BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Lowry and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-051 (10 August 2018)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
Dated
Complainant
  • Brendan Lowry
Number
2018-051
Programme
1 News
Channel/Station
TVNZ 1

Summary

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

An item on 1 News discussed former MP Steven Joyce’s valedictory speech in Parliament. The item focused on Mr Joyce recounting in his speech an incident where he had a sex toy thrown at him at Waitangi several years earlier. Footage was shown of Mr Joyce recounting this story during his speech, and of the incident at Waitangi. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this broadcast and in particular showing the footage of the sex toy breached the good taste and decency standard. Given the incident was newsworthy and attracted widespread coverage at the time, as well as the light-hearted nature of Mr Joyce’s speech, and the broadcast’s target audience, the Authority found the broadcast was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress. The Authority also found the broadcast was not unfair to Mr Joyce as he personally raised and joked about the incident in his speech. The broadcaster’s choice to highlight this aspect of the speech was an editorial decision open to the broadcaster.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Fairness 


The broadcast

[1]  An item on 1 News discussed former MP Steven Joyce’s valedictory speech in Parliament. The item focused on Mr Joyce recounting in his speech an incident where he had a sex toy thrown at him at Waitangi several years earlier. Footage was shown of Mr Joyce recounting this story during his speech, and of the incident at Waitangi.

[2]  The item was broadcast on 27 March 2018 on TVNZ 1.

[3]  In our consideration of the complaint, the members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[4]  Brendan Lowry complained that the broadcast breached the good taste and decency standard because:

  • Showing footage of the sex toy incident four times in the broadcast, while also using slow-motion and freeze-frame techniques, was excessive and offensive.
  • 1 News is viewed by people of all ages, not just adults, and a lot of children would have viewed this broadcast.
  • While traumatic life events such as murder, terror attacks or natural disasters are regularly reported on the news, footage of these incidents is not shown repeatedly or in detail (see TVNZ’s submission below).
  • It was rude and disrespectful to show the footage four times in the presence of a female presenter.

[5]  Mr Lowry also believed the item was unfair to Mr Joyce as the sex toy incident was the only topic covered in the broadcast.

The broadcaster’s response

[6]  TVNZ found no breach of the good taste and decency standard, taking into account the following contextual factors:

  • 1 News is aimed at an adult audience.
  • The Authority has previously noted that while younger audiences may be watching unclassified news programmes, there is an expectation of adult supervision and parental discretion.1
  • News broadcasts discuss challenging and serious current events such as murder, child abuse and terror attacks. There is an expectation that broadcasts will carry some footage of these events.
  • Mr Joyce discussed the incident in his valedictory speech, ‘much to the amusement of MPs in parliament’.

[7]  As Mr Joyce clearly found the incident funny and he recounted it in his valedictory speech, TVNZ did not think it was unfair to show the incident or report on it.

Authority’s findings

Good Taste and Decency

[8]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect the audience from material that is likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards.

[9]  Context is important when we consider a complaint under the good taste and decency standard. In this case relevant contextual factors include:

  • 1 News is an unclassified news programme broadcast at 6pm each weekday
  • 1 News is targeted at an adult audience
  • the nature of news programmes, which frequently contain strong or adult material – so the Authority recognises that children are unlikely to be watching unsupervised
  • previous widespread coverage of the incident involving Mr Joyce at Waitangi, which is likely to be well known to the public as being linked to Mr Joyce.

[10]  This was a light-hearted news segment, which reflected the comedic nature of Mr Joyce’s retelling of the event during his speech in Parliament. While some viewers may have found the use of the footage in the segment offensive or gratuitous, considering the factors above, we do not think it was likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress. We are satisfied that showing the footage would not have caused any actual or potential harm to the audience which outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression in reporting this aspect of Mr Joyce’s speech.

[11]  We do not find any breach of the good taste and decency standard.

Fairness

[12]  The fairness standard (Standard 11) 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.

[13]  We have consistently recognised that the threshold for finding a breach of the fairness standard in relation to politicians or public figures is higher than for a layperson or someone unfamiliar with dealing with the media.2

[14]  Mr Joyce himself raised the sex toy incident during his valedictory speech, as a memorable incident during his time in Parliament. The broadcaster’s choice to highlight this aspect of the speech in the news item was an editorial decision that was open to the broadcaster. This is part of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, which allows broadcasters to present programmes in the way it chooses, so long as standards are maintained and no undue harm is caused either to an individual or to society generally.

[15]  As already mentioned the incident was raised in a comedic manner and Mr Joyce laughed about it with his fellow MPs both at the time of the incident and during the speech. Considering Mr Joyce’s apparent attitude toward the incident and the level of coverage the incident attracted, the broadcast did not damage Mr Joyce’s reputation or unduly harm his dignity.

[16]  We do not uphold the complaint as a breach of the fairness standard.

 

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint. 

 

 

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
10 August 2018

Appendix

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

1      Brendan Lowry’s formal complaint – 23 April 2018
2      MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 22 May 2018
3      Mr Lowry’s referral to the Authority – 18 June 2018
4      MediaWorks’ confirmation of no final comment – 16 July 2018


1 See for example: Bracey and Ee and Television New Zealand Ltd (Decision No. 2013-084)

2 See, for example, Holland and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2017-048.