BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Maher and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-023 (21 May 2018)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
Dated
Complainant
  • James Maher
Number
2018-023
Programme
1 News
Channel/Station
TVNZ 1

Summary

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

During a 1 News Coming Up teaser, presenter Simon Dallow referred to an upcoming item on 1 News, saying: ‘Plus a warning for mums to be; research showing C-section babies face long-term health issues.’ The full item reported on research findings from the University of Edinburgh that babies born through caesarean section were ‘far more likely to suffer from obesity and asthma’, but went on to explain that it was not the caesarean section which caused the health problems, as these could be due to the mother’s health, and further research is needed. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the teaser was sensationalist and misleading, in breach of the accuracy standard. Due to the short duration of the teaser, which was designed to pique viewers’ interest and attract viewers to the later news bulletin, it was necessary for Mr Dallow to briefly summarise the main point of the research, and was not reasonable, at this point, to provide a full explanation of the research and its implications. Viewers understand the nature of news teasers, and were able to watch the full item to get the full story, so they were unlikely to be materially misled by the short teaser.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information  


Introduction

[1]  During a 1 News Coming Up teaser, presenter Simon Dallow referred to an upcoming item on 1 News, saying: ‘Plus a warning for mums to be; research showing C-section babies face long-term health issues.’ The full item reported on research findings from the University of Edinburgh that babies born through caesarean section were ‘far more likely to suffer from obesity and asthma’, but went on to explain that it was not the caesarean section which caused the health problems, as these could be due to the mother’s health, and further research is needed.

[2]  James Maher complained that the wording of the 1 News Coming Up teaser was sensationalist and misleading, as the research undertaken was not conclusive, was not endorsed by any paediatric body in New Zealand and was subject to other factors such as the mother’s lifestyle.

[3]  The issues raised in Mr Maher’s complaint are whether this teaser breached the accuracy, good taste and decency and programme information standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The teaser was broadcast on TVNZ 1 on 26 January 2018 at 5.30pm, with the full item broadcast during the 6pm news bulletin that evening. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of both the broadcast complained about and the full news item and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Freedom of expression

[5]  When we determine a complaint alleging a breach of broadcasting standards, we first give consideration to the right to freedom of expression. Our task is to weigh the value of the programme and the importance of the expression against the level of actual or potential harm that may be caused by the broadcast. We may only interfere and uphold complaints where the resulting limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.1

[6]  The complainant in this case has submitted that harm was caused by the broadcast of this teaser, as it overstated the potential risks outlined in the research which was later reported on during the news bulletin. He has submitted that this had the potential to unnecessarily alarm or distress viewers, including parents and children.

[7]  We acknowledge the complainant’s concern that the subject matter of the teaser and the item may be sensitive for some viewers. However, in weighing the potential harm against the value of the broadcast, which informed viewers about a newsworthy topic, we do not consider that the harm alleged by the complainant was at a level requiring our intervention, and any limit on the right to freedom of expression would therefore be unreasonable. We expand on our reasons for this finding below.

Was the teaser inaccurate or misleading?

[8]  The accuracy standard (Standard 9) 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 being significantly misinformed.

The parties’ submissions

[9]  Mr Maher submitted that the teaser was sensationalised, as the item went on to expand on the fact that the research was undertaken by the University of Edinburgh, was not conclusive, was not endorsed by any paediatric body in New Zealand and was subject to the mother’s lifestyle factors, gestational pathology and further data requiring consideration.

[10]  TVNZ submitted:

  • The news teaser briefly discussed the findings of the research, which was explained in more detail during the news bulletin.
  • It did not agree that the teaser was misleading. The wording of the teaser correctly summarised the main point of the item; a warning that research found there was a link between caesarean birth and long-term health issues.
  • Due to the brevity of the teaser, the issue could not be discussed in any detail – but this would not be expected by viewers. The expectation of a teaser or promo is that the item being ‘teased’ will be discussed in full detail in the news bulletin.

Our analysis

[11]  We have previously described 1 News Coming Up as a brief teaser, which aims to convey a lot of information to viewers in a short period.2 This description applies equally to this case. We are satisfied that, due to the short duration of the teaser, it was necessary for Mr Dallow to briefly summarise the main point of the research, and it was not reasonable, at that point, to provide viewers with a full explanation of the research and its implications.

[12]  Some degree of overstatement or hyperbole can be expected in teasers of this kind, which are intended to draw viewers in to the upcoming programme and pique their interest. The audience understands and expects that topics being highlighted in a news teaser will later be reported in more detail in the full items. Therefore viewers were not likely to be misled.

[13]  Accordingly we do not uphold the accuracy complaint.

Did the teaser breach any other broadcast standards?

[14]  Mr Maher also raised the good taste and decency (Standard 1) and programme information (Standard 2) standards in his complaint. Our reasons for finding these standards were either not applicable or not breached are set out below.
Good Taste and Decency

[15]  Mr Maher submitted that the broadcaster did not ‘stop to think about parents who have perhaps endured many losses, for many reasons, only to find themselves… [with] the only means of delivery available to them’. These parents may have watched the teaser and been distressed that children may face ‘long term health issues’, with children asking whether they would be sick when they were older, he said.

[16]  TVNZ submitted that the good taste and decency standard was primarily aimed at broadcasts which contained sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language. The news teaser did not fall into any of these categories. In any event, it did not consider that this broadcast would offend or distress a significant number of viewers (though it acknowledged the teaser caused some concern for the complainant), taking into account 1 News’ adult target audience, and that the teaser necessarily (and correctly) summarised the main point of the full item.

[17]  We do not consider that this teaser contained any content in breach of Standard 1. It was well within audience expectations for a news and current affairs programme and simply provided a brief summary of the full item broadcast during 1 News. In addition, Mr Dallow’s tone did not sensationalise the item, but raised two key elements of the news item in a calm way.

[18]  We therefore do not uphold the good taste and decency complaint.

Programme Information

[19]  Mr Maher did not make separate submissions under this standard, though he did express in his referral to the Authority some difficulty in categorising his complaint.

[20]  Standard 2 relates to broadcasters ensuring programmes were correctly classified and that the classification is displayed when the programme is broadcast. As the content complained about formed part of an unclassified news programme, we find the standard was not applicable. We consider Mr Maher’s concerns about the teaser have been appropriately addressed as a matter of accuracy.

[21]  We therefore do not uphold Mr Maher’s complaint under Standard 2.

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

 


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
21 May 2018

 


Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      James Maher’s formal complaint – 27 January 2018
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 February 2018
3      Mr Maher’s referral to the Authority – 25 February 2018
4      TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 27 March 2018


 See sections 5 and 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and Introduction: Freedom of Expression, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6

2 Allan and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2017-026