BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Penrice and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2003-035

Members
  • J H McGregor
  • Tapu Misa
  • R Bryant
Dated
Complainant
  • Ian Penrice
Number
2003-035
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
One News – item concerning Prime Minister’s announcement not to attend at Waitangi for services – included archival footage of Prime Minister upset at previous Waitangi Day service – tasteless – unfair

Findings
Standard 1 – historical significance – contextual relevance – no uphold

Standard 6 – not unfair to Prime Minister – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision


Summary

[1] An item on One News broadcast on TV One at 6.00pm on 3 February 2003 concerned the Prime Minister’s announcement that she would not attend services at Waitangi on Waitangi Day. The item included archival footage of the Prime Minister crying at a previous Waitangi Day celebration.

[2] Mr Penrice complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item should not have included this historical footage of the Prime Minister. In his view it was in bad taste to continue to show this scene, a breach of the Prime Minister’s privacy and unfair to her.

[3] In response, TVNZ disagreed that the item breached broadcasting standards. In its view, the footage at issue was a "significant historical moment" which reflected the wider historical background in the context of the Prime Minister’s announcement.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Penrice referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a video of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] An item concerning the Prime Minister’s announcement that she would not be attending celebrations at Waitangi on Waitangi Day featured on One News broadcast on TV One at 6.00pm on 3 February 2003. The item included archival footage of the Prime Minister crying at a previous Waitangi Day service.

The Complaint

[7] Ian Penrice complained to the broadcaster that it was unnecessary to include in the news item the archival footage of the Prime Minister crying at a previous Waitangi Day service. He wrote:

It would appear that each time anything is broadcast one has to see again and again Helen Clark in tears – this is just too much for any sensible corporation to repeat each year on the anniversary. It’s about time you took a more responsible view of the country’s Prime Minister and have more respect, after all the incident is hardly newsworthy and leads to laziness – oh we’ll show Helen in tears again, that is bound to upset someone including the Prime Minister.

The Standards

[8] In view of the matters raised in the complaint, TVNZ assessed it under Standards 1, 3, and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standards read:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Standard 3 Privacy

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9] TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint. Regarding the news item, it wrote:

The item looked at the background to the Prime Minister’s announcement that day that she would not attend two services at Waitangi on Waitangi Day. The item included historical sequences showing incidents which placed in context the Prime Minister’s observation that, "anyone who knows me knows that for me a dawn service is a considerable hardship at the best of times, so if it has got a downside to it as well there’s every reason not to go."

[10] TVNZ disagreed with Mr Penrice that the incident at Waitangi involving the Prime Minister was "hardly newsworthy". In its view:

[T]he incident has been a central factor in the relationship between the Prime Minister and local Māori since it happened, and that it has taken on greater importance with the passing of time because of the influence it has had on the shaping of that relationship. It was clear from this item that the Prime Minister was still uncomfortable about returning to the scene, especially given what she called the "shambles" she found there in 2002.

[11] TVNZ also rejected Mr Penrice’s assertion that the inclusion of the footage showed a lack of respect for the Prime Minister. TVNZ maintained that in the context of an item which was assessing the state of relations between local Māori and the Prime Minister, it was not disrespectful to include a shot which is now "recognised as a defining moment in that relationship." TVNZ stated that it was a "fundamental role of journalism to regularly place events of the day in a wider historical context", and that was the intention of the item at issue, it argued.

[12] Turning to the standards, TVNZ maintained that Standard 1 had not been breached, as it was not tasteless to show a "significant historical moment" in the context of a discussion about the relationship between local Māori and the Prime Minister and the upcoming Waitangi Day commemorations.

[13] In relation to Standard 3, TVNZ submitted that the Prime Minister had been filmed at a public function and given the status of her office, it was expected that her public activities would be recorded. Consequently, TVNZ said that there had been no infringement on the Prime Minister’s privacy.

[14] As to Standard 6, TVNZ reiterated the importance of the historical context in this item. In its view the footage of the Prime Minister crying was not unfair to her – "given the position she was taking at the time on not attending the two services at Waitangi."

The Complainant’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[15] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Penrice maintained that the item breached standards of good taste and decency and was unfair to the Prime Minister. In his view, the footage at issue did not establish a special relationship between the Prime Minister and Māori. He considered it was a poor reflection of the relationship, given that it was Māori people who had upset her. Mr Penrice stated that he did not want to be reminded of the incident each year.

[16] Mr Penrice also disputed TVNZ’s contention that the footage was to do with "a significant historical moment". While he acknowledged that it was TVNZ’s intention to reflect a wider historical context, it did not "come off" and therefore breached current norms of good taste and decency. Mr Penrice concluded:

It would seem that there are differences in opinion, on the one hand TVNZ showing an item to record historical background at Waitangi and a viewer who doesn’t like what he sees.

The Authority’s Determination

[17] In assessing the validity of the complaint against the standards cited, the Authority takes the view that no broadcasting standards were breached. It considers the inclusion of the archival footage complained about was appropriate, given that the focus of the news item was the history of the Prime Minister attending services at Waitangi. The Authority notes that the item included a lot of footage of the Prime Minister at the press conference announcing that she would not be attending services at Waitangi. The Authority finds that the historical relevance and significance of the footage was integral to the news story and also provided a visual element to the news item. The Authority accepts that, in the context of the news item, it was appropriate and justifiable to use the footage complained about, particularly given the wider historical significance of the Prime Minister’s announcement.

[18] Given that historical significance of the footage and the brevity of the visual complained about, the Authority considers within the overall context of the news item, that the broadcast did not breach the nominated standards.

[19] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Dr Judy McGregor
Member
15 May 2003

Appendix

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

  1. Ian Penrice’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 3 February 2003
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 19 February 2003
  3. Mr Penrice’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 21 February 2003
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 4 March 2003