BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Robinson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-066 (2 December 2016)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Grant Robinson
Number
2016-066
Programme
Inconceivable
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary

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

A documentary series Inconceivable followed the fertility struggles of eight New Zealand couples over the course of two years. During this episode, one of the couples went to the doctor for a blood test. Contact details on the test documentation were briefly shown, including the woman’s full name and her mobile number, and the couple’s home phone number and partial street address. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this breached the couple’s privacy. The broadcaster advised that the couple reviewed the episode prior to screening and gave their full and informed consent for it to be broadcast. The shot in question was very brief, such that many viewers would likely have overlooked the level of detail shown. The Authority also recognised that Inconceivable carried a high level of public interest, providing a platform for the participants to share their stories and to inform and educate the wider community about fertility issues.

Not Upheld: Privacy


Introduction

[1]  A documentary series Inconceivable followed the fertility struggles of eight New Zealand couples over the course of two years. During the second episode of the series, one of the couples went to the doctor for a blood test. A brief shot of the woman’s paperwork and a test tube was shown on the doctor’s desk. Her full name and mobile phone number, and the couple’s home phone number and partial street address, could be seen.

[2]  Grant Robinson complained that this shot breached the couple’s 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 programme was broadcast on 12 July 2016 on TV ONE. 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 couple’s privacy?

[5]  The privacy standard (Standard 10) states that broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. The standard aims to protect, where reasonable, people’s wishes not to have themselves or their affairs broadcast to the public. It seeks to protect their dignity, autonomy, mental wellbeing and reputation, and their ability to develop relationships, opinions and creativity away from the glare of publicity. However it also allows broadcasters to gather, record and broadcast material where this is in the public interest.

The parties’ submissions

[6]  Mr Robinson submitted that:

  • The broadcast disclosed personal details about the couple, who were already ‘in a vulnerable place’ and did ‘not need the additional stress of having their contact details freely available’.
  • While the couple had agreed to have their medical case discussed on the show, the couple had a reasonable expectation of privacy over the contact details disclosed in the broadcast, and there was no public interest in this information being made publicly available.

[7]  TVNZ submitted that:

  • The couple viewed the episode complained about and gave their approval for the material shown, signing consent forms for the broadcast.
  • The couple also actively supported the show, for example agreeing to do interviews with media outlets.
  • The medical services involved in the programme viewed the content and assessed the information onscreen when the couples were undergoing treatment, and ‘it was their conclusion, that in fact there was nothing in the information that was in breach of any privacy.’
  • While some details in the programme were blurred, ‘because of the level of participation by [the] couples and the medical clinics this has been rarely needed’.
  • ‘All care’ was taken by TVNZ and all shots during the programme were discussed prior to broadcast.

Our analysis

[8]  Guideline 10g to the privacy standard states that it is not a breach of privacy where the person concerned has given informed consent to the disclosure of information.

[9]  We understand that all of the couples who participated in Inconceivable had a high level of involvement in the series, and highly personal medical information about each participant was disclosed.

[10]  We have been provided with information from the broadcaster that the couple in question reviewed the episode subject to complaint, were happy with the content and consented to the episode being broadcast. We have also been provided with correspondence from the couple to the production company, conveying their happiness at being able to contribute to the series and their view that they, and their story, were treated with respect.

[11]  In these circumstances, where a privacy complaint has been received from a third party and the individuals whose privacy is alleged to have been breached provided full and informed consent to the broadcast, we are satisfied that there was no breach of privacy.

[12]  In any event, we note that the specific shot subject to complaint was extremely brief (approximately one second in length), and we think that most viewers would have overlooked the level of detail in the shot that has been picked up by the complainant. In our view it would have been necessary for viewers to pause and/or rewind the shot for the contact details to be legible.

[13]  Additionally, there was high public interest in this programme as a whole. The Inconceivable series provided a platform for the couples involved to tell their stories and to inform and educate the wider community about important medical issues, namely struggles with fertility.

[14]  Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
2 December 2016

 

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      Grant Robinson’s formal complaint – 6 August 2016
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 5 September 2016
3      Mr Robinson’s referral to the Authority – 5 September 2016
4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 14 October 2016
5      Mr Robinson’s final comments – 25 October 2016