The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
An item on Newshub reported on renewed efforts by the New Zealand Government to secure a free trade deal with Russia, after negotiations were ‘put on hold when Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea two years ago’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the term ‘invaded’ was inaccurate as no invasion had in fact occurred. The Authority acknowledged that a range of terms were used across national and international media coverage to describe Russia’s actions in Crimea. It emphasised the importance of using precise and correct language when reporting on contentious and complex international conflicts, where the potential to misinform audiences is great. However, taking into account the definition of ‘invade’, the findings of the International Criminal Court and the context of this particular news item, the Authority found overall that the broadcast did not breach the accuracy standard. The item was primarily about current trade developments and did not purport to be a detailed examination of Russia’s actions in Crimea in 2014. A variety of topics were covered during the short item, and some economies of language were necessary to convey the events of the complex Crimea conflict to viewers in a way that could be easily understood.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Programme Information
Saturday Morning featured a 25-minute interview with the Vice President for Energy and Environment Policy at a think-tank in the United States. The interviewee discussed a range of matters to do with environmental policy, including her current concerns, initiatives put in place under the Obama administration that may be threatened by the Trump administration, and how to make climate change a relevant issue to voters. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item was unbalanced, as it only presented the ‘progressive, liberal’ perspective on climate change. The Authority considered that, in the context of an interview focused on the professional opinions and experiences of a particular individual, listeners would not have expected the full spectrum of views on climate change to be presented. The Authority noted that climate change is an ongoing and regularly discussed issue, and alternative perspectives are presented from time to time in various media. Audiences have a reasonable level of awareness of the significant perspectives on climate change and would not have been uninformed by the absence of a detailed discussion of the ‘conservative’ viewpoint during this particular item.
Not Upheld: Balance
During a talkback segment on the Leighton Smith Show, the host discussed the recent legal personhood granted to the Whanganui River. The complainant, Mr Haines, phoned in to the programme to discuss the issue. After a two-and-a-half minute conversation, Mr Smith responded that it was ‘stupidity to give [the Whanganui River] equal status as a person. Now get off the phone,’ and made comments about Mr Haines self-identifying as Māori. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Smith’s statements were derogatory and insulting to Mr Haines and to Māori people. While the Authority acknowledged that Mr Smith’s comments could be seen as dismissive and disrespectful, in the context of the robust talkback radio environment, they did not reach the level necessary to constitute unfair treatment or to encourage discrimination or denigration. Mr Haines was afforded a fair and reasonable time to put forward his views. Mr Smith’s disagreement in response was typical of the talkback genre, in which hosts often express contentious or strong views in the interests of generating debate, and of his well-known forceful style. The Authority noted that the free and frank expression of opinions is an important aspect of the right to freedom of expression, and is valued in our society. Mr Smith was entitled to express his opinion, even if it was critical or if others disagreed, and it did not reach a level which warranted the Authority’s intervention.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance
A short news item during Breakfast reported that the body of a German hostage, who had been beheaded by militants in the Philippines, had been recovered. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item depicted a ‘severed head’, which was offensive and unacceptable to broadcast, especially during a time when children were likely to be watching television. In the context of a very brief news report, the item would not have exceeded audience expectations and would not have unduly offended or disturbed viewers. The content shown was not graphic or at a level which required a warning to be given, and the story carried public interest. While the news item was broadcast at a time when children were likely to be watching television, Breakfast is an unclassified morning news and current affairs programme, it is not targeted at child viewers and there is an expectation of adult supervision during this type of programming.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence
During a ‘Vote Smart’ segment on The Project, host Jesse Mulligan discussed what he considered to be the ‘horribl[e] underfund[ing]’ of the Department of Conservation (DoC). Mr Mulligan said, ‘DoC doesn’t have a big lobby group to argue their case. You know when Big Dairy puts their hand out, they get offered up to $400 million to spend on irrigation. That’s DoC’s whole budget, but it’s being spent on growing dairy, which, if anything, makes the conservation job even harder’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comparison made between DoC and Crown Irrigation was inaccurate and misleading as the funding models of these two entities are different. The comment was not a statement of fact which triggered the requirements of the accuracy standard. Rather, it was distinguishable as opinion and analysis about the differences in lobbying power between different industries, and what Mr Mulligan considered to be DoC’s difficulty in obtaining greater funding. The Authority did not consider viewers would have been misled in the manner alleged by the complainant, taking into account the purpose of the segment as a whole, which was to draw viewers’ attention to an issue Mr Mulligan believed to be important in the context of the upcoming general election. The item carried public interest in this respect and the Authority did not consider any harm had been caused by the broadcast which outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy