Sim and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-060 (14 October 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Cheng Yii Sim
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An item on ONE News discussed the difficulties first-home buyers face in attaining a Government HomeStart financial grant. At the end of the item, the reporter discussed the increase in the number of overseas buyers in Auckland. During this segment, footage of three people walking into an open home from the road was shown. At the end of the item, this group and one other individual were shown getting into a car parked in the street, with the number plate clearly visible. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this footage breached the group’s privacy. While the individuals walking to the car were identifiable, none of their personal details were disclosed, and they had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances. Nothing was shown during the item which would not have also been visible to the public generally, as the individuals were in a public place.
Not Upheld: Privacy
 An item on ONE News discussed the difficulties first-home buyers face in attaining a Government HomeStart financial grant. Towards the end of the item, the reporter discussed the increase in the number of overseas buyers in Auckland. During this segment, footage of three people walking into an open home from the road was shown. At the end of the item, this group and one other individual were shown getting into a car parked in the street, with the number plate of the car clearly visible.
 Cheng Yii Sim complained directly to the Authority that the broadcaster failed to censor the number plate of the people involved, which breached their privacy.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the privacy standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1
 The item was broadcast on 1 August 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 any individual’s privacy?
 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
 Cheng Yii Sim complained that the broadcaster breached the privacy of the group shown walking to their car at the end of the item, by showing an uncensored image of the number plate of the car.
 TVNZ said that the group was filmed in a public place, and therefore they had no expectation of privacy. While the number plate was not censored or blurred, TVNZ said that there was no publicly available register allowing members of the public to identify the owner of the vehicle through the number plate shown.
 TVNZ also submitted that the brief footage of the group outside the open home would not be considered highly offensive to an objective reasonable person, saying:
There was no information given about these individuals other than they had been involved in viewing an open home. The footage of these individuals getting into their car is shown as the Political Reporter comments, “But the Government says these latest foreign buyer figures show they’re not the problem”. Given this specific comment in direct regard to the footage there was no element of blame or negative connotations in screening the footage of these people.
 Three criteria must be satisfied before the Authority will consider upholding a breach of privacy under the standard: the individual whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with must be identifiable; the broadcast must disclose private information or material about that individual; and the disclosure must be considered highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.2
 The group walking to the car at the end of the item were identifiable (their faces and full-length shots were shown of the group from behind and as they got into the car). However, we do not consider the group had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances or that any private information was disclosed about them.
 In general, a person will not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place, which is generally accessible to, and/or in view of, the public.3 The group in this segment were filmed in a public place. The only information revealed about them was the number plate of the car they were using and the fact they had attended an open home. Nothing was shown which would not have also been visible to the public generally.
 Further, it would be difficult for members of the public (beyond the individuals’ family and close friends) to make any further connection between the footage of the group and the number plate on the car. This is not information that is readily accessible to the public.
 We therefore find that the broadcast did not breach any individual’s privacy, and we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 10.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
14 October 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Cheng Yii Sim’s formal complaint – 1 August 2016
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 6 September 2016
1 This complaint was determined under the new Free-to-Air Television Code, which took effect on 1 April 2016 and applies to any programmes broadcast on or after that date: http://bsa.govt.nz/standards/free-to-air-television-code
2 Guidelines 10a and 10b to Standard 10 (Privacy)
3 Privacy Guidance, 3.2.