BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Reid and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-091

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Jeffrey Reid
Number
2011-091
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News at Midday, One News at 4.30pm, One News at 6pm, One News Tonight – items reported that a former senior manager at Rimutaka Prison had pleaded guilty to growing cannabis for supply to inmates – allegedly in breach of accuracy and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – news items employed shorthand to describe Mr Reid’s case – based on summary of facts agreed to by the parties statements were not inaccurate or misleading – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – news programmes are unclassified – standard not applicable – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – standard only applies to sections of the community – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcasts

[1]  One News items, broadcast on TV One throughout the day on 16 May 2011, reported that a former senior manager at Rimutaka Prison had pleaded guilty to growing cannabis for supply to inmates.

[2]  During bulletins on One News at Midday and One News at 4.30pm, the newsreader stated:

A former senior manager at Rimutaka Prison near Wellington has admitted growing cannabis to sell to inmates in the jail. 45-year-old Jeffrey Mark Reid was arrested two years ago following a month-long police operation. He was expected to go to trial today but instead entered a guilty plea. Reid will appear again next month for sentencing.

[3]  An item on One News at 6pm and repeated later that evening on One News Tonight was introduced by the newsreader as follows:

A former prison manager in charge of some of our worst criminals was instead moonlighting as their drug supplier. Jeffrey Reid has admitted growing cannabis to sell to inmates at the Hutt Valley’s Rimutaka Prison.

[4]  A pre-recorded item was then broadcast. Mr Reid was shown arriving at court, as the reporter stated, “Arriving at court, Jeffrey Reid had his hands firmly in his pockets. Inside, he was charged with lining them from the sale of drugs.” Footage of Mr Reid pleading guilty was also shown. The reporter continued:

An admission that’s been a long time coming after Reid was arrested two years ago as part of a police sting operation called “Operation Wire”. In charge of a wing at Rimutaka prison, housing some of our worst criminals, Reid grew cannabis in a sophisticated hydroponic operation at his home then smuggled it in for them.

[5]  The reporter said that “one of those inmates he supplied was [name] who sparked a two-day man-hunt in 2008 when he skipped bail on firearms charges”. Concluding the item, the reporter stated, “Sacked by the Department [of Corrections], Reid was freed on bail and will be sentenced in a month’s time.”

Complaint

[6]  Jeffrey Reid made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the four items breached broadcasting standards. He argued that the following statements in the items breached standards relating to accuracy and responsible programming:

  • that he was deliberately or knowingly supplying cannabis to a named inmate
  • that he was “moonlighting as their drug supplier”
  • that he “admitted growing cannabis to sell to inmates at the Hutt Valley’s Rimutaka Prison”.

[7]  Mr Reid maintained that these were “serious allegations” and that, “All of the above have been denied and/or not admitted.”

Standards

[8]  TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 5 and 8 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which 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 8 Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure programmes:

  • are appropriately classified;
  • display programme classification information;
  • adhere to timebands in accordance with Appendix 1;
  • are not presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue distress; and
  • do not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[9]  TVNZ maintained that all of the items were accurate. It noted that Mr Reid was formerly a senior manager at Rimutaka Prison, and that two years earlier he was arrested, along with three inmates at the prison (one of whom was named in the item), and accused of being part of a cannabis ring that grew the drug outside the prison, and then sold it to inmates inside the prison. TVNZ said that on 16 May 2011, Mr Reid “admitted the charges of cultivating cannabis and conspiracy to sell cannabis”, and that a third charge was dropped.

[10]  The broadcaster asserted that both Mr Reid and his lawyer had been given a chance to comment, and had declined. It considered that “The reporter took all reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy by reporting what took place in the courtroom and seeking comment from [Mr Reid] and [his lawyer].”

[11]  TVNZ therefore declined to uphold the complaint under Standard 5.

[12]  The broadcaster noted that Standard 8 required that programmes were correctly classified and displayed classification information. It said that news programmes were unclassified, and considered that all of the items were consistent with audience expectations of news programmes, and would not have caused panic, alarm or distress. Accordingly, it declined to uphold Mr Reid’s complaint under Standard 8.

Referral to the Authority

[13]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Reid referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14]  TVNZ provided a copy of the “summary of facts from police as accepted and entered at Court”. It said that, “This is the official record that all parties to the case have agreed to in regard to the charges against Mr Reid.” TVNZ noted that Mr Reid had been sentenced to 12 months home detention and reparation.

Authority’s Determination

[15]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcasts complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[16]  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.

[17]  Mr Reid argued that the following statements in the items breached Standard 5:

  • that he was deliberately or knowingly supplying cannabis to inmates
  • that he was “moonlighting as their drug supplier”
  • that he “admitted growing cannabis to sell to inmates at the Hutt Valley’s Rimutaka Prison”.

[18]  Mr Reid maintained that these were “serious allegations” and that, “All of the above have been denied and/or not admitted.”

[19]  The Summary of Facts provided to us by TVNZ, and agreed to by Mr Reid, states that:

  • Phone calls made by three inmates from the prison indicated that they had a staff contact within the prison who was assisting them with the sourcing and supply of cannabis, as well as the cultivation of cannabis.
  • The prison staff contact was identified in the phone calls as Mr Reid.
  • Mr Reid organised a meeting with an inmate in which they decided to set up a cannabis growing operation for the purposes of supply to the inmate and others.
  • Mr Reid had a hydroponic cannabis growing operation in his home.
  • Mr Reid hand-delivered to an inmate a cigarette packet containing 21 grams of cannabis.

[20]  Our understanding of Mr Reid’s complaint is that, while he pleaded guilty to charges of cultivating cannabis and conspiring to sell cannabis, he maintains he did not admit to “knowingly” supplying cannabis to prison inmates. The Summary of Facts indicates that he denied knowing that the package he delivered to an inmate contained cannabis; he claimed he believed it contained tobacco cigarettes.

[21]  In our view, the news items were a fair shorthand description of the events described in the Summary of Facts. None of the items stated as fact that Mr Reid “knowingly” or “deliberately” supplied cannabis. We do not consider that viewers would have been misled, or that their understanding of the items would have been affected by the omission of Mr Reid’s claim that he did not know the packet contained cannabis.

[22]  In addition, we consider that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure that the items were accurate by relying on the Summary of Facts, the contents of which Mr Reid had agreed to.

[23]  Accordingly, we find that the items were not inaccurate or misleading, and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 5.

Standard 8 (responsible programming)

[24]  Standard 8 requires that programmes are correctly classified and adhere to the time-bands set out in the Free-to-Air Code. As news programmes are unclassified due to their distinct nature, and given that Mr Reid’s concerns are more matters of accuracy, we find that Standard 8 is not applicable in the circumstances.

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration)

[25]  We note that in a second complaint, Mr Reid nominated Standard 7. TVNZ only addressed his complaint under Standards 5 and 8. Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. It does not apply to individuals, and can therefore not be considered in relation to Mr Reid. Accordingly, we find that Standard 7 is not relevant in the circumstances.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
18 October 2011

Appendix

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

1                 Jeffrey Reid’s formal complaint – 18 May 2011

2                 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 16 June 2011

3                 Mr Reid’s referral to the Authority – 15 July 2011

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 August 2011