BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Manahi and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-028

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Beverley Manahi
Number
2010-028
Programme
Te Karere
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Te Karere – reported that the manager of a community marae in Waitakere had been accused of stealing $250,000 and had since been asked to leave her job – item named the former manager and contained footage of her at Auckland’s SKYCITY Casino – allegedly in breach of privacy

Findings
Standard 3 (privacy) – allegations and investigation were not private facts – phone numbers were not broadcast in the item – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on Te Karere, broadcast on TV One at 4pm on Thursday 18 February 2010, reported that the manager of a community marae in Waitakere had been accused of stealing $250,000 and had since been asked to leave her job. The item named the former manager and contained footage of her at Auckland’s SKYCITY Casino, and also showed the reporter attempting to speak to the woman at her home.

Referral to the Authority

[2]   Beverley Manahi lodged a direct privacy complaint with the Authority under section 8(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She argued that the item breached Standard 3 (privacy) because the manager was the “ALLEGED perpetrator” and the investigation regarding the embezzlement of public funds at the marae had not been completed. Ms Manahi said that she found this highly offensive, and she considered that “no consideration has been given by Te Karere for the impact that this disclosure will have on the children of the [accused] who currently attend the Kura associated [with] the marae”. She also argued that Te Karere had obtained the phone numbers of kaumatua at the marae which had “resulted in phone harassment”.

Standards

[3]   Standard 3 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice and privacy principles 1 and 4 of the Authority’s Privacy Principles are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:

Standard 3 Privacy

Broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Privacy principles

1.   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.

4.   The protection of privacy includes the protection against the disclosure by the broadcaster, without consent, of the name and/or address and/or telephone number of an identifiable individual, in circumstances where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[4]   TVNZ said that when it considered a privacy complaint, it must first determine whether the individual whose privacy had allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. It agreed that the former manager was identifiable.

[5]   TVNZ then considered whether any private facts were disclosed about the former manager in the item. It noted that she had subsequently appeared in court on charges of using a document for pecuniary advantage, causing loss by deception and theft, and she had not been granted name suppression. TVNZ pointed out that the footage used in the item had been identified as historical footage by the reporter, and that the accused’s children were not discussed in the item. It concluded that the item did not disclose any private facts about the marae’s former manager.

[6]   Nevertheless, the broadcaster considered that reporting the theft of a large amount of money from a well-known marae was in the public interest, which provided a defence to the privacy complaint. It declined to uphold the complaint that the accused’s privacy was breached.

Authority's Determination

[7]   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.

[8]   We note that Ms Manahi nominated privacy principles 3(a) and 4 in her complaint. Privacy principle 3(a) typically relates to the use of hidden camera footage (see, for example, Tashkoff and TVNZ,1O’Connell and TVWorks2), and we do not consider that it is relevant in the circumstances.

[9]   The Authority has stated on a number of occasions that privacy principle 4 was developed to prevent the broadcast of a person’s details in circumstances where they are disclosed for the purposes of encouraging harassment of that person by members of the public (for example, de Villiers and TVNZ,3South Pacific Pictures Ltd and RadioWorks4). Ms Manahi’s concern was that the reporter had obtained the phone numbers of people at the marae and was allegedly harassing them. However, we note that no phone numbers were broadcast in the programme. Accordingly, we find no breach of Standard 3 in this respect.

[10]   We consider that privacy principle 1 is relevant on this occasion, and that this was the principle under which TVNZ assessed the complaint. It states:

[11]   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.

[12]   When we consider a privacy complaint, we must first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. As the former manager’s full name was disclosed and footage of her was shown, we are satisfied that she was identifiable.

[13]   Next, we must consider whether the broadcast disclosed any private facts about her. Ms Manahi argued that the item breached Standard 3 because the investigation regarding the embezzlement of public funds at the marae had not been completed. In our view, the former manager could not reasonably expect that the accusations or the investigation would remain private given that she worked on a community marae and had been asked to step down. It is inevitable that such events will attract publicity and, noting that the woman had not been granted name suppression at the time of the broadcast, we do not see any justification for withholding the identity of the alleged perpetrator from the public.

[14]   We also agree with TVNZ that there was a public interest in disclosing this information. A matter that is in the public interest is defined as one of legitimate public concern, as opposed to being a matter of general interest or curiosity to the public.5 The theft of such a large amount of money from a community organisation is a matter of genuine concern not only to the local community, but to New Zealanders in general.

[15]   We therefore find that Standard 3 was not breached in this respect.

[16]   We note that Ms Manahi also complained that the broadcaster had not considered the effects of the story on the former manager’s children. As the children were not identified in the broadcast, we find that Standard 3 does not apply in the circumstances.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 June 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Beverley Manahi’s direct privacy complaint – 23 February 2010

2.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 13 April 2010


1Decision No. 2009-095

2Decision No. 2007-067

3Decision No. 2008-089

4Decision No. 2008-017

5Hosking v Runting PDF317.33 KB [2005] 1 NZLR 1 (CA), paragraph [30]