BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Roy and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-102

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • John Roy on behalf of Honorary Consulate of Poland
Number
2009-102
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(ii) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – item reported that an 89-year-old man had been accused of helping to kill 28,000 Jews at a “Polish death camp” during World War II – broadcaster agreed item was inaccurate and instructed staff not to use the reference again – action taken allegedly insufficient

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – action taken appropriate and reasonable – not necessary to broadcast a correction – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on One News, broadcast on TV One at 6pm on 14 July 2009, reported that:

An 89-year-old’s been accused of helping kill nearly 28,000 Jews in what’s set to be Germany’s last big Nazi war crimes trial. Prosecutors say retired American car worker John Demjanjuk was a guard at a Polish death camp during World War II. Medical experts say he’s fit to go on trial but his family maintains he’s too frail and the charges are a farce.

Complaint

[2]   John Roy of the Honorary Consulate of Poland made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item was inaccurate. He said he was disturbed by the statement in the item that “thousands of Jews had died in Polish death camps”, because Poland did not have any death camps during the German occupation of Poland. During World War II the Germans had a number of concentration camps or death camps “on Polish soil”, he said, but these were “not Polish death camps”. Mr Roy strongly objected to TVNZ “falsifying and accusing my country of these terrible events”.

[3]   The complainant said he had previously complained to TVNZ about the same matter and he requested that TVNZ broadcast a correction and an apology on the night following the broadcast.

Standards

[4]   Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVNZ accepted that the reference to a “Polish death camp” was inaccurate and apologised to Mr Roy for any offence caused. It said that the term was used as shorthand to say that the camp was on Polish soil, and TVNZ did not mean to imply that the death camp was run by or a product of the Polish people. TVNZ considered it was clear that the item was referring to “Germany’s last big Nazi war crimes trial”.

[6]   TVNZ said that as a result of the complaint the editor of One News had let staff know that the term “Polish death camp” was offensive and that in future “death camp in [country]” would be used.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Roy referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(ii) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated his request that TVNZ should publicly apologise to New Zealanders and particularly the country’s Polish community.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[8]   TVNZ again apologised to Mr Roy for any offence caused. It noted that the term “Polish death camps” was used on occasion, for example in the Listener, publishing houses and libraries. It considered that it “would widely be accepted to mean death camps on Polish soil,” and that “New Zealanders are well aware that these atrocities were committed by the Nazis”. TVNZ reiterated that in the context of the item it was clear that the reference was to “Germany’s last big Nazi war crimes trial”.

[9]   The broadcaster emphasised that it had accepted that the reference was inaccurate, and that news room policy had been changed. TVNZ attached a copy of the email that the One News editor had sent to staff.

[10]   TVNZ concluded that sufficient action had been taken in relation to the complaint.

Authority's Determination

[11]   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.

[12]   The Authority notes that, having upheld Mr Roy’s complaint under Standard 5, the broadcaster apologised to him, and made it clear to One News staff that the term “Polish death camps” was not to be used in any future items. The Authority acknowledges that Mr Roy was offended by the use of the phrase. However, it considers that the action taken by TVNZ was appropriate and sufficient in the circumstances.

[13]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the action taken complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
20 October 2009

Appendix

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

1.           John Roy’s formal complaint – 15 July 2009

2.           TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 11 August 2009

3.           Mr Roy’s referral to the Authority – 17 August 2009

4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 4 September 2009