The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
An item on Newshub reported on the shooting of two Israeli police officers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. The segment featured footage of officers being chased and shot at, followed by footage of a man being surrounded and shot at, a blurred shot of a dead body on the ground and a body bag on a stretcher. The Authority upheld a complaint that the item breached the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards. The Authority recognised the public interest in the item and that it reported on important and newsworthy events. However, the Authority considered the item should have been preceded by a warning for the potentially disturbing violent content, to enable viewers to make an informed viewing decision, and allow an opportunity to exercise discretion.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence
Not Upheld: Law and Order
Following the broadcast of a Labour campaign advertisement on Radio Sport Weekender, presenter Mark Watson commented: ‘I like Jacinda Ardern’s optimism; I just want to know how you pay for it all. That’s all I want to know… if it’s that easy, I think everybody would have done it by now.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment amounted to alleged political editorialising, which was unacceptable and unprofessional. While listeners might not have expected the host to comment on political issues during a sports programme, this was an opinion open to the host to express, provided broadcasting standards were maintained. The Authority recognised the important role of the media during an election period, when political parties and leaders should expect to be subject to robust scrutiny, and found that Mr Watson’s comments did not result in the Labour Party, or its leader Ms Ardern, being treated unfairly. The Authority found the balance standard did not apply to the Radio Sport Weekender programme, as listeners would not expect to hear balanced or authoritative coverage of election issues during this talkback sports programme.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance
A panel discussion following the Newshub Leaders Debate featured comments from political commentator, Matthew Hooton, regarding Labour’s tax policies, including that Jacinda Ardern was ‘not telling the truth about her plans for tax’ and that she was ‘refusing to tell’ New Zealanders about the party’s tax plan. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these comments were unfounded and biased, and that Ms Ardern should have been given a right of reply. The Authority found that, in the interests of balance, Ms Ardern was given a reasonable opportunity throughout the debate and during questioning from panel members, to explain Labour’s proposed approach to a review of the tax system and to address the perception that New Zealanders would not have the opportunity to view Labour’s full policy before voting. In relation to the fairness standard, the Authority found that it is an important function of the media to comment critically on party policy and this type of speech has high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, particularly during at election time. Party leaders should expect to be subject to robust criticism and the Authority was satisfied Mr Hooton’s comments, while critical, did not go beyond what can be expected during the election period, nor did they result in Ms Ardern being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
A campaign advertisement for the Ban 1080 Party (an election programme for the purposes of the Election Programmes Code) was broadcast at 5.20pm on 9 September 2017 on Prime, during a G-classified fishing programme, Addicted to Fishing. The advertisement featured a voiceover discussing the purported use and effects of sodium fluoroacetate (1080 poison) on New Zealand’s fauna, in particular deer. The advertisement included a number of close-up images of dead deer allegedly poisoned by 1080, some of which appeared to be frothing at the mouth. A complaint was made that the broadcast of these images at a time when children may be watching was upsetting and inappropriate, in breach of the good taste and decency standard (which applies under Standard E1 of the Election Programmes Code). The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that, while the images may be confronting for some viewers, they related to Ban 1080’s main political policy message, and in the context the high threshold necessary to find a breach of the good taste and decency standard was not met. The Authority emphasised the importance and value of political expression, particularly in the lead up to a general election.
Not Upheld: Election Programmes Subject to Other Codes, Good Taste and Decency
An episode of a weekly mixed martial arts championship highlights and commentary programme, MMA: One Championship Weekly, was broadcast on TVNZ DUKE at 8.30am on Saturday 15 April 2017. The primary focus of the episode was a build-up to an upcoming match between Eduard Foyalang and Ev Ting scheduled for 21 April 2017. The episode profiled each of the fighters with reference to their backgrounds and family life. It also included 5-6 minute clips of their previous fights against other opponents. Mr Dandy complained that the use of footage from MMA fights was offensive and inappropriate to broadcast at a time when children may be watching television unsupervised. The Authority found that, taking into account the context, including that MMA: One Championship Weekly is an unclassified sports highlights show, the target audience of both the channel and the programme, and signposting at the beginning of the programme about the martial arts content, the fight footage used did not breach broadcasting standards.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence