The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
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
On 13 March 2018, an item on Newshub reported on allegations of sexual assault and harassment at a Young Labour camp. The item included photos of the camp attendees, sourced from public social media accounts, with no masking or blurring. The Authority upheld a direct privacy complaint from IY, who was featured in the photos, that this item breached their privacy. The Authority noted the value of the broadcast in reporting on the response of the Labour Party to the allegations, but emphasised the high level of potential harm that could be caused to the individuals involved. The Authority found that, while the photos were available in the public domain at the time of broadcast (they were removed from social media platforms following the allegations being made public), they were shown during a story reporting on alleged sexual assault, which changed the quality of the information and the context in which the photos were made available to the public. The complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy over their image in this context, and the disclosure of their image, in connection with the allegations reported on, caused significant distress and was highly offensive. The Authority commented that care needed to be taken by broadcasters when using social media content, particularly in sensitive circumstances.
Upheld: Privacy. Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $3,000 privacy compensation; Section 16(4) $2,000 costs to the Crown.
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item on 1 News, about claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) that staff had been abused and attacked by anti-1080 protestors, breached broadcasting standards. The Authority found the item was unlikely to mislead or misinform audiences, as it contained comments from various parties including a DOC representative, an anti-1080 campaigner and a National Party MP. The Authority highlighted the importance of the reporting on issues of public importance in an accurate and balanced manner, finding that the broadcaster did so on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy, Fairness
Over two evenings, on 20 and 21 January 2018, Newshub reported on the delayed launch of a rocket from the Māhia Peninsula, due to a boat being in the exclusion zone around the launch site. The first item strongly implied that Hastings District Councillor Damon Harvey was responsible for the delayed launch, referring to a tweet, featuring a photo of the launch site, that the reporter said was tweeted by Mr Harvey ‘around the same time’ as the launch delay. The second item included a short comment from an interview with Mr Harvey. The Authority found parts of these broadcasts were inaccurate and misleading, and were unfair to Mr Harvey. The broadcaster relied on social media content as a basis for the story without taking reasonable steps to inform the complainants of their contribution to the programme, or to verify that the content was what the reporter claimed. As a result, viewers were misled about who was responsible for the launch delay. Mr Harvey’s interview comments were also edited in a way that was misleading and unfair, so he was not given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the story.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness. Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement on air, online and in print; Section 16(1) $2,000 legal costs to complainant; Section 16(4) $1,000 costs to the Crown