The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
Over two evenings on 6 and 7 November 2017, 1 News explored issues of climate change in the lead up to the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23), presided over by Fiji. During the 6 November 2017 broadcast, a segment titled ‘Rising Sea Levels’ focused on the relocation of Vunidogoloa in Fiji two kilometres inland. The ‘threat’ of ‘rising sea levels’ was revisited during an item on 7 November 2017, which focused on Kiribati purchasing higher ground in Fiji. The Authority did not uphold complaints from two complainants that these broadcasts were inaccurate and unbalanced on the basis there had been little or no rise in sea levels in Fiji or Kiribati. These items focused on Fiji’s position that it was particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels. These items sought to provide a ‘human face’ to those issues, providing the personal perspectives of those affected. Balancing the right to freedom of expression with the harm alleged to have been caused, and given the nature of the items and their narrow focus on personal stories, the Authority found that the statements complained about would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the items as a whole and did not amount to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance, and therefore did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
A 1 News segment on 14 November 2017 discussed the effect of an expanding Chinese economy on global carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. In a pre-recorded item from the BBC, with reference to the release of CO2, a BBC Correspondent said that ‘the gas traps heat in the atmosphere’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was inaccurate or unbalanced. The Authority found that the broadcaster was entitled to rely on internationally reputable sources to support the BBC Correspondent’s statement on the issues addressed in the segment. The Authority also found that the broadcaster’s reliance on this leading scientific theory to the exclusion of others in the broadcast was unlikely to leave viewers significantly misinformed. It noted that climate change is an ongoing and constantly discussed controversial issue of public importance and therefore audiences no longer have to be presented with all significant viewpoints in one broadcast.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order
An item on 1 News explored issues of climate change in the lead up to the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Bonn, Germany. During the introduction to the item, presenter Simon Dallow stated that ‘New Zealand emits a tiny fraction of the world’s greenhouse gases’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Dallow’s statement was unbalanced, as no information was provided to viewers about New Zealand’s high per capita greenhouse gas emissions. The precise levels of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions were not ‘discussed’ during this item, which is required in order for the balance standard to apply. The introductory segment covered a wide range of topics related to climate change and the item as a whole primarily focused on the impact of climate change on low-lying nations such as Fiji. While Mr Dallow referred to New Zealand’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement and the new Government’s response to climate change issues, his reference to greenhouse gas emissions was brief. In this context, viewers would not have expected the item to cover New Zealand’s precise levels of greenhouse gas emissions in-depth.
Not Upheld: Balance
During Afternoon Talk with Wendyl Nissen, Ms Nissen interviewed Police Association President, Chris Cahill. Mr Cahill discussed a recent survey which indicated an increase in police being threatened by firearms. Mr Cahill expressed his views on the potential causes of this increase, the links between the increase and the increase of methamphetamine in New Zealand, the arming of police officers, the use of MSSA (military-style, semi-automatic) firearms, and firearm registration. The Authority did not uphold two complaints that the interview breached the balance standard. The Authority found that the broadcast was a light-touch interview, albeit on a serious topic, which created an audience expectation that the interview was approaching the firearms issues from Mr Cahill’s perspective and that it did not purport to be an in-depth balanced examination of the issues raised. The Authority did not find any statements made during the interview to be materially inaccurate, nor did it find the interview to be unfair to any person or organisation.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
A segment on Polly & Grant for Breakfast featured the hosts reading out and discussing a list of countries referred to as ‘the last places on Earth with no internet’. The list was long and included countries such as India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The list was evidently sourced from an online article that contained relevant information about the countries listed having internet user penetration rates of less than 20%. That information was omitted during the broadcast, and created an impression that the countries listed had no internet. The Authority nevertheless did not uphold a complaint under the accuracy standard. The Authority noted that the accuracy standard only applies to news, current affairs or factual programming and found that it did not apply to this light-hearted, entertainment-based programme. The Authority noted that, while the information broadcast was incorrect, the hosts’ discussion of the relevant countries did not contain the malice or invective required to encourage discrimination or denigration, or undermine widely shared community standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration