BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Turner and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-061 (14 October 2016)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Alfred Turner
Number
2016-061
Programme
ONE News
Channel/Station
TV ONE

Summary

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

A ONE News item reported on a local murder trial and included footage of a witness giving evidence in court. The witness was named but his face was not shown and his voice was disguised. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from a member of the public that the item breached the witness’s privacy. While he was identifiable in the item, no private information was disclosed about him. The footage of the witness was taken during open court and there was no name suppression order in place. The evidence the witness gave at trial had already been widely reported by other media outlets at the time of broadcast. Therefore, the witness had no reasonable expectation of privacy over the information disclosed about him, and his privacy was not breached.

Not Upheld: Privacy


Introduction

[1]  A ONE News item reported on a local murder trial. The item included footage of a witness giving evidence at the trial. The witness was named, but his face was not shown and his voice was disguised.

[2]  Alfred Turner, a member of the public, complained directly to the Authority that the item breached the witness’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.1

[4]  The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 10 August 2016. 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 witness’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.

[6]  TVNZ did not consider that the item breached the witness’s privacy. It argued that his identity and role as a witness was a matter of public record, and said that all major news media outlets in New Zealand had named him in relation to his participation in the trial. TVNZ also noted that the witness did not seek and was not given name suppression but chose, as did all witnesses at the trial, to have his voice disguised. TVNZ pointed out that the footage only included the witness’s disguised voice and did not show his face.

[7]  When we consider a privacy complaint, we first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. The witness was clearly identified by full name during the item.

[8]  The next question is whether any private information about him was disclosed. A person will usually not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to matters of public record, such as matters that occur in open court or matters that have recently been given widespread media coverage.2 We do not consider that the information disclosed about the witness during the item – his full name, his relationship to the murder victim, his (disguised) voice and the evidence he gave at the trial – was private.

[9]  The witness’s identity and evidence was disclosed in open court and had been widely reported in other media, so it was in the public domain at the time of the broadcast. The broadcast did not disclose any additional information about the witness that had not already been reported. As the broadcaster noted, the witness was not subject to a name suppression order; the privacy and protection of witnesses is a matter for the courts, not this Authority. The media was not prohibited from reporting the witness’s identity, and he therefore could not expect that this information would remain private. The ability of the media to report on matters before the courts, in the absence of any restrictions, serves the important principle of an open and transparent justice system. There was public interest in reporting on this murder trial.

[10]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached the witness’s privacy.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
14 October 2016

 

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      Alfred Turner’s direct privacy complaint to the Authority – 10 August 2016
2      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 17 August 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 Privacy guidance 3.1