BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

QS and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-042

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Number
2014-042
Programme
Women in Blue
Channel/Station
TV ONE

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

An episode of Women in Blue, a reality TV series following the work of New Zealand policewomen, contained footage of a search warrant being executed at the complainant’s property. QS, who at the time of filming was an occupant of the property, made a complaint that broadcasting the footage without her knowledge or consent breached her privacy. The Authority found that the broadcast did not breach her privacy because she was not identifiable in the broadcast.

Not Upheld: Privacy


Introduction

[1]  An episode of Women in Blue, a reality TV series following the work of New Zealand policewomen, contained footage of a search warrant being executed at the complainant’s property. Introducing the footage, the narrator referred to a ‘suspected illegal drug operation’. The segment showed a police car approaching the property and it included footage of part of the house, filmed from the footpath through a barred fence. It also showed the garage and a dog barking at the camera. A man who lived at the house was shown very briefly with his face blurred, and the item included audio of his conversation with police. It was reported that the man was arrested for possession of a small amount of cannabis and growing equipment. The episode was broadcast on 22 April 2014 on TV ONE.

[2]  QS, the man’s partner, who at the time of filming was an occupant at the property, made a direct privacy complaint to this Authority, saying the footage showed an event which took place at her house almost two years ago, and that broadcasting the footage without her knowledge or consent breached her privacy.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the privacy standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast breach the complainant’s privacy?

[5]  Standard 3 states that broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. The privacy standard exists to protect individuals from undesired access to, and disclosure of, information about themselves and their affairs, in order to maintain their dignity, choice, mental wellbeing and reputation, and their ability to develop relationships, opinions and creativity away from the glare of publicity.

[6]  In her complaint, QS referred to herself, her child, and her partner. We have limited our determination to whether QS’s privacy was breached, on the basis she clearly made reference to ‘my privacy’ numerous times in her complaint, for example beginning the complaint with, ‘I believe this programme breached my privacy rights’, and later saying, ‘This is an absolute breach of my privacy.’ She also made reference to ‘my house and dog’, and to the fact that ‘consent was never gained from myself to show my property’.

[7]  When we consider a privacy complaint, we must first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. The test is whether the person would have been ‘identifiable beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about the matter dealt with in the broadcast’.1

[8]  The Authority has previously stated that an address must be linked to an ‘identifiable individual’ before a broadcast could be said to have breached Standard 3.2 This is because the right to privacy is an individual right; it attaches to a person, not to property. Here, the complainant had no involvement at all with the programme, she was not filmed, and she was not mentioned or referred to in any way in the broadcast. The footage of QS’s house was very limited, and the broadcaster’s efforts to prevent identification of the occupants were obvious. Filming took place from the footpath and the camera crew did not accompany the police onto the property. The footage of the house was filmed from obscure angles, through a barred fence, and no wide shots of the house or property were shown. Some of the footage was slightly blurred. Brief footage of the garage and a vehicle in the driveway was shown. We think it highly unlikely that anyone without a close association with the complainant, who was not already familiar with her property or her partner, would have identified her from the footage.

[9]  In any case, the programme was clearly focused on the complainant’s partner and his suspected cannabis growing operation; it was not concerned with QS. While it could be argued that this information related to the complainant indirectly, that is not enough to find a breach of her privacy. It would be taking the application of the standard, and specifically privacy principle 1 (the public disclosure of private facts), too far, to find that it applied to relatives, friends or associates of those who are the subject of broadcasts, only through their association with that person, in circumstances where they had no involvement with the programme themselves. Broadcasters cannot reasonably be expected to protect the privacy of all individuals who have any connection with a programme participant or a featured location, particularly where there is no reference to them in the broadcast.

[10]  We find that, for the purposes of Standard 3, the complainant was not identifiable in the broadcast and therefore the programme did not breach her privacy. We decline to uphold the complaint.

Name suppression

[11]  While we have not upheld a breach of privacy on this occasion, taking into account the circumstances surrounding the complaint and our finding that the complainant was not identified in the broadcast, we consider it appropriate to suppress her details in the decision.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
15 July 2014

Appendix

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

1                 QS’s direct privacy complaint – 23 April 2014

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 May 2014

3                 QS’s final comment – 22 May 2014

4                 TVNZ’s final comment – 5 June 2014


See for example, Moore and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2009-036 at paragraph [12].

South Pacific Pictures Ltd and RadioWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-017