Hoogenboom and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-033 (25 July 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Carolien Hoogenboom
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An item on Breakfast reported on a shoot-out during an anti-terror raid in Brussels. During the item, the Europe Correspondent stated, ‘We’ve now heard that one suspect has been neutralised’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the term ‘neutralised’ was not accurate, appropriate or neutral language. The Authority found the choice of language was not a material point of fact in the item, which focused on an anti-terror raid linked to the Paris terror attacks. Further, the term ‘neutralised’ is at times used in the context of reporting on police or counter-terrorism action. The use of this term was not biased against, and did not imply fault on the part of, the Belgian Police.
Not upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues
 A news item on Breakfast reported on a shoot-out that occurred during an anti terror raid in Brussels. During the item, the Europe Correspondent stated, ‘We’ve now heard that one suspect has been neutralised’.
 Carolien Hoogenboom originally complained about the Europe Correspondent’s use of the phrase ‘annihilated a suspect’. In TVNZ’s response, it noted that this phrase was not used during the broadcast, but the term ‘neutralised’ was.
 In her referral to the Authority, Ms Hoogenboom revised her complaint to refer to the use of the term ‘neutralised’, alleging this was not accurate, appropriate or neutral language.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy and controversial issues standards, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1
 The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 16 March 2016. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?
 The accuracy standard (Standard 5) states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.2
 Ms Hoogenboom originally complained about the use of the term ‘annihilated’, however in her revised complaint she argued the use of the term ‘neutralised’ was inaccurate when describing the lawful actions of the Belgian Police. For this reason she did not consider the news item was impartial (guideline 5c).
 TVNZ argued that, as the term ‘annihilated’ was not used, no material point of fact in the item was inaccurate. TVNZ did not address whether the term ‘neutralised’ (as opposed to ‘annihilated’) was inaccurate, as this was not raised in the original complaint.
 Regardless of the word actually used, we do not consider that the choice of wording was a material point of fact in the context of the item. The item focused on the fact that Belgian Police had carried out an anti-terror raid in Brussels and viewers would have been primarily concerned with the connection between this anti-terror raid and the recent Paris terror attacks.
 In any event, we understand that the term ‘neutralised’ is at times used in the context of anti-terrorist or police action, to refer to the removal of an active threat. The term was impartial and did not, in our view, imply blame or fault on the part of the Belgian Police. In the context of this item we do not agree that the use of the term ‘neutralised’ breached standard 5.
Did the item discuss a controversial issue of public importance which required the presentation of alternative viewpoints?
 The balance standard (Standard 4) states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest. The standard exists to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.3
 TVNZ maintained that the item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance, and that the language used in the item was neutral and did not imply fault on the part of the Belgian Police.
 We do not consider that the use of the word ‘neutralised’ amounted to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the requirements of the standard. As outlined above, the focus of this item, which was part of ongoing coverage of the Paris terror attacks, was the anti-terrorist action carried out by Belgian Police in Brussels and the fact that shots were fired during the raid. The use of the term ‘neutralised’ in this context did not require TVNZ to present other points of view. We therefore do not uphold the balance complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 July 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Carolien Hoogenboom’s formal complaint – 16 March 2016
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 15 April 2016
3 Carolien Hoogenboom’s referral to the Authority – 15 April 2016
4 TVNZ’s response to the referral – 18 May 2016
1 This complaint was determined under the previous Free-to-Air Television Code, which applied up until 31 March 2016. The new Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook took effect on 1 April 2016 and applies to any programmes broadcast on or after that date: http://bsa.govt.nz/standards/overview
2 Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036
3 Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014