The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
During a segment of The Project, the presenters discussed whether it was illegal to wear headphones while driving. One of the presenters, a well-known New Zealand comedian, said that he wore headphones while driving ‘because it drowns out the sound of the seatbelt warning’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s comment trivialised an important road safety issue. The segment as a whole carried a positive road safety message, with the presenters sharing their surprise that wearing headphones while driving was not illegal in New Zealand (though distracted drivers could still be charged with careless driving). The comment was clearly intended to be humorous and the reactions of the other presenters balanced the comment and signalled to viewers that wearing your seatbelt was important. In this context, the presenter’s comment did not actively promote, encourage or glamorise illegal behaviour, and any limitation on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
A complaint about comments, made by contestants about a landscaper during an episode of The Block, was not upheld. During the episode, a new landscaper started work on the property of contestants, Chlo and Em. Em referred to the landscaper and said, ‘Who’s that new meat on The Block? Come over.’ Chlo then said ‘Some fresh meat for Em’. The complainant submitted the references to the landscaper as ‘meat’ were sexist, unacceptable and amounted to sexual harassment. The Authority highlighted the importance of context when considering whether comments of a sexual nature have breached broadcasting standards. The Authority noted that, in some contexts, these comments could be considered to be inappropriate. In this case, however, the comments did not go beyond audience expectations of The Block. They were not explicit or graphic, nor were the comments made with malice or nastiness. The Authority also did not uphold the complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard, finding the comments did not contain any malice or invective.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
A complaint about the use of the term ‘holiday highway’ during a 1 News item, to refer to the road between Puhoi and Warkworth, was not upheld. The complainant submitted the term ‘holiday highway’ was ‘Labour Party propaganda’, and that its use minimises the seriousness of the road toll in that area and denigrates people who live in North Auckland or Northland. The Authority noted the term has been widely used in the media for a number of years to refer to the road, including prior to the recent General Election, and found it was not used with the malice or condemnation required to constitute a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a 1 News item, reporting on a national hikoi against the use of 1080, was unbalanced. The item focused on claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Forest & Bird that the increased protest activity was resulting in a rise in threats to staff. The Authority recognised that the item addressed a controversial issue of public importance and found that it pointed to significant viewpoints on this issue, with comment sought from the hikoi organiser, as well as representatives from DOC, Forest & Bird and the Minister of Conservation. The issue was also widely reported in other news media, during the period of current interest, with viewers therefore likely to be aware of the main perspectives on this narrow issue associated with the 1080 debate. In these circumstances, the Authority found that upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the broadcasters’ right to editorial discretion and freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on the Government’s intention to remove a benefit reduction sanction that can apply to sole beneficiary parents who do not name the remaining parent. The complainant alleged the item was unbalanced and misleading, as the report omitted details about the exemptions that can apply to the sanction, including that a parent will not have to name the other parent where the child or sole parent could be at risk of violence. The Authority found that the focus of this item was the Government’s desire to remove the sanction. The omission of details about the exemptions was therefore not material to the overall focus of the item, and did not mislead viewers. The Authority also found that the balance standard did not apply, as the item was a brief, straightforward news report on the possible legislative change, and did not purport to be an in-depth discussion of the detail and merits of the existing law and proposed change.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness