BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Green and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2015-024

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Peter Green
Number
2015-024
Programme
3 News
Broadcaster
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 4

Summary
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A 3 News item reported on National Party candidate Mark Osborne's failure to name all bridges relevant to his campaign promise during the Northland by-election, to convert 10 bridges to two lanes. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the editing of the item was unfair to Mr Osborne by creating the impression he was unable to name all 10 bridges. The item contained clear statements as to the number of bridges Mr Osborne could name and did not unfairly represent his state of knowledge. Further, the item was broadcast in the context of a robust by-election environment when politicians can expect a high level of scrutiny.

Not Upheld: Fairness


Introduction

[1]  A 3 News item reported on National Party candidate Mark Osborne's failure to name all bridges relevant to his campaign promise during the Northland by-election, to convert 10 bridges to two lanes.

[2]  Peter Green complained that the editing of the item was unfair to Mr Osborne as it created the impression he was unable to name all 10 bridges, when in fact he was able to name six or seven.

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

[4]  The item was broadcast on TV3 on 17 March 2015. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was Mark Osborne treated unfairly?

[5]  The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. One of the purposes of the fairness standard is to protect individuals and organisations from broadcasts which provide an unfairly negative representation of their character or conduct. Programme participants and people referred to in broadcasts have the right to expect that broadcasters will deal with them justly and fairly, so that unwarranted harm is not caused to their reputation and dignity.1

[6]  Mr Green complained that the editing of the item was grossly unfair to Mr Osborne as it created the impression he was 'completely lost for words' in response to the reporter's question asking him to name the 10 bridges National promised to convert to two lanes. In fact, Mr Osborne was able to name and give details of at least six bridges, Mr Green said. The complainant acknowledged that this information was included but felt it came too late in the item, by which time viewers were likely to have already formed an incorrect impression. He also questioned the 'awkward silence' during the interview, and noted this aspect of his complaint was not addressed by MediaWorks.

[7]  MediaWorks argued that 'lost for words' was a turn of phrase that was used to convey that Mr Osborne did not know the names of all 10 bridges National promised to convert to two lanes, which was explicitly noted by Mr Osborne himself. It disagreed with the complainant that viewers were unlikely to watch the whole report and therefore miss the reporter's explicit acknowledgement that Mr Osborne could name 'six, maybe seven' of the bridges. It concluded that the item gave an accurate and fair impression of Mr Osborne's level of knowledge on that particular point.

[8]  The newsreader introduced the item by saying, 'National's Northland by-election candidate Mark Osborne has failed the 69 million-dollar question – he couldn't actually name the 10 bridges National promised'. The reporter then said in a voiceover, 'Mark Osborne, lost for words over National's Northland bridge bribe, unable to name all the bridges'. The following exchange took place between the reporter and Mr Osborne:

Mr Osborne: I don't have all 10 in the back of my mind, no.
Reporter: You can't name all 10 bridges?
Mr Osborne: No, I've described where they are and I've described the bridges that we're doing but no I can't.

[9]  Another voice-over from the reporter continued:

It's an important detail because Osborne claimed the 10-bridge policy was his idea... The bridge upgrade will see all single-lane bridges become two lanes and will cost taxpayers up to 69 million dollars. It is central to National's Northland campaign. He kind of got six, maybe seven, then started to struggle.

[10]  Mr Osborne was then shown saying, 'I'm not sure of their exact names, sorry.'

[11]  It is well-established that the threshold for finding a breach of the fairness standard is higher for politicians than it is for a lay person.2 As converting specified bridges into two lanes was a National campaign promise for the Northland by-election, Mr Osborne should have expected scrutiny from the media and it was legitimate for the broadcaster to focus on this point.

[12]  We consider that Mr Osborne was fairly represented and treated during the 3 News item. The reporter and Mr Osborne himself pointed out that it was 'all 10 bridges' he was unable to name. The reporter clearly stated that Mr Osborne could name 'six, maybe seven bridges' and this was sufficient clarification for viewers, regardless of its placement in the item. The item as a whole did not create a misleading or otherwise unfair impression of Mr Osborne's state of knowledge as to the names of all 10 bridges.

[13]  With regard to the alleged 'awkward silence' following a statement from Mr Osborne during his interview with the reporter, we do not think this was significant in the context of the item as a whole. It did not result in Mr Osborne being treated unfairly, having regard to the clear statements in the item about his ability to name the relevant bridges.

[14]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the fairness complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
Authority Member
15 July 2015

 

Appendix

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

1      Peter Green's formal complaint – 18 March 2015
2      MediaWorks' response to the complaint – 17 April 2015
3      Mr Green's referral to the Authority – 17 April 2015
4      MediaWorks' response to the Authority – 20 May 2015

 

 


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

2 See for example Grieve and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2014-145