BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

MacDonald and Channel Z Ltd - 2000-099

Members
  • J Withers
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • Rory MacDonald
Number
2000-099
Programme
Channel Z
Broadcaster
Channel Z Ltd
Channel/Station
Channel Z # 2

Complaint
Channel Z – broadcast of phone call to elderly woman about family member in lingerie advertisement – invasion of privacy – offensive

Findings
Content of broadcast unclear – no tape provided – unable to determine complaint – decline to determine – warning about unsatisfactory complaints procedure

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

An announcer on Channel Z telephoned an elderly woman and asked her about the fact that her granddaughter had appeared in a lingerie commercial about ten years previously. This interview was broadcast on Channel Z at around 6.30pm on 6 May 2000.

Rory MacDonald complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 that the broadcast breached the woman’s privacy. He maintained that the announcer’s questions had been provocative and distasteful and said he considered that they would have been highly offensive to the interviewee.

In its response, Channel Z, the broadcaster accepted that the telephone call had been broadcast, noting that it had been edited and did not accurately reflect the original call. It acknowledged that Channel Z radio personalities might "stretch the boundaries of good taste" and that this might be one of those cases. It apologised to the complainant.

 

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.

 

Decision

The members of the Authority have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority considers the complaint without a formal hearing.

An announcer on Channel Z telephoned an elderly woman and asked her about the fact that her granddaughter had appeared in a lingerie commercial about ten years previously. This interview was broadcast on Channel Z at around 6.30pm on 6 May 2000.

Rory MacDonald complained to the Authority that the broadcast breached the woman’s privacy. He maintained that the announcer’s questions had been provocative and distasteful, and said he considered that they would have been highly offensive to the interviewee. He said that the woman had been "obviously somewhat distressed by the line of questioning". In his view, the announcer had acted in a manner which was "odious and unacceptable" for a radio commentator.

Channel Z accepted that the telephone call had been broadcast, noting that it had been edited and did not accurately reflect the original call. It then commented that:

While this type of personality radio may be questionable to some listeners, it resembled the format of a number of primetime television shows.

Channel Z acknowledged that "in pursuit of doing something different on the radio, Channel Z radio personalities might "stretch the boundaries of good taste". It accepted that this situation might be "one of those cases". It apologised to the complainant.

In his final comment, Mr MacDonald said that he believed that the broadcast had breached Principles (i) and (iv) of the Authority’s Privacy Principles. Those Principles read:

i)   The protection of privacy includes protection against the public disclosure of private facts where the facts disclosed are highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.

iv)  The protection of privacy also protects against the disclosure of private facts to abuse, denigrate or ridicule personally an identifiable person. This principle is of particular relevance should a broadcaster use the airwaves to deal with a private dispute. However, the existence of a prior relationship between the broadcaster and the named individual is not an essential criterion.

He contended that nothing in the broadcast indicated that the woman interviewed had consented to the broadcast.

Mr MacDonald also commented that, as the interview had been pre-recorded, a copy of the broadcast ought to have been retained and he asked that this be provided to the Authority. He also wrote that he was surprised that the broadcaster had not addressed the Privacy Principles in his response to the complaint.

 

The Authority’s Findings

The Authority begins by recording that it was not helped in its deliberations by the unsatisfactory way the complaint was dealt with by Channel Z. The broadcaster did not address Mr MacDonald’s privacy complaint in its response. It reminds Channel Z that it is required to have in place a proper procedure for dealing with complaints. This principle is set out in s.5(a) of the Broadcasting Act. In the Authority’s view, it is beyond question that a proper procedure must include responding to alleged breaches of broadcasting standards, including an allegation about a breach of privacy.

Turning to the substance of the complaint, the Authority records that it was informed by the broadcaster that a tape of the interview in question was unavailable, as it had been deleted in early June. However, it observes that the broadcast complained about does not fall into a category for which a broadcaster is required by the standards to retain a tape for 35 days. Nevertheless, in the absence of a tape, the Authority is unable to assess the complaint, as insufficient information about the broadcast can be ascertained from the complainant’s correspondence. It is therefore difficult to gauge matters such as the tone and content of the interview and whether the woman interviewed or her granddaughter were identified. Even on the complainant’s view of the matter, the Authority considers there is room for doubt about whether broadcasting standards relating to privacy were breached. In these circumstances, the Authority is not prepared to find against the broadcaster. Accordingly, it declines to determine the complaint under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act.

 

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to determine the complaint under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act.

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Rosemary McLeod
Member
3 August 2000

Appendix

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

1.    Rory MacDonald’s Formal Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 8 May
      2000
2.    Channel Z’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 4 July 2000
3.    Rory MacDonald’s Final Comment – 10 July 2000