The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a story on Prime News, reporting on incorrect deductions that were made from a solo mother’s benefit, was inaccurate and resulted in Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) being treated unfairly. The featured mother was repaid $7,000 from WINZ after discovering that deductions had been made from her benefit in error, as she qualified for an exemption from a policy requiring her to identify the father of her child. The Authority considered that the item was a fair and accurate report on the issue. WINZ was the agency responsible for administering the woman’s benefit and for making the deductions under legislation. It was therefore reasonable for the broadcaster to refer to WINZ and to rely on comment from the Minister for Social Development in response. While the story may have been critical of the policy and of the incorrect deductions that were made, the Authority considered that upholding this complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and therefore did not uphold the complaint.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a discussion on Breakfast, about controversial comments made by Israel Folau, was in breach of the balance broadcasting standard. During the discussion, weather reporter, Matty McLean, gave his opinion on the comments, saying that he found them to be harmful. The Authority recognised that Mr Folau’s comments sparked ongoing public debate about the right to freedom of expression and harm. The discussion on Breakfast therefore amounted to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance under the standard. However, the Authority considered Mr McLean was clearly expressing his opinion on the issue and was entitled to do so, given Breakfast’s well-established programme format which includes the hosts expressing their views on current events. Differing perspectives on the topic were also available in surrounding media, so viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of the significant points of view on this issue. For these reasons, the Authority considered that upholding this complaint would represent an unjustified and unreasonable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance
The Authority upheld a complaint under the accuracy standard about an item on 1 News, which discussed the Auckland Council’s vote on the draft proposal for the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax (the Tax). The Authority found the segment, through the omission of key information about the ongoing consultation and the presenter’s use of the terms ‘green light’ and ‘done deal’, was likely to mislead viewers into thinking the proposal voted on by the Council was final and that there was no further period of public consultation. The importance of keeping audiences informed on issues of public and political significance was emphasised by the Authority. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard, finding the item achieved balance through the presentation of a wide range of views from politicians and members of the public who were for and against the implementation of the Tax.
Upheld: Accuracy. Not Upheld: Balance
An item on 1 News reported on an alleged ‘mistake’ by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which the reporter, Andrea Vance, said ‘cost the taxpayer a quarter of a million dollars’. The item referred to MFAT’s action in waiving the diplomatic immunity of an MFAT employee – the complainant – to allow child custody and matrimonial proceedings to be heard in an overseas court. According to Ms Vance, MFAT’s actions were disputed by the complainant’s ex-partner, resulting in MFAT issuing an apology and payment of ‘legal bills’ to both the complainant and the complainant’s ex-partner. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from the MFAT employee that the item was inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair. It was important, in the interests of ensuring viewers were properly informed and were not misled, for the broadcaster to have provided alternative perspectives on the issue of legal costs, namely that MFAT denied payment of the complainant’s costs. Further, it should have been made clear to viewers that a legal expert featured in the item did not have specific knowledge of the complainant’s case and was commenting only generally on the applicable law. The Authority noted the public interest in this item and the efforts made by the broadcaster to protect the identities of those involved, and did not uphold the complaint under the remaining standards.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Children’s Interests, Programme Information.
An item on Newshub reported on ‘cash for job’ work scams in New Zealand. The reporter described the experiences of one worker, who alleged he had been exploited by his employer and told to pay $30,000 for his job as a technician at an internet café. GL, who was named and whose photo was shown during the item, was said to have ‘demanded’ $15,000 from the worker as part of the scam. GL complained that the item was inaccurate and unfair, because he did not demand or receive any payment from the worker and he was not given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him. The majority of the Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast and that the complainant was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations. The majority recognised the high public interest in the item, which reported on an important issue to New Zealanders, and the essential role of investigative journalism in exposing this type of conduct to the public. The minority view was that, while the issue of cash for job work scams was an important story to be told, there was insufficient evidence available to the reporter to identify GL as an example of a cash for job scam. These were serious allegations that had the potential to significantly damage the complainant’s reputation, and the story’s important message about the rise of such scams could have been conveyed without identifying him. The Authority was unanimous in its decision to not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint.
Not Upheld by Majority: Fairness, Accuracy.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Law and Order.