BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Dodd and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2006-096

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • R Dodd
Number
2006-096
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item about Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters’ visit to Washington DC – questioned Mr Peters’ interruption of American senator during interview – allegedly unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair

Findings
Standard 4 (balance) – media agreement with Mr Peters not controversial issue of public importance – journalists’ perspective not required – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – footage of interview not edited in the way alleged by complainant – not misleading or inaccurate – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – footage of interview not edited in the way alleged by complainant – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] The lead story on TV One’s One News at 6pm on 20 July 2006 stated that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Winston Peters, had “embarrassed a high profile American politician” during his visit to Washington D.C. The item showed Senator John McCain speaking to New Zealand journalists, and it reported that Mr Peters had “abruptly shut down their press conference” after two-and-a-half minutes. Mr Peters was shown interrupting Senator McCain saying:

I want to call a halt to this press conference because we’ve got discussions, and it was two questions [the journalists] asked for…and we don’t want to go back on our word, do we gentlemen?

[2] The reporter said that the media had not broken any rules, and that the meeting had been “carefully arranged by McCain’s own staff and the New Zealand embassy”.

[3] On 25 July 2006 at 7pm on TV One, Close Up reported that Mr Peters felt he had been “badly treated” by the way the media had covered his trip to the United States. It played the entire interview with Senator McCain leading up to Mr Peters’ comments. The host then conducted a live interview with Mr Peters in which he explained that he only had 30 minutes to speak with the senator, that there was a press conference scheduled, as is usual, for after the meeting, and that he felt that the unscheduled questions were cutting into the meeting.

Complaint

[4] R Dodd made a formal complaint about the One News item to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. His first complaint was that a particular radio journalist was not interviewed about what appeared to be an "arrangement" between the journalist and Mr Peters. The complainant asked whether the arrangement was that the journalist would not ask questions of the senator.

[5] Mr Dodd’s second complaint was that One News had presented Mr Peters as being very aggressive and rude. He contended that the footage of the interview with Senator McCain had been edited, and had completely changed the context of the interview. By contrast, the complainant said, when the entire interview was screened on Close Up it appeared that “the discussion was amicable”.

[6] Responding to a letter from TVNZ, in which the broadcaster stated that it could not consider Mr Dodd’s first complaint about the journalist as he did not work for TVNZ, Mr Dodd maintained that TVNZ should have broadcast the journalist’s response to Mr Peters’ “accusation” that he had broken their agreement. Viewers should have been given more information on this point, he wrote.

[7] The complainant also stated that “there appeared to be a loss of 3-4 seconds between Senator McCain speaking and Winston Peters replying”. In Mr Dodd’s view, this breached the accuracy and fairness standards. He also submitted that Senator McCain’s reaction had been “doctored” in the One News item to show him as being “dismayed, disturbed, bewildered”, whereas in the Close Up item his response had been amicable and he had shown no signs of distress.

Standards

[8] The complainant nominated Standards 4, 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his complaint. These provide:

Standard 4 Balance

In 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 Accuracy

News, 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 Fairness

In 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

[9] TVNZ stated that it was unsure what the complainant was referring to when he wrote about the agreement between a particular radio journalist and Mr Peters. It contended that balance was achieved in subsequent items by reporting the view of Mr Peters that the reporters had been rude, that they had broken a pre-arranged agreement for the filming, and that they had eaten into the time available for his discussions with the senator. It found that Standard 4 (balance) was not breached.

[10] TVNZ said that the item on 20 July had shown every word Mr Peters had uttered during the brief press conference, and it had not been edited to cut Mr Peters short. This part of the interview was identical to the footage shown on Close Up on 25 July, it wrote. TVNZ found that there were no inaccuracies in the item and it concluded that Standard 5 was not breached. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[11] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Dodd referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the One News item had shown an “outburst” by Mr Peters in which he berated one of the journalists present for breaking an agreement made before the event. Mr Dodd stated that he was now unsure who this journalist was, but he contended that Standards 4, 5 and 6 had been breached.

[12] The complainant maintained that the One News item had shown edited footage of the interview which made Mr Peters look as though he was interrupting Senator McCain. This impression, he said, was not present in the Close Up item.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[13] In its response to the Authority, TVNZ said it rejected absolutely Mr Dodd’s allegation that the footage had been “doctored”.

Authority's Determination

[14] 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.

[15] Standard 4 requires that balance be provided when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. In the Authority’s view, the item discussed whether the Foreign Affairs Minister had embarrassed New Zealand during a bi-lateral meeting with a high-profile US senator. The Authority considers this to be an issue to which Standard 4 applies.

[16] Mr Dodd complained that the item was unbalanced because One News did not interview any of the journalists about the "arrangement" they had made with Mr Peters before the interview. The Authority observes that the arrangement to which Mr Dodd refers was simply that both Mr Peters and Senator McCain had agreed at the start of their meeting that journalists could ask the senator "a couple of questions". Mr Peters reminded the journalists of this when he considered the questions had gone on long enough.

[17] The Authority finds that this arrangement – while related to the controversial issue dealt with in the item – was not a separate controversial issue requiring balance. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that TVNZ was not required to present the journalists’ perspective on the agreement. It does not uphold the balance complaint.

[18] Mr Dodd’s second complaint is that the footage of Mr Peters’ interruption was “doctored” in the One News item compared to the version shown on Close Up, and that this was inaccurate and unfair. The Authority has viewed unedited recordings of One News and Close Up, and it acknowledges that the One News interview was heavily edited. However, it observes that the three-to-four-second segment of the interview referred to by the complainant was in fact identical in both items. Accordingly, it finds no breach of broadcasting standards in respect of this matter.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
27 November 2006

Appendix

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

1    R Dodd’s formal complaint – 8 August 2006

2    TVNZ’s initial response to Mr Dodd – 15 August 2006

3    Mr Dodd’s further submissions to TVNZ – 21 August 2006

4    TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 29 August 2006

5    Mr Dodd’s referral to the Authority – 3 September 2006

6    TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 2 October 2006