BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

White and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2001-093

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • Ian White
Number
2001-093
Programme
60 Minutes
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
60 Minutes Police shooting of Steven Wallace – unbalanced – erroneous

Findings
Standard G1 – no inaccuracy – no uphold

Standard G6 – broadcast balanced – balance also achieved in period of current interest – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

An item on 60 Minutes looked at events in Waitara in the minutes before the Police shooting of Steven Wallace. The item was broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on 6 May 2001.

Ian White complained to the broadcaster, Television New Zealand Ltd, that the broadcast was "totally unbalanced and erroneous".

TVNZ did not consider that the programme had been inaccurate. It also maintained that the programme had been balanced.

Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr White referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the programme complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines this complaint without a formal hearing.

An item on 60 Minutes looked at events in Waitara in the minutes before the Police shooting of Steven Wallace. The item was broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on 6 May 2001.

Ian White complained to the broadcaster, Television New Zealand Ltd, that the broadcast was "totally unbalanced and erroneous". Mr White considered that certain facts about the incident had been omitted, and that Steven Wallace’s mother had been allowed to "give her version which glossed over the newspaper reports of this incident".

TVNZ considered the complaint under standard G1 and G6 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These standards require broadcasters, in the preparation and presentation of programmes:

G1  To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

TVNZ noted that the matters that Mr White had stated as fact in his complaint were "not known by TVNZ or its News and Current Affairs Department to be fact". TVNZ said that Mr White’s assertions could not be verified because no source for the alleged statements had been provided. In addition, TVNZ maintained that the matters raised by Mr White "had little relevance to the content of the item".

In TVNZ’s assessment, standard G1 was not breached as it did not consider the item contained any incorrect statement. TVNZ also considered that standard G6 was not breached, as:

In its account of the confrontation in the main street of Waitara [the item] fairly reported both the official police description, the comments by Constable A, those of a witness who challenges the police account and comment from Mr Greg O’Connor of the Police Association.

TVNZ said it did not consider that Mr White had identified any "balancing" material which had been missing from the item. As well as considering the item had been "internally balanced", TVNZ was also of the view that its overall coverage of Steven Wallace’s death and its consequences had been balanced.

When he referred his complaint to the Authority, Mr White reiterated his opinion that the programme was inaccurate and unbalanced. As to the source of the information he alleged was factual, he said:

Apart from remarks about shards of glass… all other items I mentioned were reported in the Dominion newspaper and National Radio news.

The Authority’s Findings

Standard G1 requires broadcasters to be truthful and accurate on points of fact. Having viewed the item, the Authority finds that it did not contain any statement of fact which was inaccurate. As to matters asserted by Mr White as fact in his complaint, the Authority observes that even if they could be authenticated, their omission would still not have made the item inaccurate or misleading. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that the item did not breach standard G1.

In considering standard G6, the Authority asks whether the broadcast was internally balanced. The item reflected on events in Waitara during the minutes before Steven Wallace’s death. Both the official Police version as well as the views of Steven Wallace’s mother and a witness who challenged the Police account, were presented. The Authority is satisfied that balance was achieved by the presentation of these different views. In any event, the Authority observes that balance does not necessarily require that equal time is devoted to each perspective on an issue. The Authority therefore concludes that standard G6 was not breached.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
16 August 2001

Appendix

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

  1. Ian White’s Formal Complaint to TVNZ – 7 May 2001
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 25 May 2001
  3. Mr White’s Referral to the Authority – 7 June 2001
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 15 June 2001