The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
A National Party campaign advertisement (an election programme for the purposes of the Election Programmes Code) parodied Labour’s campaign motto, ‘Let’s do this’ with an advertisement with the tagline, ‘Let’s tax this’. The advertisement suggested that a Labour government would impose a number of new taxes (a capital gains tax, land tax, regional fuel tax, income tax, water tax and a ‘fart tax’). A voiceover at the conclusion of the advertisement said: ‘There’s still only one way to stop Labour’s taxes. Party vote National’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the election programme was inaccurate and misleading by implying a number of ‘bad’ taxes would be introduced or raised by Labour, which was not the case. The Authority considered it would be clear to viewers that the election programme was a campaign advertisement for the National Party, which clearly advocated the National Party’s own views. As such, the advertisement reflected the National Party’s opinion and analysis of Labour’s policies and viewers would not have been misled. The Authority also emphasised the importance of political speech and concluded that, in the robust political environment leading up to the election, the high threshold for finding a breach of broadcasting standards was not met.
Not Upheld: Distinguishing Factual Information from Opinion or Advocacy
An item on The Project interviewed Muslims in New Zealand about their views on Islamic extremism. The item featured a short excerpt of a phone interview with the complainant, who considers himself an ex-Muslim. The presenter said that the ‘stigma of Islamic extremism’ was ‘enough for him [the complainant] to turn on his own religion’. In the sound clip played the complainant said: ‘I changed my first name from Mohammad to Cyrus. I just don’t want to be related to Islam anymore’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from Mr Basham that this excerpt was misleading, by misrepresenting his reasons for leaving Islam. Taking the item as a whole, of which Mr Basham’s comment formed only a very brief part, the Authority found that audiences would not have been misled or materially misinformed at a level that warranted finding a breach of the standard. However, the Authority acknowledged that the complaint raised issues more appropriately considered under the fairness standard, and noted the importance of ensuring those featured in broadcasts are quoted correctly and that their words are not taken out of context.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Newshub reported on the Government’s upcoming review of KiwiRail’s operational and funding models. The item featured interviews with Transport Minister, Simon Bridges, NZ First leader, Winston Peters, and Prime Minister Bill English. The reporter commented that KiwiRail had been a ‘black hole’ for tax payers and ‘a giant problem for this Government’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced and unfair to KiwiRail. Given the nature of the item, which was a straightforward news report about the Government’s proposed review, viewers would not have expected to be provided with information about the historic benefits of rail or the history of KiwiRail. The Authority also found that, although the reporter’s use of language could be considered critical, the item did not result in KiwiRail being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
During a talkback segment on Sportstalk, the host Mark Watson criticised northern hemisphere sports media and the British and Irish Lions rugby team. The host made provocative statements about the Lions team who were at that time touring New Zealand, saying, among other things, ‘hopefully you get smashed’. The host then engaged in a heated discussion with a talkback caller about northern hemisphere rugby and rugby media. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the host’s comments undermined broadcasting standards. The comments made, while critical and provocative, did not exceed audience expectations within the robust and opinionated environment of talkback radio, and particularly on Radio Sport. 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 Watson was entitled to express his opinion, even if it was critical or if others disagreed, and his comments were not so offensive that they reached a level which warranted the Authority’s intervention. The Lions team and its supporters are not a section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies, and the balance standard was also not applicable to this particular segment.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance
An item on Newshub reported on the rescue of an American woman who had been held captive as a sex slave by a serial killer for two months in South Carolina. The item featured newly-released footage of the woman’s rescue, and showed her chained to the wall of a shipping container by her throat. The item also featured footage of the woman’s appearance on the American talk show, Dr Phil, during which she discussed her kidnapping. The item was preceded by the following verbal audience advisory: ‘A warning: some viewers may find our next story disturbing’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this audience advisory was inadequate given the nature of the footage, which was violent, inappropriate for children and further breached the featured woman’s privacy. The Authority found, taking into account contextual factors such as Newshub’s target audience and audience expectations of news programmes generally, that the audience advisory was adequate for the content shown. A level of maturity was required to understand the full implications of the footage, and therefore the item would not have unduly disturbed child viewers. Finally, the broadcast did not result in a breach of the woman’s privacy, given the information was available in the public domain at the time of broadcast and no private information was therefore disclosed.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence, Privacy