The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
An audio clip promoting the ZM radio station stated that ZM played ‘hit after hit after goddamn hit’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the phrase ‘hit after goddamn hit’ was offensive to those who hold Christian or other religious beliefs and contrary to children’s interests. The Authority acknowledged that use of the term ‘goddamn’ may have caused offence to some listeners. However, in this case it was used as part of the station’s promotional messaging for playing continuous music and was not dwelt upon. Taking into account the right to freedom of expression, and the context of the broadcast, the term ‘goddamn’ could not be said to have encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against, all Christians or others who hold religious beliefs. The broadcaster adequately considered children’s interests, having regard to the station’s target audience and the expectations of its listeners.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Children’s Interests
An item on Story discussed the accountability of judges in New Zealand. The item referenced a number of high profile criminal judgments by a named District Court Judge that were overturned on appeal, and included a comparison between New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States on the appointment, term and removal of judges. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item placed undue emphasis on the decisions of the featured Judge, failed to contrast New Zealand with comparable jurisdictions, failed to cover key information about the judicial complaints service and featured an offensive gesture. The media play an important role in raising issues, such as alleged poor performance of judges, which have an impact on our communities, and this item was in the public interest. The choice to compare New Zealand with judicial systems in the United States and Switzerland was an editorial one open to the broadcaster, and did not result in audiences being misled or misinformed. Finally, the gesture used by the presenter in this item was an innocuous thumb gesture, and not a throat-cutting gesture as alleged by the complainant.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency
Two items broadcast on Te Karere reported on Green MP Marama Davidson’s experiences as part of the ‘Women’s Boat to Gaza’ protest, which aimed to draw attention to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The Authority upheld a complaint that the reporter’s reference during the first item to the ‘illegal’ Israeli blockade was inaccurate. The legality of the blockade was a contentious and unresolved issue, with two UN reports taking conflicting positions on the point. The Authority therefore considered that the broadcaster should have qualified its statement with reference to the disputed legality of the blockade, rather than referring to it unequivocally as illegal. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard that pro-Israeli viewpoints were omitted from the broadcast, noting that a later broadcast of Te Karere returned to Ms Davidson’s story, and featured an Israeli advocate who provided alternative viewpoints to those expressed in the earlier broadcasts, which was sufficient. While the Authority accepted that precise language was required in relation to ongoing international disputes such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it determined that its decision provided adequate guidance to broadcasters and made no order.
Upheld: Accuracy; Not Upheld: Balance; No Order
A Nine to Noon programme included a segment featuring UK correspondent Dame Ann Leslie. In response to the host’s question ‘What is on your mind this week?’, Dame Leslie commented on the British Labour Party, its leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Black Lives Matter UK organisation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Dame Leslie’s comments constituted an attack on Mr Corbyn, denigrated the BLM UK activists, and were inaccurate and unbalanced. Mr Corbyn and BLM UK were not treated unfairly, as both could reasonably expect to be subject to robust media scrutiny as a consequence of their public profile. While the item was a current affairs piece to which the balance standard applied, the issues were approached from Dame Leslie’s perspective and listeners would not have expected alternative views to be given. The statements complained about were clearly Dame Leslie’s opinion, and so were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard. The statements about the BLM UK activists did not reach the high level necessary to constitute discrimination or denigration.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Accuracy and Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman, titled ‘Abortion and Civil Liberties – the Thames Stand-Off’, discussed ‘pro-life’ protestors, Voice for Life, and their longstanding protests outside Thames Hospital. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter was biased and that his treatment of the ‘pro-life’ representative was negative, unfair and unbalanced in comparison to his treatment of the ‘pro-choice’ representative. The Authority found that Mr Chapman’s treatment of the interviewees did not result in an unbalanced broadcast, as both perspectives on the debate were adequately put forward during the programme. While Mr Chapman’s questioning of the ‘pro-life’ representative was robust, his criticisms related to the Voice for Life group as a whole, and he did not attack the interviewee personally or come across as abusive towards her, such that she was treated unfairly. The allegedly inaccurate statement made by Mr Chapman represented his interpretation of the issues discussed, and as such could be distinguished as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than a point of fact subject to the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy