McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-021 (25 July 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Donald McDonald
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An item on ONE News reported that a recent avalanche in the Austrian Alps had killed five skiers. The presenter stated the avalanche was ‘reported to be two kilometres wide and five kilometres high’. A second item on ONE News discussed plans for a new dairy factory in Northland. The reporter said, ‘He’s [farmer interviewed] been in the dairy industry for two years and has record low pay-outs, the latest forecast at around four dollars’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the reference to the avalanche being ‘five kilometres high’ and the reference in the dairy item to a ‘Fonterra pay-out of $4 per annum’ were inaccurate and misleading. The precise size of the avalanche was not a material point of fact in the item and the statement referencing four dollars clearly referred to the interviewed farmer’s pay-out and not to the total annual pay-out made by Fonterra.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
 An item on ONE News reported that a recent avalanche in the Austrian Alps had killed five skiers. The presenter stated the avalanche was ‘reported to be two kilometres wide and five kilometres high’. A second item on ONE News discussed plans for a new dairy factory in Northland. The reporter said ‘He’s [farmer interviewed] been in the dairy industry for two years and has record low pay-outs, the latest forecast at around four dollars’.
 Donald McDonald complained that the reference in the avalanche item to the avalanche being ‘five kilometres high’ and the reference in the dairy item to a ‘Fonterra pay-out of $4 per annum’ were inaccurate and misleading.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1
 Both items were broadcast on TV ONE on 7 February 2016. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix
Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?
 The accuracy standard (Standard 5) 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 receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.2
Item one: Avalanche
 Mr McDonald alleged that the description of the avalanche as ‘five kilometres high’ was incorrect, as it was more likely to be five metres high.
 TVNZ argued that the precise height of the avalanche was not a material point of fact, as the item concerned the deaths of five people in a large avalanche. It considered this was what viewers would have taken from the information given by the presenter. However, TVNZ acknowledged that there did appear to be an error in the description of the avalanche, which was reported elsewhere as ‘being around [two kilometres] wide and [five metres] high’.
 The accuracy standard is concerned only with material points of fact. Mr McDonald did not explain in his complaint why he considered the precise height of the avalanche to be material. While TVNZ has acknowledged an error in the description of the height of the avalanche, we agree with the broadcaster that this would not have materially affected viewers’ understanding of the story. The focus during the brief item (only 19 seconds in length) was that people had been killed and injured during an avalanche in the Austrian Alps. We are therefore satisfied that this item did not breach standards of accuracy.
Item two: Dairy industry
 Mr McDonald complained that the reference to a ‘$4 pay-out’ during this item was inaccurate because the Fonterra pay-out would be billions of dollars per annum. Mr McDonald alleged this was a ‘gross error’ and was misleading.
 TVNZ noted the statement clearly represented the Fonterra pay-out for that particular farmer (ie $4 per kilogram of milk solids), and not the total annual Fonterra pay-out to all farmers as Mr McDonald assumed. TVNZ therefore maintained the item was accurate.
 Again, Mr McDonald did not provide the Authority with reasons as to why he considered this statement to be a material point of fact in the item, and in our view it was not material to the item as a whole.
 The focus of the item was the potential benefits of a new dairy factory in Northland. The statement identified by the complainant clearly related to that particular farmer’s pay-out, and not to the total annual pay-out made by Fonterra. The segment portrayed the current situation or ‘status-quo’ for farmers, based on this particular farmer’s experience as expressed in his own words, and contrasted this with the anticipated benefits of a new factory. While we acknowledge the presenter’s statement was a form of ‘short-hand’, we do not consider it was inaccurate or that viewers would have been misled in the way alleged by the complainant.
 We therefore also do not uphold the complaint in relation to the second item.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 July 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 7 February 2016
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 9 March 2016
3 Donald McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 26 March 2016
4 TVNZ’s response to the referral – 18 May 2016
1 This complaint was determined under the previous Free-to-Air Television Code, which applied up until 31 March 2016. The new Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook took effect on 1 April 2016 and applies to any programmes broadcast on or after that date: http://bsa.govt.nz/standards/overview
2 Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036