The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
Two items on 1 News reported on extreme weather events in New Zealand, with an item on 8 January 2018 focused on the release of NIWA’s 2017 Annual Report and a 12 January 2018 item reporting on clean-up efforts on the West Coast, following torrential rain and flooding. Brief references were made during these items to the impacts of climate change in New Zealand and particularly on extreme weather events. The Authority did not uphold complaints that these items were inaccurate and unbalanced because climate change was not occurring in New Zealand and the number and intensity of extreme weather events was also not increasing. Given the focus of the items, which was not climate change but the release of the NIWA Report and flooding, the Authority found that the brief references to climate change were not material for the purposes of the accuracy standard, and as such would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the items as a whole. The items reported on newsworthy developments in the general area of New Zealand’s weather and climate and did not ‘discuss’ the issue of climate change, so they did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard. The Authority found that the harm alleged to have been caused in this case, namely a misinformed public, therefore did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression and any limitation on that right was unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
An episode of The Project featured an item about several aspects of the gun control debate in New Zealand, including the Police Association’s call to introduce a firearm registry and tighter restrictions on firearm ownership and importation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was materially inaccurate in relation to the number of firearms being legally imported every year into New Zealand. The Authority also found that it was not misleading to use Police Association survey statistics (rather than NZ Police data) in the broadcast as the source of the statistics was clearly identified. Overall, the Authority was satisfied that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the item was accurate and not misleading, so the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression in this case.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
During the Saturday Morning programme on RNZ National, Kim Hill interviewed Dr Don Brash about his views on the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand. At one point in the interview Ms Hill put to Dr Brash, ‘Is this a political position on your part? I mean, we know your political position, for example, which says that the government has no responsibility to address the overrepresentation of Māori in negative social stats’. Dr Brash asked Ms Hill when he had said that, to which Ms Hill replied, ‘I’m quoting you. I think it was about seven years ago’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Ms Hill’s statement was materially inaccurate. While Ms Hill’s reference to Dr Brash’s views may have been loose or approximate, overall it was not material to listeners’ understanding of the item as a whole, which focused on Dr Brash’s opinion about the use of te reo Māori without translation, particularly in RNZ broadcasting. Further, Dr Brash was given sufficient time during the 32-minute interview to rebut Ms Hill’s statement and to clarify his position. The Authority therefore found that the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression in this case.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
A 1 News item discussed corruption charges being laid against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Brief footage from US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in May 2017 was shown at the end of the item. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of this footage created an unduly negative impression of President Trump and implied he was involved in the corruption, which was unfair. The Authority found the use of the footage in no way implicated President Trump in the alleged corruption. The footage was brief and President Trump was not referred to verbally.
Not Upheld: Fairness
A brief item on 1 News discussed a protest in Christchurch against Vero Insurance (Vero) regarding outstanding insurance claims. The item contained footage of the protestors and the newsreader stated that ‘[One of the protestors] says Vero has kept them locked in a virtual prison for seven years.’ The broadcaster upheld a complaint from Vero under the balance and fairness standards, as Vero ought to have been given an opportunity to comment. Vero referred the complaint to the Authority on the basis it was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster in response to its original complaint, and it also maintained that the accuracy standard was breached. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding the statement complained about was a statement of opinion and therefore the accuracy standard did not apply. The Authority considered that a broadcast statement on this occasion would have been disproportionate to the breach, and therefore it did not uphold the complaint that the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient.
Not Upheld: Balance (Action Taken), Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy