The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
Two complaints regarding an episode of Shortland Street were not upheld. In the episode a new character appointed CEO of the Shortland Street hospital commented, ‘Puffed up, privileged Pakeha men drunk on control, terrified of change… we are the future, Esther, not them,’ referring to the hospital’s management. Complaints were made that this statement was sexist, racist and offensive to white men. The Authority reviewed the programme and relevant contextual factors, including established expectations of Shortland Street as a long-running, fictional soap opera/drama, and concluded the character’s statement did not breach broadcasting standards. It found upholding the complaints in this context would unreasonably limit the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority declined jurisdiction to accept and consider a complaint referral about a video uploaded to video-sharing website platform YouTube, which featured clips from a broadcast of The Project. The Authority noted that its jurisdiction, which is prescribed under the Broadcasting Act 1989, is limited to consideration of formal complaints about television and radio broadcasts. In this case, the complainant was concerned about content uploaded to YouTube and edited by a third party. The content of the video predominantly comprised commentary by that third party. The Authority therefore did not have jurisdiction to accept and consider the complaint referral.
A complaint regarding a comment made by radio host Wendyl Nissen about US President Donald Trump has not been upheld. During the segment, which reviewed the book, ‘The President is Missing’, Ms Nissen commented, ‘Wouldn’t that be great if [US President Donald] Trump just went missing? Like we just never heard from him again because someone killed him and put him at the bottom of the ocean…?’ The Authority found the comment did not breach broadcasting standards. This was a flippant comment that was intended to be humorous and was in line with audience expectations for the programme, particularly considering the robust talkback radio environment. The Authority emphasised that humour is an important aspect of freedom of expression and found that limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Violence, Law and Order
A complaint from Seafood New Zealand Ltd (Seafood NZ) about an interview between Morning Report host Guyon Espiner and Dr Russell Norman of Greenpeace was not upheld. Dr Norman and Mr Espiner discussed Greenpeace’s view that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) had been ‘captured’ by the fishing industry, and why MPI has not prosecuted anyone for under-reporting whiting catches, with reference to a leaked MPI report from 2012. While RNZ acknowledged the interview did not meet its internal editorial guidelines, as it should have at least acknowledged the views of other stakeholders, the Authority did not find any breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority found the interview was unlikely to mislead listeners as it was clear that the interview comprised Dr Norman’s and Greenpeace’s opinions and analysis. The Authority noted that, although the interview was clearly presented as being from Greenpeace’s perspective, Mr Espiner did challenge Dr Norman during the interview, and another broadcast later the same day contained comment from both Seafood NZ and MPI. The Authority emphasised the importance of holding central government departments to account in a way that is balanced and fair, and concluded that in this instance the broadcaster achieved this and did not breach broadcasting standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the use of the term ‘disputed’ in a Newshub item, to describe the land the United States (US) Embassy sits on in East Jerusalem, breached the accuracy standard. The broadcast covered a recent protest in Gaza over the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the US calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The Authority noted that the accuracy standard requires only that the broadcaster make ‘reasonable efforts’ to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast. In this case, the reporter used the term ‘disputed’ in the ordinary sense of the word, to identify the US Embassy’s location, which is the subject of dispute between Palestine and Israel. The Authority acknowledged the importance of terminology when reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict, particularly when describing the status of the land that was the subject of this broadcast. However, on this occasion, the Authority considered that, while the term ‘disputed’ was not the most appropriate term available, it was not inaccurate to the extent requiring the Authority to intervene and uphold the complaint. The Authority noted that when locations of political and historical significance are described, broadcasters should endeavour to use terms adopted by internationally recognised organisations such as the UN.
Not Upheld: Accuracy