BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Eyeworks Touchdown Limited and CanWest TVWorks Ltd - 2007-009

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Eyeworks Touchdown Limited
Number
2007-009
Programme
Campbell Live
Broadcaster
CanWest TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 2

Complaint under section 8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – item reported that a Fijian island used by a New Zealand production company to film the television series Treasure Island, was being “trashed” – interviewed two men who had seen rubbish on the island – allegedly unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair

Findings
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – no reasonable basis upon which to conclude that the rubbish was left by Treasure Island production – broadcaster has not provided any evidence to support claims made in the item – inaccurate – upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – unfair to production company – upheld

Order
Section 13(1)(a) – broadcast statement

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  An item on Campbell Live, broadcast on TV3 at 7pm on 24 October 2006, reported that a Fijian island that was being used by a New Zealand production company to film the series Treasure Island, was being “not so much treasured, as trashed”. The item included interviews with two New Zealand men – Mr S and Mr L – who had visited the island, and had found it to be littered with rubbish including wine bottles and disposable razors. It said that Mr L had visited the island 4 years earlier, and that Mr S had gone earlier that year with his son.

[2]  Mr S, the item said, had been so “disgusted by the state of the island, that he decided to take action”, and had paid for a clean-up crew. The reporter, who accompanied the clean-up crew, stated that they had expected the island to be uninhabited. As they approached the island by boat, they were met by members of the production company including Julie Christie, the CEO of Eyeworks Touchdown Ltd. Ms Christie advised the reporter that they would have to leave the island.

[3]  The reporter said that Ms Christie’s projects were “no stranger to controversy”, noting that the Sunday Star Times had recently included a story accusing Ms Christie of “exploitation” over her latest reality television show. The following response from Eyeworks Touchdown was presented visually and verbally:

Eyeworks Touchdown contracts with the village Tavua (through their Rokorokowa Trust) to leave the island in a clean and tidy state. The fact they continue to re-hire the island to us is testament to our keeping our end of the contract.

[4]  Mr S gave his view that it was not sufficient for the production company to contract local Fijians to clean up the island, and that they had a responsibility to ensure that the island was left clean.

Complaint

[5]  Eyeworks Touchdown Ltd made a formal complaint about the item to CanWest TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that it had breached standards of balance, accuracy and fairness. The complainant said that the programme had not offered any evidence that any rubbish was left on the island and, even if it had, Eyeworks Touchdown said that it could not be attributed to the series which had been filmed there 13 months earlier.

[6]  Eyeworks Touchdown stated that the programme had created an impression of a beach and island strewn with piles of rubbish that had mounted up after years of filming Treasure Island, and had relied on the descriptions of rubbish by Mr L, Mr S and his son. It noted that Eyeworks Touchdown had last visited the island from 1–18 August 2005, so that would be a minimum of 5 ½ months and a maximum of 14 months before Mr S visited the island. Eyeworks Touchdown wrote:

Our issue here is with the willingness of Campbell Live to propound the view throughout the story, that any rubbish that may have been witnessed by the boaties was the responsibility of Eyeworks. This, despite Eyeworks providing [the Campbell Live presenter] with a reasonable explanation of the actual causes of any rubbish accumulating on the island.

[7]  The complainant said that Campbell Live had only approached Eyeworks Touchdown for comment on the story at around 11am on the day of the broadcast. The head of production had explained that Eyeworks Touchdown only used the island for a few weeks each year, and that local fishermen, boaties and other TV productions used the island at other times and may have left rubbish behind. It also noted that, due to the location of the island, it accumulated a lot of flotsam and jetsam. Campbell Live had been informed that Eyeworks Touchdown thoroughly cleaned the island before and after filming Treasure Island, and the local tribe would inspect the island to “sign-off” that it had cleaned up properly.

[8]  Despite having provided a full explanation by fax, Eyeworks Touchdown argued, Campbell Live had only included a very short part of its statement in the programme. It complained that this showed a lack of balance in breach of Standard 4.

