BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Latimer and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-048

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • K Latimer
Number
2002-048
Programme
Breakfast
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
Breakfast item on increased ACC levy for motorcycles – biased against motorcyclists

Findings
Standard G4 – motorcyclists not dealt with unfairly – no uphold

Standard G14 – item dealt with levy increase fairly – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Increases in ACC levies were dealt with in an item broadcast on Breakfast between 7.00–9.00am on 5 December 2001. It was reported that the levy to be paid on the annual registration of motorcycles was to increase by nearly 60 percent because of the high number of accidents involving motorbikes.

[2] Miss K Latimer complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was biased and misleading because of the negative attitude she considered had been taken towards motorcyclists.

[3] When TVNZ failed to respond to the complaint, Miss Latimer referred it to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[4] In its response to the Authority, TVNZ said that the item included comments from motorcyclists who were upset at the increase and who maintained that car drivers, not motorcyclists, caused many accidents. It disagreed that the item had dealt with motorcyclists unfairly and declined to uphold the complaint.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] The news programme Breakfast is broadcast on TV One between 7.00–9.00am each weekday. An item broadcast on 5 December 2001 reported that the ACC levy to be paid on the annual registration of motorcycles was being increased by nearly 60 per cent to cover, in the ACC’s assessment, the cost of the high number of accidents involving motorcycles.

The Complaint

[7] Miss K Latimer complained that the item portrayed a negative bias towards motorcyclists "suggesting that they got all they deserved". She argued that the official statistics disclosed that about half of all motorcycle accidents were caused by car drivers, and many of the remaining were caused by external conditions such as unmarked road works.

[8] She acknowledged that she had not seen the item and was relying on comments made by others.

The Standards

[9] TVNZ assessed the complaint against Standards 5 and 6 of the recently revised Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They read:

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.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complaint

[10] As TVNZ did not recognise Miss Latimer’s initial complaint as a formal complaint, it did not reply to it. Miss Latimer referred the complaint to the Authority, and TVNZ responded when advised of the referral. TVNZ acknowledged that the initial complaint should have been answered, and apologised that this had not occurred.

[11] In its response to the substance of the complaint, TVNZ pointed out that the item highlighted that motorcyclists faced an increase of nearly 60 percent in their ACC levy. The item, TVNZ continued, had quoted ACC’s request for the increase because of the high number of road accidents involving motorbikes. It had also reported that motorcyclists were "fuming over the increase", and interviewed two motorcyclists who described the increase as "unfair" and "absolutely ridiculous".

[12] TVNZ said that item included balance and dealt with motorcyclists fairly. It maintained that it had complied with Standards 5 and 6.

The Authority’s Determination

[13] The news item complained about was broadcast on 5 December 2001 but as it was not considered by TVNZ until February 2002, the broadcaster assessed the complaint under the revised Television Code of Broadcasting Practice which came into effect on 1 January 2002.

[14] The revised code was approved by the Authority on 13 August 2001, to come into effect on 1 January 2002. The Authority’s intention was that the revised code would be applied to broadcasts after 1 January 2002. Accordingly, taking into account the matters raised in Miss Latimer’s complaint and the provisions in the revised code nominated by TVNZ, the Authority is of the opinion that the issues raised in the complaint should be dealt with under standards G4 and G14 of the former code. The Authority informed TVNZ and Ms Latimer of its intention to assess the complaint under these standards. TVNZ advised that it had nothing further to add.

[15] Standard G4 requires broadcasters:

G4  To deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to in any programme.

Standard G14 reads:

G14  News must be presented accurately, objectively and impartially.

[16] The Authority notes that Miss Latimer’s disquiet with the item was based on comments made by others. She had not seen the item herself. Having viewed the item, the Authority agrees with TVNZ that motorcyclists were not dealt with unfairly and considers that the item did not adopt a partial attitude towards them.

[17] The item included two responses from motorcyclists who described the increase as ridiculous noting, among other matters that motorcyclists were not primarily responsible for a number of the accidents in which they were involved. One of those interviewed commented to the effect that it was careless car drivers who caused many motorcycle accidents.

[18] In view of the approach adopted in the item, the Authority does not accept that the standards were breached.

[19] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judy McGregor
Member
24 April 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Miss K Latimer’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 6 December 2001
  2. Miss Latimer’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 2 February 2002
  3. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 19 February 2002
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority on the Standards under which the Authority intended to assess the Complaint – 10 April 2002