BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Harris and RadioWorks Ltd - 2008-093

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Raewyn Harris
Number
2008-093
Programme
More FM news
Broadcaster
RadioWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
More FM

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
More FM – news item reported on the trial of a man facing drugs charges – named a witness in the trial – allegedly in breached of privacy

Findings
Standard 3 (privacy) – open court hearing with no name suppression – name of witness already in the public domain – no private facts disclosed – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   A news item on More FM, broadcast between 6.30am and 8am on Friday 25 July 2008, reported on the court trial of Palmerston North man, SC, who was facing charges relating to methamphetamine possession and supply. The presenter introduced the item by stating:

Palmerston North man, [SC], is on trial in the High Court on charges of possession and possession to sell methamphetamine. Police found a bag of methamphetamine and over $4,000 in cash at [SC’s] house in October last year. More FM’s Kushla Norman reports.

[2]   The reporter then stated:

Police also found three scoops, scales and unused point-bags – all linked with methamphetamine use – at [SC’s] home. The Crown says if [SC] wasn’t a dealer, then he wouldn’t have any use for these items. [SC] and his partner [HS], a witness, says he is not a ‘P’ dealer and the cash found is not drug money. Crown and Defence will begin summing up today.    

Complaint

[3]   Raewyn Harris made a complaint directly to the Authority under section 8(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She alleged that the item breached Standard 3 (privacy), because it named one of the witnesses involved in the trial.

[4]   The complainant stated “the trial was in an open courtroom and the names were not suppressed, however approximately 30 people were in the courtroom as opposed to thousands of listeners in the greater Manawatu region”. Within a couple of hours of the news report, Ms Harris wrote, the accused was found not guilty after the jury had deliberated for only 10 minutes, and the judge had summed up the case as a “total waste of everyone’s time”. She said that there had been no follow up report on More FM and nothing about the trial had appeared in the local papers. Accordingly, Ms Harris believed that the broadcaster had “severely breached” the privacy of the witness by naming her in the item.

Standards

[5]   Standard 3, guideline 3a and Privacy Principle 1 of the Authority’s privacy principles are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:

Standard 3

Broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Guideline 3a

Broadcasters shall apply the privacy principles developed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Privacy Principle 1

It is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[6]   RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, stated that “in all privacy complaints the Committee must first decide whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast”. It accepted that the witness had been identified in the item.

[7]   The broadcaster said the next issue was whether the item disclosed any private facts about the named witness. It did not consider “a witness’ statement claiming the innocence of a man on trial could be considered a private fact, but even if that fact could be so regarded, the Committee does not consider that the disclosure of that fact could be regarded as offensive or objectionable to a reasonable person”. It noted that the court had not given name suppression to the witness or the accused and that the statement was made “in a public report of a proceeding open to the public”.

[8]   RadioWorks declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 3 (privacy).   

Authority's Determination

[9]   The members of the Authority have listened to 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.

[10]   Privacy principle 1 states that it is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to disclose private facts, where the disclosure would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person. On this occasion, the item complained about gave the names of the defendant and of a witness in a public court hearing in which they had not been granted name suppression. In these circumstances, the Authority finds that no private facts were disclosed in the broadcast, as the names contained in the item were already in the public domain.

[11]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 3 (privacy).

[12]   Although the Authority has not upheld the complaint, it considers that it would not be appropriate to include in this decision the names of the accused and the witness who were named in the broadcast. It finds that further publication of their names would be unjustified and unnecessary in all the circumstances.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
25 November 2008

Appendix

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

1.           Raewyn Harris’ formal complaint – 18 August 2008
2.          RadioWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 30 September 2008