McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-033
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Donald McDonald
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – statement prior to commercial break referred to volcano eruption and tsunami threat – allegedly misleading and inaccurate
Standard 5 (accuracy) and guideline 5b – statement would not have misled or alarmed viewers – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 Prior to a commercial break during One News, beginning at 6pm on 2 March 2007, presenter Simon Dallow said:
Just ahead this news hour, a volcano eruption sparks fears of tsunami.
 Following the commercial break, One News reported that a volcanic eruption on the island of Stromboli, off the Sicilian coast, had “sparked a warning that it could trigger a tsunami similar to the one that caused widespread damage five years ago”.
 Donald McDonald made a formal complaint about the item to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the presenter’s initial remark about a volcano eruption had breached the accuracy standard. In the complainant’s view, this introduction was misleading and irresponsible as it did not inform viewers that the tsunami threat was not in New Zealand. Mr McDonald submitted that the statement would have caused fear and alarm.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 and guidelines 5a and 5b of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:
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.
5a Significant errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.
5b Broadcasters should refrain from broadcasting material which is misleading or unnecessarily alarms viewers.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 TVNZ contended that the placement of the item on One News should have made it clear that the tsunami threat was not to New Zealand. Surely, it wrote, the story would have appeared somewhat higher up the bulletin if that were the case. The broadcaster stated that it was satisfied that the information provided was accurate, and was supported by the item itself when it appeared after the commercial break. The headline was not misleading, it said, because its placement halfway through the news programme indicated that there was no threat to New Zealand or its people.
 TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint under Standard 5 (accuracy).
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated his view that the presenter’s statement would have provoked unnecessary fear and alarm in viewers. Mr McDonald submitted that the statement should have contained the location of the volcano.
 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.
 In the Authority’s view, the presenter’s statement that a volcano eruption had sparked fears of a tsunami would not have misled or unnecessarily alarmed viewers (guideline 5b). It agrees with TVNZ that the placement of the item made it apparent that the volcanic eruption was not a local event. If there was any doubt, the news item was then presented immediately after the commercial break, and it specified that the events had occurred off the Sicilian coast.
 In the Authority’s view, TVNZ did not mislead or unnecessarily alarm viewers in breach of Standard 5. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
27 June 2007
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 29 March 2007
2 TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 11 April 2007
3 Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 20 April 2007
4 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 24 April 2007