BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Zohrab, on behalf of the New Zealand Equality Education Foundation, and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2002-149

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • J H McGregor
  • R Bryant
Dated
Complainant
  • Peter Zohrab of Wainuiomata on behalf
Number
2002-149
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
One News – item about gender income differences – unbalanced – inaccurate – denigration and discrimination of male employers

Findings
Standard 4 – range of perspectives presented – no uphold

Standard 5 – no inaccuracies – no uphold

Standard 6 – not unfair to male employers – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] A One News programme, broadcast at 6.00pm on 20 June 2002, featured an item which sought to explain census figures which showed that women were earning less than their male counterparts.

[2] Peter Zohrab, on behalf of the New Zealand Equality Education Foundation, complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the news item was unbalanced, inaccurate, and encouraged denigration and discrimination against male employers.

[3] In declining to uphold the complaint, TVNZ said that the item was based on official statistics and was not unbalanced, inaccurate or unfair to male employers.

[4] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Zohrab referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

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

Decision

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

The Broadcast

[6] One News is broadcast daily on TV One at 6.00pm. On 20 June 2002 an item was screened which sought to explain census figures which showed that although women were likely to be better qualified, their average pay rates were lower than those of their male counterparts.

The Complaint

[7] Peter Zohrab, on behalf of the New Zealand Equality Education Foundation, complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the news item was unbalanced, inaccurate and encouraged denigration and discrimination against male employers.

[8] Mr Zohrab argued that the item was "feminist propaganda", and balance required the views of a "Men’s Right activist" on the issue. He wrote:

…TVNZ screened a propaganda-piece about the so-called "gender pay-gap" – as part of its continuing contribution to the long-term Feminist plan to re-introduce pay-parity legislation into Parliament. Instead of straightforwardly putting a Men’s Right activist opposite a Women’s Rights activist on this issue, TVNZ put a unionist (Phil Goulter), together with a disgruntled woman (probably a Feminist) on-screen, followed by the reported rebuttal of some unidentified employer(s).

[9] Mr Zohrab said it was unfair that the item dealt with the matter as an employer/employee issue, when, he contended, it related to the differences between male and female incomes, adding:

TVNZ was acting out a scam, in order to put across the Feminist propaganda on this issue, without giving my organisation (or one like it) the chance to refute it. Secondly, it portrays male employers as likely to discriminate against female employees by paying them less than male employees in identical circumstances. This encourages the denigration of male employers as "sexist", by attaching a negative stereotype to male employers (as males and as employers), because the unspoken assumption is that most employers are male. (His emphasis)

The Standards

[10] TVNZ assessed Mr Zohrab’s complaint against Standard 4, Guideline 4a, Standard 5, Guideline 5a and Standard 6, Guideline 6g of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Guideline

4a  Programmes which deal with political matters, current affairs, and questions of a controversial nature, must show balance and impartiality.

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Guideline

5a  Significant errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guideline

6g  Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[11] In declining to uphold the complaint, TVNZ suggested that Mr Zohrab may have misconstrued the item. In response to Mr Zohrab’s claim that the item was "feminist propaganda", TVNZ suggested that Mr Zohrab may have interpreted the information "coming from some feminist source seeking to change the order of things." TVNZ advised that the item was based on official figures which came from the latest census. It added:

The item was not a Men’s Rights vs Women’s Rights issue. It was dealing with actual statistics emerging from the census and it made an attempt to explain why the figures should show that although women were more likely to be better qualified, their average pay rates were lower than those of men.

[12] In relation to Standard 4, TVNZ said " the item set out the statistics revealed in the census and discovered reasons for them." TVNZ stated, as there were no "feminist" views presented in the item, there were no requirements to present views from a male rights lobby group. TVNZ concluded that Standard 4 had not been breached.

[13] TVNZ declined to uphold a breach of Standard 5 as it found no factual errors.

[14] TVNZ also concluded that Standard 6 had not been breached as it found:

no evidence that the statistics or the reasons for them denigrated male employers because of their gender, nor did it encourage discrimination against them. The comments from the (largely male) employers were presented as being constructive, rather than obstructive.

The Referral to the Authority

[15] Mr Zohrab was dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision and he disputed its interpretation of his complaint. He submitted that his complaint "was not against the source of the statistics, but against the broadcaster’s use of them for propaganda."

[16] Mr Zohrab disagreed with TVNZ’s contention that the item was not a "men’s rights versus women’s rights issue." He argued that as the item concerned a comparison of men and women’s incomes, a male rights activist should have been interviewed.

[17] Mr Zohrab also disputed TVNZ’s view regarding the merit of the employers’ comments. He argued that the comments did not address the "Pay Equity" argument (that the pay of female-majority professions should be brought up to the level of male-majority professions), and Mr Zohrab suggested that TVNZ were "laying the groundwork" for a Ministry of Women’s Affairs discussion paper on pay equity.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[18] Mr Zohrab summarised the issues he had raised in his correspondence regarding this matter. He wrote:

The issue was prima facie a Men’s Rights issue, which therefore required input from a Men’s Right activist, in order to have balance and fairness.

[19] Mr Zohrab also criticised TVNZ’s failure to refer to the "Pay Equity" argument.

The Authority’s Determination

[20] The item complained about dealt with the census statistics on the gender pay-gap, reported by a male journalist. In the Authority’s view this was a "controversial issue of public importance" to which Standard 4 applies. A range of views was heard, including those of a female anthropology graduate, a trade union spokesperson and employers. The Authority considers that the news story adequately dealt with a range of perspectives in attempting to explain the census statistics, and gauging reaction to the gender pay disparity, thus satisfying the requirements of Standard 4.

[21] It is the Authority’s view, that the interpretation which Mr Zohrab advanced – that of "feminist propaganda" – is not substantiated. Accordingly, the views of a Men’s Right activist were not required for balance.

[22] With respect to the complaint that the item breached Standard 5 because it was not accurate, the Authority considers that there were no factual inaccuracies, and it therefore declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[23] In relation to Standard 6, Mr Zohrab maintained that the item encouraged denigration or discrimination of male employers. The Authority notes that the item did not mention male employers specifically, but merely employers, and there was no evidence of any unfairness to male employers. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that the item did not breach Standard 6.

[24] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
26 September 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Peter Zohrab’s Formal Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 24 June 2002
  2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 10 July 2002
  3. Mr Zohrab’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 23 July 2002
  4. TVNZ’s Response to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 30 July 2002
  5. Mr Zohrab’s Final Comment – 4 August 2002