[9]  Looking at Standard 5 (accuracy), the complainant argued that the entire story was misleading and had caused unnecessary alarm to viewers (guideline 5b). It noted that there was no actual footage of rubbish shown in the programme. Noting that Mr L and Mr S had referred to wine bottles strewn on the beach, Eyeworks Touchdown stated that it did not take any wine to the island. Only one brand of glassware was used, and only one brand of plastic bottle. The complainant said that it would have been easy to trace where the supposed rubbish came from.

[10]  The complainant maintained that Campbell Live had a duty to remain impartial and not to mislead its viewers, but it had left viewers with an impression of misconduct and fault on the part of Eyeworks Touchdown and Julie Christie.

[11]  Turning to Standard 6 (fairness), Eyeworks Touchdown contended that the reporter’s arrival by boat had taken Julie Christie by surprise, and had amounted to “door-stepping” by boat. This footage should not have been included in the programme, the complainant wrote, and it had been used purely for the visual impact it would have had on viewers. By using the footage in this manner without explanation, Eyeworks Touchdown said, Julie Christie and the island’s owners had been treated unfairly. It noted that the landowners had not been contacted for comment prior to the broadcast, and complained that the item unfairly portrayed them as having been “bought” by Eyeworks Touchdown.

Referral to the Authority

[12]  Having received no response from CanWest within the timeframe allowed under the Broadcasting Act 1989, Eyeworks Touchdown referred its complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It summarised the matters raised in its formal complaint. In Eyeworks Touchdown’s view, the timeframes of the alleged “rubbish sightings” were outside the timeframes within which the Treasure Island series was filmed. This, it said, immediately cast doubt on the story.

Standards

[13] Standards 4, 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They 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 Authority

[14]  CanWest provided comments from the producer of Campbell Live. The producer stated that Mr L and Mr S had provided first hand accounts of the rubbish they had seen while visiting the island. Furthermore, the story had not suggested that Eyeworks Touchdown was responsible for leaving rubbish “all over” the island. The broadcaster maintained that the timeframes for Mr L and Mr S’s visits were not outside the Treasure Island series.

[15]  In CanWest’s view, the balance standard had no application to this programme. Quoting from the Authority’s Decision No. 2006-123, it contended that the programme had not discussed an issue of public importance which had “topical currency exciting conflicting opinion”.

[16]  With respect to Standard 6 (fairness), the broadcaster had been advised by the producer of Campbell Live that it had made every attempt to contact the local landowners, and had been told repeatedly that the only person they could speak to was in Suva and could not be contacted. In addition, the producer had invited a representative from Eyeworks Touchdown to appear on the show and it had declined this opportunity. CanWest argued that the statement shown in the item was relevant.

Information requested by the Authority

Information requested from the broadcaster

[17]  The Authority asked CanWest to provide the exact dates that Mr L and Mr S had visited the island, and why they asserted that it was the Treasure Island crew and cast who were responsible for the rubbish they had seen.

[18]  In response, CanWest stated that Mr S had visited the island between 26 September and 9 October 2006. Mr S had told CanWest that it was “common knowledge” that rubbish had been left after Eyeworks Touchdown had finished filming each season of Treasure Island. Mr S and his family had found glass and cans, razors, deodorant and other toiletries on the island, and had said that someone had dug a pit which was full of rubbish.

[19]  CanWest said it was unable to contact Mr L, but that he had visited the island in 2001. Mr L had told Campbell Live that it was known locally that it was the Treasure Island cast and crew who had left the rubbish.

Information requested from the complainant

[20]  The Authority asked Eyeworks Touchdown to provide the exact dates that it was filming on the island around the times that Mr L and Mr S had visited. It said that Treasure Island had been filmed between 16 July and 11 August 2001, and between 20 July and 25 August 2005.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[21]  Eyeworks Touchdown noted that it had not set up camp or begun filming the latest series of Treasure Island until after Mr S and his son had departed from Fiji. It had been more than a year since the previous series had been filmed, it noted. The complainant contended that the bulk of the comments by Mr L and Mr S relied on hearsay, indicated by phrases such as “it was common knowledge” and “they were told”. This, the complainant said, was not a factual basis for a news item.

