BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Wellington Palestine Group and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2016-048 (14 October 2016)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Wellington Palestine Group
Number
2016-048
Programme
Newshub
Broadcaster
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 4

Summary

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

Two items on Newshub reported on incidents of violence which occurred in the city of Hebron, in the West Bank, and in Jerusalem. The Authority did not uphold complaints from the Wellington Palestine Group that the items were inaccurate and misleading. The reporters’ references to Hebron in the West Bank, and to Jerusalem, were correct and there was no implication during either item that these events occurred in Israel, as alleged. The lack of an explicit reference to ‘Occupied Territories’ or to ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’ did not result in the items as a whole being inaccurate or misleading.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  An item on Newshub reported on the shooting of a wounded Palestinian man by an Israeli soldier in the city of Hebron in the West Bank. Footage of the incident was shown, with an introduction from the ITV reporter and a graphic identifying the footage as taking place in ‘Hebron, West Bank’.

[2]  A second item on Newshub concerned a bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem. A graphic appeared onscreen alongside footage of the bus in flames stating ‘Jerusalem’, and the reporter began by saying, ‘Broad daylight in Jerusalem. Two public buses engulfed in flames...’

[3]  The Wellington Palestine Group (WPG) complained that the items were inaccurate and misleading. The WPG said that other references during the items, for example to Israel and to the Israeli Prime Minister, conveyed the impression that the events happened on Israeli land, when it argued the events in fact took place in the Occupied Palestine Territories.

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcasts breached the accuracy standard, as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.1 As each complaint made by the WPG concerned similar issues, we have dealt with the complaints together in this decision.

[5]  The items were broadcast on TV3 on 2 and 19 April 2016. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of each broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was either item inaccurate or misleading?

[6]  The accuracy standard (Standard 9) 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 being significantly misinformed.

The parties’ submissions

[7]  WPG’s complaints alleged that the lack of any reference to Jerusalem and the West Bank as being occupied, and broadcasters’ use of ‘deliberate vagueness’, contributed to a ‘knowledge myth’ for New Zealanders. WPG argued that by choosing to ignore specific identifiers (ie ‘Occupied Territories’ or ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’), the reason for the events reported in the items (ie, that they occurred in response to occupation) was lost.

[8]  WPG said, in relation to the first item, that while the graphic indicated that Hebron was in the West Bank, ‘...there was no indication that the West Bank in turn is part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, rather than part of Israel’. WPG said that the item’s references to ‘a military court of unspecified nationality, to Israel, Israelis and the Israeli Prime Minister’, acted to fill a ‘knowledge gap’ for the viewer, which misled viewers to believe that the West Bank was part of Israel. In relation to the second item, the WPG said that this misrepresentation created a ‘distorted impression... of the root cause of the situation...’ depicted in the item.

[9]  MediaWorks acknowledged that the items contained no express reference to Hebron or Jerusalem as being part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, it said that the items also did not convey any impression to the contrary.

[10]  In relation to the first item, MediaWorks said that it did not accept that the references to Israel and the Israeli Prime Minister ‘were sufficient to convey the impression that Hebron is Israeli land’. It said that the report also included references to Palestine and comment from the father of the man who was shot by the Israeli soldier, providing a Palestinian perspective.

[11]  MediaWorks acknowledged the complexity of the situation, but said that the first item was focused on a specific incident and, in its view, ‘did not purport to present an in-depth analysis of the Israeli occupation of Hebron or the underlying reasons for the attacks...’

Our analysis

[12]  We acknowledge that issues of geography in Israel and Palestine are particularly fraught, and the geographic descriptions used by broadcasters can have a significant impact on the audience’s understanding of, and views on, the conflict. Broadcasters must therefore be aware of, and sensitive to, the history and context of events in this region and take care with the geographical labels used during broadcasts reporting on these events.

[13]  In this case, we are satisfied that the items were introduced by the presenters neutrally and the reporters’ references to Hebron, in the West Bank, and to Jerusalem were correct. While, from an international law perspective, ‘Occupied Territories’ or ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’ were identifiers available to the broadcaster to refer to these locations (as opposed to, for example, Israel or Palestine), it was not inaccurate or misleading to refer to them by their specific place name, Hebron or Jerusalem.

[14]  Nor did the absence of any explicit reference to ‘Occupied Territories’ or ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’ result in the items as a whole being inaccurate or misleading. Further context – such as an in-depth examination of the underlying reasons for the attacks or a history of the conflict – were beyond the scope of the items, which focused on specific acts of violence and their impact on the local and international communities. This was an editorial choice open to the broadcaster.

[15]  We also do not consider that either item stated or inferred that the events being reported occurred in Israel. The items’ references to, for example, Israel and the Israeli Prime Minister, would not have led viewers to believe that the events occurred there. This information was provided to inform the viewer about each side’s views on the events reported, and, as we have found above, we consider that there was a sufficient balance of perspectives and accurate information provided to locate the events for the viewer.

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:

Item One – 2 April 2016
1      Wellington Palestine Group’s formal complaint – 18 April 2016
2      MediaWorks TV’s response to the complaint – 27 May 2016
3      WPG’s referral to the Authority – 12 June 2016
4      MediaWorks TV’s response to the referral – 20 July 2016
5      WPG’s further comments – 2 August 2016
6      MediaWorks TV’s final comments – 17 August 2016

Item Two – 19 April 2016
7      Wellington Palestine Group’s formal complaint – 4 May 2016
8      MediaWorks TV’s response to the complaint – 10 June 2016
9      WPG’s referral to the Authority – 27 June 2016
10     MediaWorks TV’s response to the referral – 2 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