BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Ryton Station Ltd and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2002-005, 2002-006

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Ryton Station Ltd
Number
2002-005–006
Programme
3 News
Channel/Station
TV3

Complaint
3 News land owners around Lake Ida put up trespass notices and take control of skating on the lake – Lake Ida Winter Sports Association accompanied by film crew breach trespass order – disrespect of law and breach of privacy.

Findings
Standard G5 – disrespect for the law not encouraged – no uphold

Privacy Principles – do not apply to companies – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] A disagreement about the control of ice skating on Lake Ida between the Lake Ida Sports Association and the surrounding landowners was covered in a news item. The item, broadcast on 3 News on 26 July 2001 beginning at 6.00pm, included footage of a trespass notice.

[2] Ryton Station Ltd, through its solicitors, complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the news crew, accompanied by a representative from the Sports Association, had entered the land without consent. By doing so, the complainant argued, TV3 showed disrespect for the principles of law and had breached the complainant’s privacy.

[3] In response, TV3 said that the item had explained the situation and it had not been issued with a trespass order. It declined to uphold either complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV3’s decision, Ryton Station referred the complaints 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 complaints.

Decision

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

The Programme

[6] Ice-skating at Lake Ida was the subject of an item broadcast on 3 News on 26 July 2001. It was reported that, in past years, volunteers from the Lake Ida Winter Sports Association had been responsible for safety and supervision.

[7] The item noted that the farmers leasing the land around the lake had taken responsibility for skating, and that officials from the Winter Sports Association had been served with trespass notices. The item also reported that there were now concerns about safety and the future of the skating competitions on the lake.

[8] The item included comments from a member of the Lake Ida Winter Sports Association, and representatives from Ryton Station and Ice Speed-Skating NZ.

The Complaint

[9] Ryton Station Ltd, through its solicitors, complained to TV3 that a news crew had entered on the land around the lake without its consent. The item included footage of the trespass notice issued to the Sports Association member. The complainant maintained that the item devalued trespass notices and the relevant law and, accordingly, breached Standard G5.

[10] Moreover, the complainant wrote, the film crew had breached the privacy requirement by entering and filming on the land without consent. The complainant asked TV3 to broadcast an apology.

The Standards

[11] TV3 assessed the complaint first under standard G5 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice which requires broadcasters in the preparation and presentation of programmes:

G5 To respect the principles of law which sustain our society.

[12] It also considered the complaint under s.4(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act which requires broadcasters to maintain standards connected with:

(c) The privacy of the individual.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[13] TV3 pointed out that the item was concerned with safety issues and the future of the skating competitions now that the farmers leasing the land around Lake Ida were running public skating on the lake.

[14] In regard to standard G5, TV3 wrote:

The 3 News reporter and crew entered upon your client’s land, with no unlawful intention, but for the purposes of accurately reporting the issues as represented by all parties concerned. No trespass order had been issued against the 3 News crew, and at no time were they asked to leave.

The Standards Committee does not agree that the item devalued trespass notices or the law in this area. It was made clear in the item that trespass notices had been issued by Ryton Station against officials of the Lake Ida Winter Sports Associations, and the reason for and basis of this action by them.

[15] TV3 assessed the privacy complaint under Privacy Principles (i) and (ii) issued by the Authority. They read:

i) The protection of privacy includes protection against the public disclosure of private facts where the facts disclosed are highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.

ii) The protection of privacy also protects against the public disclosure of some kinds of public facts. The "public" facts contemplated concern events (such as criminal behaviour) which have, in effect, become private again, for example through the passage of time. Nevertheless, the public disclosure of public facts will have to be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

[16] Expressing the view that the filming did not breach the complainant’s privacy, and that no objectionable private facts were disclosed, TV3 declined to uphold the privacy complaint.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[17] When the complainant referred the complaint to the Authority, they pointed out that an individual from the Lake Ida Winter Sports Association who accompanied the TV3 crew had been issued with a trespass order. Accompanying a trespasser and filming that action, the complainant maintained, devalued the trespass notice.

[18] The complainant observed that a TV3 crew would be most unlikely to accompany a burglar while burgling a house. While noting that trespass was sometimes perceived as a lesser crime, the complainant wrote:

We believe this is an important area of law, and people’s private property rights must be respected regardless of whether it is a high country station or a private home. The law draws no distinction, and nor should TV3.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[19] TV3 reiterated that no member of TV3 had been issued with a trespass notice, or had been asked to leave the lake area. It referred to a previous decision (1999-242, 20.12.99) which had involved a film crew visiting private land. A complaint alleging a breach of standard G5 had not been upheld as the item neither encouraged the breaking of laws, nor was there any evidence from the footage that the crew had broken any laws.

[20] Because the item complained about had been reporting the issues, TV3 maintained that the standard had not been transgressed.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[21] The complainant confirmed that it alleged a breach of standard G5 in that the actions of TV3’s crew devalued the law. The crew had accompanied an individual from the Lake Ida Sports Association who had breached his trespass notice. They wrote:

Broadcasters have responsibility to ensure that the respect of the law is not eroded. Broadcasters are in a powerful position to influence a public perception of the law and this must be the purpose and reasoning behind Rule G5.

[22] The complainant also advised that TV3 was not welcome on its property.

The Authority’s Determination

[23] The complainant contends that TV3, in preparing and screening a news item on 26 July, breached its privacy, and failed to show respect for the principles of law.

[24] Section 4(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 requires broadcasters to maintain standards consistent with "the privacy of the individual". In view of the use of the word "individual", rather than the more inclusive term "person", the Authority considers that people only, rather than legal persons, are eligible to make a privacy complaint. As the privacy complaint on this occasion was made by Ryton Station Ltd, the Authority finds that the company does not have a right to privacy under the Broadcasting Act. It declines to uphold the privacy complaint.

[25] Standard G5 requires broadcasters to "respect the principles of law which sustain our society". The wording does not require broadcasters to comply with all legal requirements; rather the standard requires respect for the principles of law. In practice, the Authority has upheld a breach of this standard when a broadcaster encourages a breach of the law.

[26] With regard to the breach of the trespass order apparently carried out by the representative from the Lake Ida Sports Association, the Authority records that it is not aware of the background to the item.

[27] However, because there is no evidence that the representative was other than a willing participant in the item in order to present the Sports Association’s case, the Authority is unable to conclude that the breach of the trespass order occurred at TV3’s behest. There is therefore no evidence that the broadcaster encouraged a breach of the law. In these circumstances, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

[28] The Authority also observes that to find a breach of standard G5 would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to place too great a limit on the broadcaster's statutory freedom of expression in s14 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990. It prefers to adopt an interpretation of the standard which is consistent with the Bill of Rights.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
24 January 2002

Appendix

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

  1.     Ryton Station Ltd’s Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd –10 August 2001
  2.     TV3’s Response to the Complainant – 11 September 2001
  3.     Ryton Station’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 9 October 2001
  4.     TV3’s Response to the Authority – 26 November 2001
  5.     Ryton Station’s Final Comment – 5 December 2001