Paranjape and TVWorks Ltd - 2011-003
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Shirish Paranjape
Channel/StationTV3 # 3
Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Campbell Live – item reported on a “race row” that erupted in response to the winner of a regional Miss India New Zealand competition – allegedly inaccurate, unfair and irresponsible
Standard 5 (accuracy) – item based on personal opinions of those who attended pageant –not inaccurate or misleading – not upheld
Standard 6 (fairness) – no person or organisation specified in complaint – not upheld
Standard 8 (responsible programming) – Campbell Live was an unclassified news and current affairs programme – standard not applicable – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on Campbell Live, broadcast on TV3 at 7pm on Wednesday 13 October 2010, reported on a “race row” that had erupted in response to the winner of the Wellington Division of a Miss India New Zealand competition. The item was preceded by a coming-up teaser at the beginning of the programme, in which the host stated, “Tonight, the blue-eyed, blonde beauty pageant winner, booed for not looking Indian enough”, as footage of the contestant walking a catwalk was shown.
 The host introduced the item by reference to recent controversial comments made by Breakfast presenter, Paul Henry, who questioned whether New Zealand’s former Governor General looked “Kiwi enough”. The host stated:
But now it seems another race row has erupted. This time over a beauty queen that allegedly, for some anyway, does not look Indian enough. The woman at the centre of the latest incident is 21. She’s beautiful, she has blonde hair and blue eyes. But according to some, those looks mean she doesn’t look Indian. She was heckled when she won a regional Miss India New Zealand competition.
 The item cut to footage of the contestant, as a voiceover from the reporter stated, “Amidst the glamour of the Miss India New Zealand pageant another racial row has erupted”. The reporter interviewed the mother of the contestant’s boyfriend, who stated, “It was then that we jumped up with excitement. We could hear at the same time a large group behind us making very loud booing noises.” The reporter said, “It was her blue eyes and blonde hair that got some people riled”. The event organiser, and one of the judges were also interviewed, and said that they did not hear any “booing”, although the organiser reported receiving some negative feedback about the win. The reporter stated, “But as she walked the catwalk listen to the audience yourself”, as an audio recording of the audience was played, in which booing could be heard. The reporter said, “[the contestant] says she didn’t hear it on stage, but watching on, her boyfriend’s mother says they were horrified”.
 At the end of the item, the reporter noted that the contestant made the finals but did not win overall, and that “ironically” another girl, who was runner-up in the Wellington competition, ended up with the Miss India New Zealand crown.
 Shirish Paranjape made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached standards relating to accuracy, fairness and responsible programming.
 The complainant said that he had attended the pageant, and argued that the item was inaccurate as it “attempted to say that the [contestant] was treated in a racist way”, when in fact he had not seen any evidence of discrimination based on her appearance.
 Mr Paranjape said that the item showed footage of the crowd “booing” the contestant, but failed to mention that the audience’s response was identical for all contestants. The item did not include footage showing the response to other contestants because it would not have suited the story, he argued.
 Further, the complainant said that the programme implied that the contestant came second because of her appearance, and failed to inform viewers that she did win a prize at the Auckland pageant. He considered that this was “mischievous at the least, and malicious at the extreme”. Mr Paranjape concluded by stating that the broadcaster was irresponsible in reporting the item in the manner that it did, which in his view, was done for the purpose of creating a story when none existed.
 Mr Paranjape nominated Standards 5, 6 and 8 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his complaint. These provide:
Standard 5 Accuracy
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/or
- does not mislead.
Standard 6 Fairness
Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.
Standard 8 Responsible Programming
Broadcasters should ensure that programme information and content is socially responsible.
Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant
 TVWorks said that the accuracy standard applied to statements of fact and not opinion. It noted the presenter’s introductory statement, “According to some, those looks [blonde hair and blue eyes] mean she doesn’t look Indian”, and said that this statement was supported by the interview with the mother of the contestant’s boyfriend.
 The broadcaster contended that the item made it very clear that only some people heard a negative reaction in the crowd; this was supported by video footage and comments from the event organiser, who reported that he had received some negative feedback about the win, it said. The broadcaster noted that other interviewees stated that they did not hear any booing or shouting, and the reporter even mentioned that the contestant herself did not hear any booing while on stage. It said that audio of the audience reaction was then played and Campbell Live’s viewers were asked to judge for themselves. TVWorks concluded that the programme only ever claimed that a “race row had erupted, which insinuates disagreement over an issue, but not necessarily discrimination”.
 For these reasons, the broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.
 Turning to fairness, TVWorks noted the complainant’s concern that the programme omitted to mention that the contestant won a prize at the Auckland pageant. The broadcaster disputed this, saying that the introduction clearly stated that the contestant was a “blue-eyed, blonde beauty pageant winner”. It declined to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.
 With regard to Standard 8, TVWorks said that news and current affairs programmes were not subject to censorship or classification requirements, so the standard was not applicable in the circumstances. Accordingly, it declined to uphold the responsible programming complaint.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Paranjape referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 The complainant argued that the inference of discrimination in the item was based on the opinion of just one person, namely the mother of the contestant’s boyfriend. He maintained that the item failed to present the total picture and created a race-based story when none existed.
 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.
Standard 5 (accuracy)
 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.
 Mr Paranjape’s concerns relate primarily to the way in which the item was reported. In essence, the complainant argued that the item “attempted to say that the [contestant] was treated in a racist way” because of her appearance, for the purpose of creating a race-based story when none existed.
 In our view, the item was clearly an opinion piece, based on the perspectives of those who had attended the pageant. While the mother of the contestant’s boyfriend gave her impression that the audience had responded negatively to the contestant’s appearance, the other interviewees, including one of the pageant judges, said that they did not hear any “booing” or witness any discriminatory treatment from the crowd. The interviewees’ comments were their opinions, rather than statements of fact, and as different viewpoints were presented we do not consider that viewers would have been misled by the item in the manner alleged by the complainant.
 While we accept that the host used the term “race row” to describe what occurred at the pageant, in our view this was hyperbole, and not a material point of fact. Further, we note that in the introduction, the host stated “... it now seems that another race row has erupted... over a beauty queen that allegedly, for some anyway, does not look Indian enough”. We consider that the use of the words “seems”, “allegedly” and “for some” made it clear that only some people were asserting that a “race row” had erupted in response to the contestant’s appearance, and that the item was based on the personal opinions of those who had attended the pageant.
 For these reasons, we find that the item was not inaccurate or misleading in breach of Standard 5, and we therefore decline to uphold this part of the complaint.
Standard 6 (fairness)
 Standard 6 requires broadcasters to deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in programmes. As the complainant did not identify who had allegedly been treated unfairly, we have no basis on which to uphold the fairness complaint. Accordingly, we find that there was no breach of Standard 6.
Standard 8 (responsible programming)
 Standard 8 requires that programmes are correctly classified, display programme classification information, and adhere to the time-bands set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code. It also states that programmes should not cause viewers unwarranted alarm or distress, or deceive or disadvantage them.
 We note that Campbell Live was an unclassified news and current affairs programme with an adult target audience, and that nothing in the item subject to complaint would have alarmed or distressed viewers. For these reasons, we find that Standard 8 is not applicable, and we decline to uphold the responsible programming complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
3 May 2011
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Shirish Paranjape’s formal complaint – 14 October 2010
2 TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 1 December 2010
3 Mr Paranjape’s referral to the Authority – 20 December 2010
4 TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 21 March 2011