Corin and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-169
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Steve Corin
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – coverage of the Makara cemetery desecration – graphic beside the news presenter showed the internationally recognised anarchist symbol – inaccurate, unfair and unbalanced – complaint upheld by broadcaster – action taken allegedly insufficient
Action taken – sufficient – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on One News broadcast on TV One at 6pm on 6 August 2004 dealt with the desecration of Jewish graves in Wellington.
 The graphic beside the news presenter during the introduction to this item showed the internationally recognised anarchist symbol.
 There was no suggestion during the news broadcast, other than the graphic, that the anarchist movement was involved in this incident.
 Steve Corin complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the use of this graphic was unfair given that:
No anarchist symbols were associated with the grave desecration and no anarchists have been implicated in the act.
 Mr Corin also stated that the “imagery does not accurately represent the facts of the matter, and could be misjudged by the audience”.
 Mr Corin’s complaint alleged breaches of Standards 4, 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:
Standard 4 BalanceIn the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
Standard 5 AccuracyNews, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.
Standard 6 FairnessIn the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 TVNZ had “no hesitation” in deciding to uphold the complaint. It agreed that the illustration implied a connection between the anarchist group and the desecration of the graves. The broadcaster agreed that this was untrue and unfair.
 It also considered that the complaint under Standard 4 (balance) should be upheld given that “a representative of the anarchist movement was not provided with an opportunity to deny the implication”.
 Acting on their decision, TVNZ advised that the creator of the graphic and graphics team management had been spoken to directly. It added:
The Head of News has reminded news producers on duty that day that it is their job to check the appropriateness of symbols used in studio graphics.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response to his complaint, Mr Corin referred the complaint to the Authority. He was concerned that the broadcaster had not taken any action to “correct any wrong impression that a member of the public may have been given”.
 Mr Corin asked the Authority to consider ordering TVNZ to broadcast a correction.
Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority
 In TVNZ’s response to the Authority, it commented that its priority should be to prevent such mistakes from happening in the future. As such, it had improved procedures in the graphics team and emphasised to news producers “their responsibilities for ensuring that material appearing on studio graphics is appropriate and relevant”.
 TVNZ highlighted three reasons why it considered that it was not appropriate to broadcast a correction in this case:
- The news item’s commentary drew no connection between the anarchist movement and the desecration of the graves. Any correction would have to mention the anarchist movement, and “to some viewers, just the mention of the organisation in such a context would wrongly link the desecration with the anarchist movement”.
- The international symbol of the anarchist movement would not have been recognised by a large number of viewers.
- TVNZ admitted that an error had been made and upheld the complaint, but said that it “was not an error that registered with many viewers and for the vast majority of the audience the information they received from the item was accurate and truthful”.
Complainant’s Final Comment
 In his final comment, Mr Corin dealt with each of the three arguments put forward by TVNZ:
- He pointed out that broadcasters are expected to report “the facts in a balanced and accurate manner”. TVNZ’s argument that the broadcast of a correction might lead some viewers to incorrectly assume a link between the anarchist movement and the desecration was, he said, an insufficient reason for denying a correction.
- Mr Corin stated that TVNZ had provided “no quantitative evidence” to substantiate the claim that few viewers would recognise the anarchist symbol. This was merely TVNZ’s opinion, and in the complainant’s view was not sufficient to prevent a correction being broadcast.
- The complainant felt that although the majority of the news item had been accurate, this had little bearing on the complaint. Again TVNZ had provided no evidence in support of its view that the error would not have registered with many viewers. Mr Corin argued that a lack of complaints on the matter could actually mean that viewers “saw the anarchist symbol and assumed an anarchist-desecration link”.
 In summary, Mr Corin felt that it was reasonable that TVNZ should broadcast a correction given that all parties had accepted the broadcast was “unbalanced, unfair and inaccurate”.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 This complaint is about the adequacy of the action taken by TVNZ after it upheld Mr Corin's complaint. Mr Corin was dissatisfied that TVNZ had not broadcast a correction of its error.
 The Authority considers that the majority of the audience would not have noticed the error, and it notes TVNZ’s statement that the mistake created only a small response. The item made no reference to the graphic, and did not highlight it as having any relevance to the subject matter of the item. As such, the Authority believes that it would have had little impact on viewers.
 It is the Authority’s view that TVNZ took sufficient action in highlighting the error to newsroom staff rather than broadcasting a correction on air. The Authority also agrees with TVNZ’s submission that any further reference to the matter could compound the error by drawing additional attention to it.
 Therefore, the Authority is of the view that TVNZ dealt with the matter responsibly and it does not consider that further action is necessary or appropriate.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint that the action taken by Television New Zealand Ltd was insufficient.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 November 2004
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
- Steve Corin’s formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 17 August 2004
- TVNZ’s acknowledgement of receipt of formal complaint – 18 August 2004
- TVNZ’s decision on formal complaint – 16 September 2004
- Mr Corin’s referral to the Authority – 19 September 2004
- TVNZ’s response to the referral – 12 October 2004
- Mr Corin’s final comment – 23 October 2004