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Latest Decisions

The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top. 


Chapple, Grieve & Shierlaw and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2018-085 (28 January 2019)

The Authority did not uphold three complaints about an episode of Sunday that discussed freedom of expression and hate speech and which featured edited excerpts of an interview with Canadian commentators, Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern. The Authority found the broadcast was balanced, containing a wide range of perspectives on a controversial issue of public importance, being the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in New Zealand. The Authority also found that the interview with Mr Molyneux and Ms Southern was used to illustrate points relevant to the wider topic but was not in itself the central focus of the item. The pending visit of Mr Molyneux and Ms Southern was therefore used to frame the issues in the item. The Authority further determined that, while an interview of Mr Molyneux was heavily edited, the extract was unlikely to mislead viewers or result in any undue harm to the reputations of Mr Molyneux or Ms Southern. Finally, the Authority emphasised the importance of public discussion and discourse about the issues of freedom of expression and harmful speech and the important role broadcasts like this play in that discussion.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

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FG and Radio Virsa - 2018-044 (28 January 2019)

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a broadcast of Punjabi talkback programme, Sikh Patshahi, in which a caller to the programme referred to the complainant by name and attempted to speak to the host about them. While the complainant was clearly identified, the Authority found no private information or material was disclosed during the broadcast, by either the caller or the host to the programme, over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The host took proportionate steps during the segment to steer the conversation away from the complainant’s specific circumstances and towards the general topic of discussion, which was Sikh marriage and divorce, and emphasised throughout the segment that the caller could not speak about named individuals without allowing them an opportunity to respond. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the potential harm was mitigated and its intervention in upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression.  

Not Upheld: Privacy  

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Friends of the Earth (NZ) and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2018-081 (28 January 2019)

A complaint from environmental group Friends of the Earth (NZ) about an interview between Saturday Morning host Kim Hill and former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman was not upheld. Ms Hill interviewed Sir Peter about his time as Chief Science Advisor and a wide range of issues, including how societies respond to scientific research, the role of science in government, activism within the scientific community and the criminal justice system. During the interview, Sir Peter made comments about the safety and history of genetic modification. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments were inaccurate or that the interview was unbalanced or unfair. The Authority found Sir Peter’s comments were not statements of fact, noting they were clearly established as being from Sir Peter’s perspective throughout the interview. The Authority also found that while genetic modification amounted to a controversial issue of public importance, it was not ‘discussed’ in the interview for the purposes of the balance standard. The Authority did not consider that Sir Peter’s comments were likely to mislead or misinform listeners.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

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Avery and NZME Radio Ltd - 2018-076 (16 January 2019)

Warning: This decision contains language that some readers may find offensive.

The Authority did not uphold a complaint about the broadcast of the song ‘Hurricane’ by Bob Dylan, which contained the words: ‘And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger’ [emphasis added], on Coast FM. The complainant found the use of the word in question to be ‘offensive, racist and unacceptable’. The Authority acknowledged the power of the word and that its use is highly contentious in New Zealand. The Authority acknowledged that its role is to reflect community standards and noted that its recent research, Language That May Offend in Broadcasting, showed a significant portion of the public find the use of this word in broadcasting to be unacceptable. However, the Authority also recognised the importance of context in determining whether a broadcast has breached broadcasting standards. In this case, it took into account well‑established audience expectations of Coast FM, the historical and social significance of the song and Bob Dylan as an artist, and the use of the word in the narrative of a 1970s political protest song. Taking these contextual factors into account, the Authority found that the broadcast of the word in this song was justified on this occasion.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration

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Marr & Robinson and NZME Radio Ltd - 2018-080 (16 January 2019)

The Authority has not upheld two complaints that comments by Leighton Smith about climate change issues were unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. Mr Smith provided his views in response to a news item, saying that climate change was not predominantly man made and was instead due to ‘normal variability’. The Authority noted that the balance and accuracy standards apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes, and the requirements of the accuracy standard do not apply to statements of analysis, comment or opinion. In this case, the Authority considered it was clear that Mr Smith’s statements amounted to statements of opinion in a talkback context. In these circumstances, and taking into account the role and reputation of Mr Smith as a well-known climate change sceptic, listeners would not expect to hear a balanced or authoritative examination on the topic of climate change. Further, no individuals or organisations were treated unfairly in the broadcast. The Authority therefore found that the alleged harm did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and its intervention in upholding the complaint would be unjustified.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

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