BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

SF and The Radio Network Ltd - 2001-094, 2001-095

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • SF
Number
2001-094–095
Programme
Classic Hits
Channel/Station
Classic Hits

Complaint
Classic Hits – news items – privacy – complainant named in relation to theft charge – name suppression granted after broadcast

Findings
Principle 8 – tape retention inadequate

Privacy – public facts – no uphold

Principle 5 – broadcasts not incorrect – no unfairness – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

A woman who had been charged with theft as an employee was named in news items broadcast on Classic Hits in Hamilton on 18 April and 2 May 2001.

SF complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that the news items broadcast on 18 April were incorrect and breached her privacy.

TRN did not accept that the 18 April broadcast was incorrect. It noted that, at the time of the broadcasts, no name suppression order had been made by the court. It also explained that the bulletin had specifically said that SF had been charged, rather than found guilty.

Dissatisfied with TRN’s decision, SF referred the complaint about the 18 April broadcast to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. When she referred her complaint, SF also complained to the Authority under s.8(1)(c) of the Act that the 2 May broadcast breached her privacy.

In its response, TRN reiterated that, at the time of the broadcasts, name suppression had not been granted. It submitted that the complaints should not be upheld.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaints.

Decision

The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. No tape of the broadcast was provided. The Authority determines these complaints without a formal hearing.

A woman who had been charged with theft was named in news items broadcast on Classic Hits in Hamilton on 18 April and 2 May 2001. The items reported that the woman had been arrested and charged with theft as an employee. Details of the charge, including Police allegations, were also broadcast.

SF complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that the news items broadcast on 18 April were incorrect and "a gross breach of privacy". She requested TRN to retract the items and apologise on-air.

TRN informed SF that it did not intend to publish an apology, as it did not accept that the 18 April broadcast was incorrect. TRN noted that no name suppression order had been made by the court as at 18 April. It also explained that the bulletin had specifically said that SF had been charged, rather than found guilty.

Dissatisfied with TRN’s decision, SF referred the complaint about the 18 April broadcast to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. When she referred her complaint, SF also complained to the Authority under s.8(1)(c) of the Act that the 2 May broadcast breached her privacy.

She said:

It is my belief that no one can publish your name or place a news item on the Radio using your name until you have appeared in Court, and suppression is granted or not when you make your plea.

In its response to the Authority, TRN submitted that the complaints should not be upheld. It emphasised that, at the time of the broadcasts, name suppression had not been granted, and provided a note from the High Court in Hamilton which confirmed that to be the case.

In her response to the Authority about TRN’s comments, SF said that she believed the broadcasts were "a trial before she had even pleaded". She noted that other media had reported on the case without using her name.

The Authority’s Findings

The Authority expresses its concern that the broadcaster did not provide a tape or transcript of the broadcasts complained about. Principle 8 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice requires broadcasters to be able to provide tapes or transcripts of all broadcast news and current affairs for a period of 35 days after the broadcast. The Authority reminds the broadcaster of its obligations under Principle 8.

Because the complainant was granted name suppression after the broadcasts complained about, the Authority does not include her name in this decision.

Turning to the substance of the privacy complaints, the Authority notes that details of the charge against SF were public facts at the time they were broadcast, and name suppression was granted only after broadcast of the items she complained about. As the facts about the charge against SF were in the public arena at the time they were broadcast, the Authority considers that there is no basis upon which the complainant can establish a breach of privacy. In reaching this conclusion the Authority has considered the application of the Privacy Principles which it has developed, and which are contained in an Advisory Opinion dated 20 September 1999. The Authority therefore declines to uphold the privacy complaints.

As to SF’s complaint that the broadcasts were incorrect the Authority notes that, according to TRN, the broadcasts specifically said that she had been charged, rather than found guilty. TRN’s assurance about what was broadcast was not disputed by SF. Neither the complainant nor the broadcaster nominated a standard under which this aspect of the complaint should be considered. The Authority considers the appropriate standard is Principle 5 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which reads:

Principle 5

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.

The Authority does not consider that it was incorrect or unfair to SF to report that she had been charged. Accordingly, it does not uphold this aspect of the complaints.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
16 August 2001

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined these complaints:

  1. SF’s Formal Complaint to The Radio Network – 18 April 2001
  2. TRN’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 18 April 2001
  3. SF’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority and Formal Privacy Complaint to the Authority – 9 May 2001
  4. TRN’s Response to the Complaints plus attachments – 24 May 2001
  5. SF’s Response to the Authority – 31 May 2001