[22]  Eyeworks Touchdown reiterated its concerns that the item lacked balance, and maintained that Ms Christie had not been given a reasonable opportunity to respond.

Further Information from the Broadcaster

[23]  The broadcaster provided further comments from the producer of Campbell Live, who stated that both men who had visited the island made it clear that the rubbish they had seen was evidence of habitation, not casual visitation. The producer noted that the reporter had not recognised Julie Christie, and the reporter commented that it was unlikely the type of rubbish seen by the men had been left by fishermen.

Authority's Determination

[24]  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.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[25]  The first step for complainants who allege a breach of Standard 5 (accuracy) is to provide sufficient evidence for the Authority to conclude that the disputed facts may be inaccurate; they are not required to prove their case. Once the accuracy of the broadcast has been reasonably questioned, the broadcaster must satisfy the Authority, on the balance of probabilities, that the disputed facts are true.  If the broadcaster cannot prove the truth of what it broadcast, the Authority will find a breach of the code. 

[26]  The Authority agrees that the reasonable viewer of Campbell Live would have been left with the impression that the cast and crew of Treasure Island were responsible for leaving a large amount of rubbish on the Fijian island visited by Mr L and Mr S. Eyeworks Touchdown has denied this allegation and given a plausible explanation in support of its denial. In light of this, CanWest must prove that it was accurate.

[27]  In the Authority’s view, CanWest has not provided any evidence upon which it could reasonably conclude that the rubbish viewed by Mr L or Mr S was left by the Treasure Island cast and crew. While the broadcaster has been unable to provide the exact dates of Mr L’s visit, it is apparent that Mr S did not visit the island until more than a year after the cast and crew had last been on the island. He appears to have based his conclusion that the Treasure Island participants were responsible for the rubbish on rumours circulated by Fijian locals, telling CanWest that it was “common knowledge”. This, in the Authority’s view, does not constitute sufficient evidence to support the allegations made in the item.

[28]  In these circumstances, where the broadcaster has not provided any information to support the claims it has made in the item, the Authority considers that the accuracy standard was breached. It upholds the Standard 5 complaint.

Standard 6 (fairness)

Opportunity to respond

[29]  Eyeworks Touchdown has complained that Ms Christie and Eyeworks Touchdown were treated unfairly, and were not given an adequate opportunity to respond to the allegations made in the item. The parties agree that the Campbell Live presenter phoned Eyeworks Touchdown at approximately 11am on the day of the broadcast, and offered a representative from Eyeworks Touchdown the opportunity to appear on the programme that night. This offer was declined. The broadcast then included the following portion from a statement faxed by Eyeworks Touchdown to Campbell Live following that conversation:

Eyeworks Touchdown contracts with the village Tavua (through their Rokorokowa Trust) to leave the island in a clean and tidy state. The fact they continue to re-hire the island to us is testament to our keeping our end of the contract.

[30]  Looking first at whether Eyeworks Touchdown was treated fairly, the Authority concludes that it was not. The item claimed that Eyeworks Touchdown was responsible for a large amount of rubbish littering a Fijian island. In these circumstances, the Authority considers that CanWest had an obligation to present the complainant’s viewpoint in the item fairly, even though Eyeworks Touchdown declined to provide a representative to appear personally on the programme. In the Authority’s view, the short excerpt from Eyeworks Touchdown’s statement did not adequately convey the most salient points of the complainant’s arguments. For example, it made no mention of the other potential sources of rubbish on the island, nor did it explain that Eyeworks Touchdown had a policy of not taking glass containers to the islands unless absolutely necessary. The Authority finds that Eyeworks Touchdown’s position was not fairly presented in the programme.

[31]  The Authority concludes, however, that Julie Christie was not treated unfairly separately from Eyeworks Touchdown.  In discussing the littered state of the island, the item focussed on the alleged actions of the company, rather than those of Ms Christie personally.  Any personal comments about Ms Christie – such as that she was “no stranger to controversy” – were uncritical references to matters already in the public eye, and so were not unfair.

