The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
During Breakfast, host Hayley Holt had a conversation with the 1 News US Correspondent about recent school protests in America seeking gun reform. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Ms Holt’s statement that ‘[w]e, I – here in New Zealand, we think they should ban all guns of course’ was unbalanced and likely to mislead viewers. The Authority found that Ms Holt’s statement was one of generalised opinion and analysis, not a statement of fact. The Authority also noted that this segment solely focused on gun control issues in the USA, not New Zealand, and in this context Ms Holt’s brief comment did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
An item on 1 News reported on the trial of Colin Mitchell, who was found guilty of the kidnapping and sexually motivated attack of a young woman. During the item, the reporter stated: ‘DNA evidence from [Mr Mitchell’s] toothbrush matched that found on and inside the pair of gloves left at the quarry; 800,000 million times more likely to have come from Mitchell than anyone else’ [our emphasis]. The Authority declined to determine a complaint that the reporter’s statement was inaccurate because it did not take into account the possibility that Mr Mitchell had an identical twin, or that DNA evidence could have been falsified or planted. The Authority found the complaint was frivolous and trivial.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy
During Hauraki Breakfast, hosts Jeremy Wells and Matt Heath discussed smoking marijuana, in relation to several National Party MPs who had recently publicly stated they had never tried it. The hosts took calls from listeners who had also never tried marijuana and asked them why they had never tried it. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast promoted and encouraged the use of marijuana. The Authority found the broadcast amounted to a comedic discussion of smoking marijuana that did not go beyond established audience expectations of Radio Hauraki, Hauraki Breakfast or the hosts. The Authority noted that humour and satire are important aspects of free speech, and found that on this occasion, there was insufficient risk of harm to justify limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Children’s Interests
An item on The Project discussed the End of Life Choice Bill (the Bill) before the Select Committee of Parliament. The item featured interviews with advocates for and against the legalisation of euthanasia in Aotearoa. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced or that the use of certain terms such as ‘euthanasia’ was inaccurate. The Authority recognised the legalisation of euthanasia is an important and ongoing issue of public importance in New Zealand. The Authority found that overall the item was sufficiently balanced and was unlikely to mislead or misinform viewers, so any restriction on the broadcaster’s freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
Two items on 1 News reported on extreme weather events in New Zealand, with an item on 8 January 2018 focused on the release of NIWA’s 2017 Annual Report and a 12 January 2018 item reporting on clean-up efforts on the West Coast, following torrential rain and flooding. Brief references were made during these items to the impacts of climate change in New Zealand and particularly on extreme weather events. The Authority did not uphold complaints that these items were inaccurate and unbalanced because climate change was not occurring in New Zealand and the number and intensity of extreme weather events was also not increasing. Given the focus of the items, which was not climate change but the release of the NIWA Report and flooding, the Authority found that the brief references to climate change were not material for the purposes of the accuracy standard, and as such would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the items as a whole. The items reported on newsworthy developments in the general area of New Zealand’s weather and climate and did not ‘discuss’ the issue of climate change, so they did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard. The Authority found that the harm alleged to have been caused in this case, namely a misinformed public, therefore did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression and any limitation on that right was unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance