Wallbank and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-099
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Terry Wallbank
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]
Seven Sharp reported on the Russian government banning adoptions of its orphans by New Zealand couples, because of New Zealand’s marriage equality legislation. The reporter referred to Vladimir Putin as ‘homophobic’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this was inaccurate and misleading. The comment was clearly analysis and commentary by the reporter, rather than a material point of fact, so it was not subject to standards of accuracy.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
 A Seven Sharp item reported that the Russian government had banned adoptions of Russian children by New Zealand couples, because of New Zealand’s same-sex marriage legislation. The reporter referred to ‘old homophobic Vladimir Putin’. The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 3 July 2014.
 Terry Wallbank complained that the reporter’s reference to Mr Putin as homophobic was inaccurate, biased and misleading.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard as set out in the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 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 broadcast misleading or inaccurate?
 The accuracy standard (Standard 5) states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1
 Mr Wallbank argued there was no evidence to suggest that Mr Putin is homophobic and that the reporter’s reference to him as such was inaccurate.
 TVNZ maintained that the comment was the reporter’s opinion, which was permissible under the accuracy standard. It noted that Mr Putin was criticised internationally for bringing in a law that stigmatised gay people and said that ‘the term “homophobic” could be used to describe such a law, and the person who signed it into law’.
 Guideline 5a to the accuracy standard states that it does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as comment, analysis or opinion. The phrase ‘old homophobic Vladimir Putin’ was not a statement of fact, but was clearly the reporter’s analysis of, and commentary on, Russia’s decision to ban New Zealand adoptions of Russian children on the basis New Zealand had legalised same-sex marriage. The comment was made in the following context:
[This baby’s] Kiwi parents-to-be were just too late. They met him just as old homophobic Vladimir Putin slapped an adoption ban on us [New Zealand] for allowing same-sex marriage.
 We do not think audiences would be misled by the reporter’s use of the word ‘homophobic’ in this context. It was open to people to interpret the Russian legislation in this way, and as noted by the broadcaster, Mr Putin’s decision to enforce this law was renounced internationally as ‘anti-gay’.
 For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaint that the item was inaccurate and misleading.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
10 October 2014
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Terry Wallbank’s formal complaint – 11 July 2014
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 8 August 2014
3 Mr Wallbank’s referral to the Authority – 11 August 2014
4 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 3 September 2014
1Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036