed twin daughters into their lives. Now their family has grown and they want to help others do the same.

[2]  The programme was broadcast on 2 April 2013 on Prime TV.

[3]  Reuben Chapple made a formal complaint to SKY Network Television Ltd (SKY), the broadcaster, alleging that the item was unbalanced because it “championed the cause of same-sex marriage and gay/lesbian parenting at the expense of objectivity and to the point of endorsement by deliberate omission”. He referred to research indicating negative outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents, and provided a link to an article about homosexuality and child sex abuse.

[4]  Having not received a response from the broadcaster within the 20-working-day statutory timeframe, Mr Chapple referred his complaint to this Authority.1

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

[6]  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 item discuss a controversial issue of public importance requiring the presentation of alternative viewpoints?

[7]  The balance standard (Standard 4) states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest. The standard exists to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.2

[8]  Mr Chapple complained that the programme was a “puff piece” which was “highly supportive of gay parenting and adoption”, and that it should have also presented the view that same-sex parenting could be detrimental to children.

[9]  The 60 Minutes item focused on one same-sex couple’s personal experience of parenthood through the use of an off-shore surrogate. The Authority has previously determined that programmes which focused on individual stories, even though they may be connected to a wider issue, did not discuss controversial issues of public importance.3  This item did not purport to discuss or debate alleged benefits or disadvantages of same-sex parenting in general, or outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents; it told one couple’s personal story providing insight to viewers of off-shore surrogacy and same-sex parenting. Accordingly, the broadcaster was not required to include the opposing perspectives or research that the complainant wanted to see in the programme, and viewers were not misinformed by the omission of these perspectives, given the item’s narrow focus.

[10]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
3 September 2013

Appendix

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

1           Reuben Chapple’s formal complaint and email correspondence with SKY – 3 April 2013

2          Mr Chapple’s referral to the Authority – 5 June 2013

3          SKY’s response to the Authority – 8 July 2013

4          Mr Chapple’s final comment (including attachment) – 11 July 2013

5          SKY’s confirmation of no final comment – 12 July 2013


1See section 8(1C) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.


2
Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014

3For example, Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand Inc and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2009-053; Young and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2009-001.