Footage of Ms Christie

[32]  Eyeworks Touchdown also complained that it was unfair to use the footage of Ms Christie, and that CanWest had effectively “door-stepped” her. However, door-stepping generally involves a situation where an interviewee is approached by surprise and asked to respond to allegations of misbehaviour. The Authority notes that no such interview took place on this occasion.

[33]  In the Authority’s view, it was not unfair for CanWest to use the footage of Ms Christie. She had approached the Campbell Live crew in her boat, with her own camera crew on board, and she was not asked to respond to any allegations. The Authority considers that the use of this footage did not reflect negatively on Ms Christie, as it would have been clear to viewers that she was left completely mystified as to the reason for the reporter’s visit. The Authority declines to uphold this part of the Standard 6 complaint.

Unfairness to the owners of the island

[34]  The final part of Eyeworks Touchdown’s fairness complaint is that the programme was unfair to the owners of the Fijian island referred to in Campbell Live. It implied, the complainant argued, that the owners had been “bought” by Eyeworks Touchdown, and they had not been contacted for their view. However, the Authority notes that the “chief” of the island was heard in the item stating that Eyeworks Touchdown was paying them to use the island.

[35]  The Authority also notes that CanWest made several attempts to contact the local landowners but were unable to do so. In these circumstances, and because the programme did not leave any negative or misleading impressions about the landowners, the Authority finds that they were not treated unfairly by the broadcaster.

Standard 4 (balance)

[36]  Standard 4 requires that balance be provided when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. On this occasion, the programme discussed the efforts of a New Zealand businessman to clean up a Fijian island which, it was alleged, had been polluted by the crew and cast filming the Treasure Island series. While the item may have been of interest to viewers, the Authority finds that the topic discussed would have had no significant potential impact on, or been of concern to, members of the New Zealand public. The Authority concludes that the programme did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance and, as such, the balance standard does not apply.

Bill of Rights

[37]  For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint in reaching this determination. For the reasons given above, the Authority considers that its exercise of powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by CanWest TVWorks Ltd of an item on Campbell Live on 24 October 2006 breached Standards 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[38]  Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act. It invited submissions on orders from the parties.

[39]  The complainant submitted that the Authority should order the broadcast of a statement during Campbell Live, presented verbally and also displayed on the screen. It requested that the statement include an apology and that it should be read by the same presenter who presented the item complained about.

[40]  Submissions on orders were not received from the broadcaster within the timeframe allocated by the Authority.

Authority’s decision on orders

[41]  The Authority considers it appropriate to order CanWest to broadcast a statement containing a comprehensive summary of the upheld aspects of its decision. However, it declines the complainant’s request to order that a statement be presented both visually and verbally. On this occasion, the Authority believes that the usual requirement of a verbal on-air statement, and the publicity attracted by the publication of its decision, will be sufficient.

[42]  The Authority also declines to impose an order requiring CanWest to broadcast an apology to the complainant. Apologies have been ordered rarely and only in exceptional circumstances, and the Authority does not consider that such an order is required in this case.

Order

Pursuant to section 13(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders CanWest TVWorks Ltd to broadcast a statement approved by the Authority. That statement shall:

  • be broadcast within one month of the date of this decision
  • be broadcast during Campbell Live on a date to be approved by the Authority
  • contain a comprehensive summary of the upheld aspects of the Authority’s decision

The Authority draws the broadcaster’s attention to the requirement in s.13(3)(b) of the Act for the broadcaster to give notice to the Authority of the manner in which the above order has been complied with.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
27 June 2007

Appendix

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

1    Eyeworks Touchdown Ltd’s formal complaint – 21 November 2006

2    Eyeworks Touchdown’s referral to the Authority – 23 January 2006

3    CanWest’s response to the Authority – 21 March 2006

4    Eyeworks Touchdown’s response to Authority’s request for information – 3 and 5 April 2007

5    CanWest’s response to Authority’s request for information – 3 April 2007

6    Eyeworks Touchdown’s final comment – 8 April 2007

7    Further response from CanWest – 18 April 2007

8    Further response from Eyeworks Touchdown – 24 April 2007

9    Eyeworks Touchdown’s submissions on orders – 15 May 2007