BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Wieland and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2014-060

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Victor Wieland
Number
2014-060
Programme
3 News
Broadcaster
MediaWorks TV Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 4

Te Raumawhitu Kupenga declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the determination of this complaint.


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

3 News summarised the findings in the latest report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the United Nations report was propaganda, and should not have been referred to. This was a straightforward news report on the latest findings released by the IPCC.

Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness, Responsible Programming


Introduction

[1]  A 3 News item summarised the findings of the latest report released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The item was broadcast on TV3 on 14 April 2014.

[2]  Victor Wieland complained that the IPCC report was ‘propaganda’ and that the item should not have referred to the IPCC report, and referred a different report by another organisation.

[3]  The focus of our determination is whether the broadcast breached the balance and accuracy standards as set out in the Free-To-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. We have briefly addressed the other standards raised at paragraph [15].

[4]  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 item discuss a controversial issue of public importance, requiring the presentation of alternative viewpoints?

[5]  The balance standard (Standard 4) states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest. The standard exists to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.1

[6]  Mr Wieland argued that the item should have presented the findings of another agency, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which he considered had published more compelling reasoning on the issue of climate science than the IPCC. He considered the item only presented one side of a political discussion, alleging that the IPCC summary statements ‘are not made by scientists but by politicians promoting their own agenda’.

[7]  MediaWorks maintained that climate science ‘is not as controversial as many people like to claim’ and that ‘IPCC reports are the most authoritative and credible reports on climate change’. The broadcaster argued that the NIPCC report did not meet the same standard of research as the IPCC, and it therefore made the decision to report the IPCC findings, rather than the NIPCC report.

[8]  A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programmes which discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The subject matter must be an issue ‘of public importance’, it must be ‘controversial’, and it must be ‘discussed’.2

[9]  We accept that climate change, and human-induced climate change, are topics which have excited conflicting opinion and debate. However, this item did not purport to discuss the different sides of the debate around the existence, or causes of climate change. It simply reported the latest findings of the IPCC, so it did not amount to a ‘discussion’ which required the presentation of alternative views. As the United Nations organisation responsible for climate change issues, we think the broadcaster legitimately reported the IPCC’s findings, and the fact it did not report the findings of any other organisation is a matter of editorial discretion, not broadcasting standards. The omission of reference to the NIPCC did not result in the item being unbalanced.

[10]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the Standard 4 complaint.

Was the item inaccurate or misleading?

[11]  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.3

[12]  The complainant said the IPCC models were demonstrably wrong and that a longer time period should have been looked at to reach the conclusions drawn. MediaWorks disputed the claim that the IPCC models are ‘demonstrably wrong’, and maintained the item was accurate and would not have misled viewers.

[13]  The complainant’s concerns about viewers being misled are based on his personal views of the credibility of the IPCC as an organisation, which are not a matter of broadcasting standards. As we have said above, the item was a straightforward news report on the findings of the IPCC. There is nothing to suggest that the item inaccurately reported the IPCC findings, and the release of the report was newsworthy.

[14]  Accordingly we decline to uphold the accuracy complaint.

Did the item breach any other broadcasting standards?

[15]  The complainant also argued that by not presenting another perspective to counter the alarmist view, the item was unfair and irresponsible. In summary, the fairness and responsible programming standards were either not applicable or not breached, because:

  • the fairness standard applies only to individuals or organisations taking part or referred to, and the complainant did not specify whom he thought was treated unfairly (Standard 6)
  • the item formed part of an unclassified news programme, and did not contain anything likely to unduly alarm or distress reasonable viewers (Standard 8).

[16]  We therefore decline to uphold these aspects of 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            Victor Wieland’s formal complaint – 14 April 2014

2            MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 15 May 2014

3            Mr Wieland’s referral to the Authority – 26 May 2014

4            MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 30 June 2014

5            Mr Wieland’s final comment – 14 July 2014

6            MediaWorks’ confirmation of no final comment – 30 July 2014


1Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd

, Decision No. 2008-014


2
For further discussion of these concepts see Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Television (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2010)

3Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036