BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Clancy and TVWorks Ltd - 2009-133

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Kevin Clancy
TVWorks Ltd
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Sunrise – interview with a woman from Kiribati on a “personal mission” to save her homeland from the effects of climate change – allegedly in breach of controversial issues standard

Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – presented one woman’s views and experiences – it would have been clear to viewers that she was a climate change activist – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   During Sunrise, broadcast on TV3 between 7am and 9am on 19 August 2009, the presenters interviewed a community leader from Kiribati about her observations of the effects of climate change on her island. One presenter introduced the segment saying, “rising water levels and increasing temperatures are starting to have real effects on our day-to-day life. Well, joining us now is a woman who knows it all too well”.

[2]   The interviewee described what she had been seeing on her island, such as water collecting on her property every high tide, while footage was shown of the island being flooded. Captions were shown onscreen stating “paradise under threat” and “climate change effects”. Throughout the interview, the woman pleaded with the governments of the world, and Pacific people in particular, to listen to her and take action against climate change.


[3]   Kevin Clancy made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached standards relating to the discussion of controversial issues. He considered that the programme should have disclosed to viewers that the interviewee was a climate change activist who was on a tour of Australia and New Zealand hosted by Oxfam as part of the 40 percent carbon emission reduction campaign being run prior to the Copenhagen conference. Mr Clancy therefore believed that the discussion, in which the interviewee talked about the danger posed to Kiribati and Tuvalu of rising sea levels caused by carbon emissions, was not presented in an appropriate context.


[4]   TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 4 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:

Standard 4 Controversial Issues – Viewpoints

When discussing controversial issues of public importance in news, current affairs or 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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVWorks noted that the complaint was made in very general terms and did not “draw a connection between the alleged imbalance of the item and the information” presented by the complainant. It therefore considered it was only able to respond in equally general terms.

[6]   While the broadcaster agreed that there was an ongoing debate about climate change and its impact on the natural environment, it emphasised that the interviewee’s stance or perspective was very clear at the beginning of the interview. This was because the story was introduced in a “coming up” teaser, saying, “As celebrities cast themselves in the fight against climate change, we meet a Kiribati woman on a very personal mission to save her homeland”.

[7]   TVWorks maintained that the interviewee’s comments were clearly her observations and opinions with regard to her home island of Kiribati. Further, her opinions “were presented in a media ‘climate’ where viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of views both consistent with and contrary to hers in other coverage”.

[8]   TVWorks concluded that nothing in the interview had breached the requirements of Standard 4.

Referral to the Authority

[9]   Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ response, Mr Clancy referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated the points made in his original complaint.

Authority's Determination

[10]   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.

[11]   Standard 4 requires broadcasters to make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in a programme.

[12]   In the Authority's view, the programme did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The segment consisted of an interview with one woman who shared her concerns about climate change and her personal experience of the effects she had witnessed in the Republic of Kiribati. The Authority has previously found that Standard 4 does not apply to programmes focusing on individual stories (see Egg Producers Federation and TVWorks1), and it considers that the standard did not apply in this case.

[13]   For the record, the Authority notes that Mr Clancy’s main concern was that Sunrise had not disclosed that the interviewee was in New Zealand as part of a tour run by Oxfam. In the Authority’s view, it would have been clear to viewers that the woman interviewed was a climate change activist who was offering only her personal perspective, and it was not necessary, in the interests of balance, to state that she was participating in an Oxfam campaign.

[14]   The Authority therefore concludes that the programme did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance as envisaged by Standard 4, and that the standard does not apply in the circumstances. It declines to uphold the complaint.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
21 December 2009


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

1.          Kevin Clancy’s formal complaint – 24 August 2009
2.         TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 25 September 2009
3.         Mr Clancy’s referral to the Authority – 16 October 2009
4.         TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 6 November 2009

1Decision No. 2009-053