The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
During a segment on The Project, the hosts discussed a new artificial intelligence technology capable of detecting a person’s sexual orientation through analysis of their facial features. In response, presenter Jesse Mulligan commented, ‘That’s an amazing story, a computer can tell if you’re gay or not. I hope the computer can keep a secret.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment ‘perpetuated the prejudiced view that homosexuality [was] something to be kept secret and… shameful’. The Authority found that, while Mr Mulligan’s comment could be seen as ‘clumsy’ or tactless, it was clearly intended to be humorous and it did not actively encourage the different treatment, or devalue the reputation of, gay people as a section of the community. A high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, is necessary to conclude that a broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration, and in this case, the Authority did not consider Mr Mulligan’s comments reached the high threshold necessary to find a breach of the standard, or to warrant limiting the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
During the 1 News Vote 17 Leaders Debate, moderator Mike Hosking questioned Bill English about a damaged fuel pipeline in Auckland that caused disruption to flight services, using the phrase ‘for God’s sake’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Hosking’s use of this phrase was blasphemous and offensive. The Authority has consistently found that variations of ‘God’, ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ are commonly used as exclamations and in this case, Mr Hosking used the phrase to express his own, and voters’, frustration at the Government’s management of the fuel crisis. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the alleged harm did not outweigh the important right to freedom of expression, particularly in the lead up to a general election.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
An item on 1 News reported on the outbreak of a cattle disease on a farm in South Canterbury. The item featured an interview with a farmer who used the expression ‘for Christ’s sake’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this expression was offensive and unacceptable to broadcast during children’s normally accepted viewing times. The Authority found there was public interest and high value in hearing an authentic voice from a New Zealand farmer as part of the news report. The Authority also noted it has consistently found that variations of ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ are commonly used as exclamations, and in this case, the interviewed farmer used the phrase to express his frustration and strong support of the affected farm owner. The content of the interview did not go beyond audience expectations of the news, therefore it was not necessary to broadcast an audience advisory. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the alleged harm did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression, both of the farmer to express himself in his own words, and of the broadcaster to broadcast the item, including the farmer’s views.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests
A segment on Newshub during the election period featured a political reporter discussing the potential factors behind the Labour Party’s drop in the Newshub election poll. During the segment the reporter stated that the National Party’s claim that Labour would increase income tax if elected was a ‘lie’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment was unfair and biased. The Authority emphasised that it is an important function of the media to comment critically on party policies and actions and that this type of speech has high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, particularly during election time. Political parties should expect to be subject to robust criticism and the Authority was satisfied the political reporter’s comment did not go beyond what could be expected during the election period. The Authority did not consider the comment amounted to ‘political bias’ as alleged in the complaint, or that it resulted in the National Party being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
A segment on Checkpoint featured an interview with former Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei. The interview occurred just after Ms Turei had announced her resignation as Co-Leader. John Campbell questioned Ms Turei about the recent allegations of benefit fraud which had recently arisen, the effect these allegations had on her and whether they ultimately led to her resignation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced. While the subject matter amounted to a controversial issue of public importance, the Authority found alternate views were put forward through the use of ‘devil’s advocate’ questioning, and noted there was also considerable media coverage of the allegations, meaning there was a wide range of information available on the issue. The interview’s focus was Ms Turei’s response to the allegations, and as a whole would not have left the audience misinformed regarding the nature of the allegations and Ms Turei’s position.
Not Upheld: Balance