BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Newfield and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-091

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Peter Newfield
Number
2012-091
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – reference to British Prime Minister David Cameron as “an old mate of John Key’s” in relation to the Leveson Inquiry into British press – allegedly in breach of accuracy and fairness standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – reference to “old mate” in the introduction to the item was not a material point of fact and would not have misled viewers – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – brief comment did not implicate Mr Key in the manner alleged – not unfair to Mr Key – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  A One News item reported on the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of British press. It was introduced as follows by the newsreader:

There’s been an embarrassing distraction for an old mate of John Key’s at a time when Britain is also grappling with tough economic times. Evidence of David Cameron’s relationship with the redhead at the centre of the phone hacking scandal has left him rattled.

[2]  The item was broadcast on TV One on 15 June 2012.

[3]  Peter Newfield made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, arguing that the reference to “John Key’s old mate” was “grossly inaccurate and appeared to be a deliberate… attempt to associate or implicate the New Zealand Prime Minister in any impropriety or lack of judgement of which Mr Cameron may have been guilty.” He considered that the reference to Mr Key was gratuitous and irrelevant to the story.

[4]  The issue is whether the item breached Standards 5 (accuracy) and 6 (fairness) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  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 item inaccurate or misleading?

[6]  Standard 5 (accuracy) 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.1

[7]  TVNZ noted that Mr Key and Mr Cameron were friends so it was not inaccurate to refer to Mr Cameron as an “old mate” of Mr Key’s. It said, “There was certainly not implication of collusion or attempt to implicate Mr Key in any alleged wrongdoing by Mr Cameron by referencing Mr Key in this introduction.”

[8]  In determining an alleged breach of the accuracy standard, we must assess whether the statement complained about was a material point of fact, and whether it would have misled listeners in any significant respect.

[9]  In our view, the fleeting reference in the introduction to “an old mate of John Key’s” was not a “material point of fact”, but an attempt to link the previous story involving Mr Key, and to localise the story for New Zealand viewers. The issue is therefore whether the comment was misleading.

[10]  Taken in the context of the whole item, which did not contain any further references to Mr Key, we do not think the brief comment in the introduction would have significantly affected viewers’ understanding of the story, or that they would have been misled. The focus of the item – Mr Cameron’s alleged involvement in the scandal – was made clear in the introduction to the story (see paragraph [1]). We reiterate that the newsreader’s comment appeared to be a glib attempt to link the story to New Zealand. Reasonable viewers would not have interpreted the reference as implicating Mr Key in Mr Cameron’s alleged wrongdoing, in the manner alleged by the complainant.

[11]  Upholding the accuracy complaint in these circumstances would unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of expression. We therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.

Was the item unfair to any individual?

[12]  Standard 6 states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.

[13]  TVNZ argued that the reference to Mr Key was fleeting and provided viewers with a parallel “in order to better understand Mr Cameron’s position within the British government”. It disagreed that the brief reference created any association between Mr Key and Mr Cameron’s behaviour, or made any suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr Key.

[14]  In our view, the brief comment did not implicate Mr Key in the manner alleged. It would not have left viewers with an unfairly negative impression of him. While the comment was unnecessary and somewhat silly, it did not breach the standard.

[15]  We therefore decline to uphold the fairness complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
4 December 2012

Appendix

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

1          Peter Newfield’s formal complaint – 19 June 2012

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 18 July 2012

3          Mr Newfield’s referral to the Authority – 10 August 2012

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 26 September 2012


1Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036