BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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van der Kley and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-061

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Rebecca van der Kley
Number
2014-061
Programme
Fair Go
Channel/Station
TV ONE

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

An item on Fair Go investigated a Christchurch roofer who had failed to complete a number of jobs for which he had already taken payment from customers. The roofer was interviewed on his doorstep, and explained he had mental health issues. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached the man’s privacy because it revealed his mental health status. The roofer willingly discussed his mental health with the reporter, including on camera, as part of his explanation in response to the customers’ claims, so he could not reasonably expect that information would remain private.

Not Upheld: Privacy              


Introduction

[1]  An item on Fair Go investigated a Christchurch roofer who had failed to complete a number of jobs for which he had already taken payment from customers. A number of these customers were interviewed, and the reporter approached the roofer at his home to get comment on the allegations made against him. The roofer sought to explain his conduct by disclosing to the reporter that he had suffered from mental health issues following the Canterbury earthquakes. The item aired on TV ONE on 14 May 2014.

[2]  Rebecca van der Kley made a direct privacy complaint to this Authority, alleging that the reporter had ‘confronted [the roofer] in an abrasive way without warning’ and had made ‘a joke out of a very serious mental issue’ by broadcasting information about his post-traumatic stress disorder.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the privacy standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the roofer’s privacy breached?

[5]  The privacy standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. The standard exists to protect individuals from undesired access to, and disclosure of, information about themselves and their affairs, in order to maintain their dignity, choice, mental wellbeing and reputation, and their ability to develop relationships, opinions and creativity away from the glare of publicity.

[6]  When we consider a privacy complaint, we must first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. As the roofer was named and shown on camera, he was clearly identifiable.

[7]  Privacy principle 1 of the Authority’s privacy principles has the widest application to alleged breaches of privacy. This provides that it is inconsistent with an individual’s privacy to allow the public disclosure of private facts, where the disclosure is highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.

[8]  TVNZ argued that, as the roofer knew he was on camera, and he himself disclosed the information about his mental breakdown, he impliedly consented to the information being broadcast. It noted he did not take any subsequent action to stop the broadcast.

[9]  A ‘private fact’, for the purposes of privacy principle 1, is information which a person would reasonably expect to remain private. We accept that, ordinarily, a person’s mental health will amount to a private fact. However, here, the roofer willingly discussed his mental health with the reporter both in pre-broadcast correspondence and on camera when the reporter approached him at his home. The roofer’s mentions of an earlier mental breakdown, and post-traumatic stress disorder, were part of his explanation in response to the complaints against him, so he must have understood that these comments would likely form part of the story.

[10]  In these circumstances, we do not think the roofer could reasonably expect that the information would remain private. This was especially so given the roofer has apparently had significant experience in dealing with the media (some of this was outlined in the item), and would have been familiar with the kind of equipment being used and the implications of engaging with the reporter. As TVNZ has said, the roofer did not subsequently object to his participation in the programme, or to the information being broadcast.

[11]  Accordingly, we find that the programme did not disclose any private facts about the roofer. Further, the disclosure would not be considered highly offensive to an objective reasonable person in the roofer’s shoes. The roofer offered the information freely, as a justification for his poor business conduct following the earthquakes. We do not agree with the complainant that the reporter ‘confronted [the roofer] in a very abrasive way without warning surprising [him] with a camera’. During the footage, the roofer appeared calm and reasonable, and genuinely eager to offer an explanation for his behaviour and to rectify the situation. Positive references were also made at the end of the item, to the efforts of the roofer and his family to find money to refund dissatisfied customers. Overall he came across well and we think any harm to him caused by the disclosure of his mental health status would have been minimal as a result.

[12]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 


Peter Radich
Chair
25 September 2014


Appendix

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

1          Rebecca van der Kley’s direct privacy complaint – 28 May 2014

2          TVNZ’s response to the privacy complaint, enclosing pre-broadcast correspondence – 25 June
            2014

3          Ms van der Kley’s final comment – 26 June 2014

4          TVNZ’s confirmation of no final comment – 11 July 2014