BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-004

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Donald McDonald
Number
2014-004
Channel/Station
TV One and TV2

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

The complainant alleged that four programmes broadcast by TVNZ breached the accuracy standard. These included references to the ‘top prize’ on Lotto Big Wednesday; a ‘no junk mail’ sign in a Seven Sharp item; references to the area affected by a snow storm in the United States; and news items about Fonterra. The Authority declined to determine all four complaints on the basis they were frivolous, trivial and vexatious. Viewers would not have been misled, and Mr McDonald continues to refer similar complaints to the Authority despite its previous decisions.

Declined to determine: Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  Section 11 of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers:

(a)  that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, or trivial; or

(b)  that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the
     Authority.

[2]  The policy behind section 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are, in the end, sustained by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted in having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.1 We will usually apply the ordinary meanings of the words frivolous, vexatious or trivial. Frivolous means not serious or sensible, or even silly. A trivial complaint is one which is of little or no importance and is at such a level not to justify it being treated as a serious complaint.

[3]  We have before us four complaints made by Donald McDonald against Television New Zealand Ltd. These complaints relate to separate broadcasts.

[4]  Having considered each complaint, viewed recordings of the broadcasts, and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix, we have come to the conclusion that it is appropriate for us to decline to determine the complaints pursuant to section 11(a).

The complaints

Complaint 1

[5]  An episode of Lotto Big Wednesday was broadcast on TV2 on 27 November 2013.

[6]  Mr McDonald complained that there was no draw number. He alleged that the draws were pre-recorded and the broadcaster randomly selected one each week. He said it was incorrect to say there was $3.5 million ‘up for grabs every week’, and the ‘top prize’ was ‘fictitious’ because there was no winner.

Complaint 2

[7]  Seven Sharp broadcast on 28 November 2013 contained a story about increased junk mail at Christmas, and contained footage of letterboxes. Mr McDonald complained that a sign saying ‘no junk mail’ was illegal and should have read, ‘addressed mail only’.

Complaint 3

[8]  A One News item broadcast on 4 January 2014 reported on a snow storm in the United States. The report said that, ‘A winter storm has blanketed parts of North America with more than 60cm of snow falling on many areas’, and, ‘in the hardest hit area nearly two feet of snow fell’. Mr McDonald complained that the broadcast was inaccurate, but did not clearly explain why.

Complaint 4

[9]  One News on 14 January 2014 contained two stories about Fonterra. The first story related to a food product recall. The second story related to an Employment Relations Authority ruling on the dismissal of a Fonterra worker for doing the ‘Harlem Shake’ dance at work, and it contained footage of the incident.

[10]  Mr McDonald complained that the programme omitted important information about the food recall, and ‘instead… focused on some kind of lambada dance in the factory’.

Our view of these complaints

[11]  New Zealand broadcasters and this Authority have had many complaints from Mr McDonald.

[12]  We have previously advised Mr McDonald, in declining to determine four of his complaints, that there is an economic cost in dealing with complaints and we do not wish to see resources wasted on complaints that have no foundation whatsoever.2 In our view, the four complaints before us are without any proper foundation and come within the ambit of section 11(a) as being trivial and frivolous. Mr McDonald’s continual referral of these types of complaints to this Authority is also vexatious. We give a brief explanation in relation to each complaint:

  • Lotto has been running for many years and viewers understand that there may not be a winner every week;
  • the wording of a letterbox sign was not material to the item (in fact, the reporter said he had looked into it and that any sign to that effect was sufficient);
  • reasonable viewers would have no issue with understanding the report on the US snow storm and would not have been misled by the references to the area affected by the storm, or the amount of snowfall;
  • the fourth complaint relates to two separate stories about separate issues; the first item clearly explained the nature of the food recall.

[13]  We are not going to go into any more detail than this. Were we to do so, we would in effect end up going through the same process as we would go through if we were to determine the complaints.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaints under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
2 May 2014

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined these complaints:

Lotto Big Wednesday

1                  Donald McDonald’s complaint – 27 November 2013

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 20 December 2013

3                 Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 24 December 2013

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority on all four complaints – 25 February 2014

Seven Sharp

5                 Donald McDonald’s complaint – 28 November 2013

6                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 10 January 2014

7                 Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 23 January 2014

8                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority on all four complaints – 25 February 2014

One News (snow storm)

9                Donald McDonald’s complaint – 7 January 2014

10              TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 12 February 2014

11               Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 14 February 2014

12              TVNZ’s response to the Authority on all four complaints – 25 February 2014

One News (Fonterra)

13               Donald McDonald’s complaint – 23 January 2014

14              TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 18 February 2014

15              Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 21 February 2014

16              TVNZ’s response to the Authority on all four complaints – 25 February 2014


1Practice Note: Section 11 powers to decline to determine a complaint

(Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2013)

2McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2012-100