The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
An episode of 3D investigated alleged bullying within the New Zealand Fire Service, particularly within volunteer brigades. The episode relied in part on testimony from particular individuals who alleged they had been victims of bullying, and in part on a report, which purported to identify bullying as a significant problem within NZFS. NZFS challenged the credibility of the report and argued that the programme breached the accuracy, fairness and balance standards. The Authority did not uphold the complaint. It found that the programme clearly stated there were questions about the status of the report – which in any event only formed part of the basis of the story – so viewers would not have been misled. NZFS’s response to the allegations was presented at length throughout the programme, including during an extensive interview with the then acting Chief Executive/National Commander of NZFS, which satisfied the requirements of the fairness and balance standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues, Fairness
During the Hauraki Breakfast Show Deborah Stokes, mother of New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes, rang the studio to complain about what she considered to be unfair comments made by the hosts regarding her son, and to defend him. Mrs Stokes asked to speak with someone off air. Host Matt Heath assured Mrs Stokes she was off air, when in fact the conversation was being broadcast live on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached Mrs Stokes’ privacy. Mrs Stokes had a reasonable expectation that, in the circumstances, her phone call and the conversation would remain private. The recording and broadcast of her conversation, in circumstances where she had expressly asked for privacy was objectionable and would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person in the complainant’s position.
Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
During the Hauraki Breakfast Show, Deborah Stokes, mother of New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes, rang the studio to complain about what she considered to be unfair comments made by the hosts regarding her son, and to defend him. Mrs Stokes asked to speak with someone off air. Host Matt Heath assured Mrs Stokes she was off air, when in fact the conversation was being broadcast live on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by NZME, having upheld Mrs Stokes’ complaint under the fairness and privacy standards, was insufficient. The broadcast, and particularly the hosts’ deceptive conduct, represented a significant breach of broadcasting standards and a lack of understanding of an individual’s fundamental right to fair treatment and to privacy. While NZME offered Mrs Stokes a substantial remedy following her complaint, it took limited action, which did not adequately rectify the harm caused to Mrs Stokes. Furthermore, events subsequent to the broadcast and prior to NZME’s response to the complaint, such as the hosts’ behaviour, undermined the genuineness of the proposed offer.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Privacy (Action Taken)
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation for breach of privacy; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $4,000
During an episode of The Block NZ: Girls Vs Boys, contestants ‘Dyls’ and ‘Dylz’ competed in an ongoing ‘Odd Jobs Challenge’, winning $10,000. However, the team was penalised $5,000 for using power tools after hours. When the show’s host, Mark Richardson, and its resident builder and site foreman, informed the team about the penalty, Dyls swore profusely (with swear words censored), knocked a hard hat off a table and knocked down a large piece of plywood. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this segment breached the violence standard. While Dyls lost his temper and acted childishly, his behaviour did not amount to ‘violence’ as envisaged by the standard. Any coarse language was censored and Dyls was not physically violent or threatening toward any member of the show during the incident.
Not Upheld: Violence
A Seven Sharp item discussed the reasons that outgoing New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd was not seeking re-election. These included that Mr Judd had suffered abuse and become ‘deeply unpopular’ because of his campaign to increase Māori representation on the New Plymouth District Council, in particular by proposing that a Māori ward be established on the Council. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s editorial comments following the item were unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. In making its decision, the Authority acknowledged the influential position of the presenters, but found that alternative views were conveyed during the item and in subsequent items during the period of current interest. The presenters’ comments were their opinion and analysis of the issues discussed, rather than statements of fact, so they were not subject to the accuracy standard. The item was not unfair to Mr Judd, as any criticism of his views or actions was in relation to his public, elected role, in which he could reasonably be expected to be subject to scrutiny. Mr Judd was presented positively throughout the item and the presenters’ disagreement with his position did not result in him being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness