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Institute of Directors and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-055

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Institute of Directors
Number
2009-055
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) and 8(1B)(b)(ii) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item reported on the former chairman of Bridgecorp, Bruce Nelson Davidson, appearing in the District Court – stated that Mr Davidson was a past president of the Institute of Directors and of the Auckland District Law Society – allegedly in breach of privacy, accuracy and programme information standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – broadcaster upheld accuracy complaint – action taken by broadcaster sufficient – not upheld

Standard 3 (privacy) – no private facts disclosed – not upheld

Standard 8 (programme information) – standard not applicable – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  An item on One News, broadcast on TV One at 6.11pm on 24 February 2009, reported on the former chairman of Bridgecorp, Bruce Nelson Davidson, appearing in the District Court on charges of making false statements about the financial position of Bridgecorp.

[2]  The item included footage of Mr Bruce Nelson Davidson standing outside the courthouse. During the item, the presenter stated:

Mr Davidson is a past president of the Auckland District Law Society and the Institute of Directors. He’s been remanded to a further hearing in April.

Complaint

[3]  The Institute of Directors (IoD) made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item had breached standards of privacy, accuracy and programme information.

[4]  The IoD pointed out that Bridgecorp's Bruce Nelson Davidson was not a past president of the IoD. It stated that one of its current members and past president was named Bruce Charles Davidson and that the broadcaster had wrongly associated him with the court action being taken against Bruce Nelson Davidson.

[5]  The complainant argued that the item’s case of mistaken identity had materially damaged its past president’s credibility and the credibility of the IoD.

Standards

[6]  Standards 3, 5, and 8 and guidelines 3a and 5a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice and privacy principle 1 of the Authority’s Privacy Principles are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:

Standard 3 Privacy

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Guideline 3a

Broadcasters must comply with the privacy principles developed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (Appendix 2).

Privacy Principle1

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.

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.

Guideline 5a

Significant errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

Standard 8 Programme Information

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programme information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7]  Dealing first with accuracy, TVNZ stated that it agreed that the One News item contained a verbal inaccuracy by referring to Bruce Nelson Davidson as a past president of the Institute of Directors.

[8]  The broadcaster noted that the IoD's media manager had contacted its newsroom after the item had screened and informed the reporters of the mistake. TVNZ pointed out that during One News Tonight broadcast later that same day, the item about Mr Davidson only referred to him being a past president of the Auckland District Law Society and did not mention the IoD.

[9]  The broadcaster stated that Bruce Nelson Davidson was due to appear before the court again during 2009 and that it would incorporate a clarification into the script explaining that the Mr Davidson in question was not associated with the IoD in any way.

[10]  With respect to privacy, TVNZ stated that the item contained an incorrect point of fact about Bridgecorp's Bruce Nelson Davidson and that this error had been addressed under the accuracy standard.

[11]  The broadcaster stated that for a breach of the privacy standard to occur, it must first be established whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been breached was identifiable in the item. TVNZ went on to assess the privacy complaint in relation to Mr Bruce Nelson Davidson. It stated that footage of Bridgecorp's Mr Davidson was shown in the item and, as a result, he was identifiable.

[12]  However, the broadcaster argued that that information about his court case had been widely reported, was in the public domain and that the broadcast had not disclosed any private facts about Bridgecorp’s Mr Davidson in breach of the privacy standard. It declined to uphold the privacy complaint.

[13]  Turning to programme information, TVNZ argued, "At no point did One News deliberately deceive or disadvantage its viewers". It reiterated that it had taken and would take additional appropriate steps to rectify its error. It declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 8.

Referral to the Authority

[14]  Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, the IoD referred its complaint to the Authority under sections 8(1B)(b)(i) and 8(1B)(b)(ii) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[15]  With respect to accuracy, the IoD argued that the action taken by the broadcaster to rectify the error was insufficient.

[16]  The complainant pointed out that TVNZ's offer to broadcast a clarification that Bruce Nelson Davidson was in no way "connected with the IoD" would be incorrect as he was a member of the IoD, but not a past president.

[17]  The IoD reiterated its belief that the item had breached Standard 3 (privacy) and Standard 8 (programme information).

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[18]  TVNZ said that it had apologised to the IoD's CEO and argued that there were several factors in the item that ensured that viewers would not confuse Bruce Nelson Davidson with Bruce Charles Davidson. These included the fact that footage was shown in the item of the correct Bruce Davidson, that the correct name was given, that people who knew Bruce Charles Davidson would know he did not hold a position at Bridgecorp and that the script for the later news item was amended so that the reference to the IoD was removed.

[19]  The broadcaster noted that Bruce Nelson Davidson was now due to appear again in court in February 2010. It said that "when this story is reported by TVNZ One News it will incorporate a clarification into the script of that item explaining that the Mr Davidson in question was not past president of the Institute of Directors".

Complainant’s Final Comment

[20]  The IoD said, while it accepted that TVNZ would make a further correction, its usefulness and effectiveness was diminished by the fact that it would not occur until February 2010. It maintained that the error was significant and should have been corrected at the earliest opportunity.

[21]  The complainant stated that it stood by its original complaint and reiterated its argument that the broadcast had breached Standards 3 and 8. The IoD argued that TVNZ should make a correction and an apology to Bruce Charles Davidson.

Authority's Determination

[22]  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)

[23]  Standard 5 requires news, current affairs and other factual programmes to be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times. Guideline 5a states that significant errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

[24]  The Authority notes that, while the broadcaster erred in saying that Bridgecorp’s Bruce Nelson Davidson had been a past president of the IoD, it correctly identified Bruce Nelson Davidson to viewers in every other way. This included showing video footage of the correct Mr Davidson and mentioning that he had been a past president of the Auckland District Law Society. In these circumstances, the Authority finds that viewers who knew Bruce Charles Davidson would not have been misled into believing that he was associated with Bridgecorp.

[25]  For the above reasons, the Authority considers that the error in the item was not significant enough to warrant a verbal correction. It considers that the action taken by the broadcaster in removing the reference to the IoD in subsequent broadcasts was adequate and ensured the error was not repeated.

[26]  Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the action taken by TVNZ was insufficient.

Standard 3 (privacy)

[27]  The IoD complained that Bruce Charles Davidson's privacy was breached by the broadcast of the inaccurate information that Bruce Nelson Davidson was a former president of the organisation. However, no private facts about Bruce Charles Davidson were revealed in the item which could have led to a breach of his privacy; rather, the news story contained an error relating to Bruce Nelson Davidson.

[28]  For the above reasons, the Authority finds that Standard 3 was not breached.

Standard 8 (responsible programming)

[29]  Standard 8 states that broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programme information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer. The standard relates to things such as ensuring a clear distinction between programming and advertising material, the use of subliminal perception and collusion between broadcasters and contestants during competitions.

[30]  The Authority finds that the responsible programming standard is not applicable in the circumstances, and it declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 8.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 August 2009

Appendix

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

1.         The Institute of Directors' formal complaint – 17 March 2009
2.        TVNZ's response to the formal complaint – 21 April 2009
3.        The IoD's referral to the Authority – 19 May 2009
4.        TVNZ's response to the Authority – 26 June 2009
5.        The IoD’s final comment – 6 July 2009