Māori Television Service (MTS) aired a story on Te Kāea about how hapū Te Parawhau felt they had been shut out of negotiations on the sale of a piece of land, known as Pūriri Park in Northland, to Housing New Zealand (HNZ). The Authority upheld HNZ’s complaint under the balance standard, finding the omission of HNZ’s point of view from the initial broadcast likely prevented audiences from arriving at an informed and reasoned opinion about the sale and HNZ’s involvement. The Authority also upheld HNZ’s complaint under the accuracy and fairness standards, finding that while MTS aired a follow-up broadcast featuring comment from Te Parawhau and HNZ, this broadcast did not remedy the harm caused to HNZ by the initial broadcast of inaccurate information about the land sold. As a result, HNZ was likely to be adversely affected by the broadcast and was not provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment. The Authority emphasised that while public entities may be subject to greater scrutiny, they are still entitled to fair and accurate treatment in broadcasting.
Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness; No Order
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
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 The Project discussed the building of a new gambling venue in Tokoroa set to contain 30 gambling machines (‘pokies’). The segment was critical of the South Waikato District Council’s (SWDC) role in the authorisation of this new venue, and also one of the Councillors’ roles as both a Councillor and manager of one of the clubs involved in the creation of the proposed new venue. The following evening one of the programme hosts issued an on-air apology to the Councillor, clarifying inaccurate statements made about their involvement in the decision-making process. The Authority upheld SWDC’s complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks did not sufficiently remedy the harm caused by the breaches. The Authority found that the statement the following night did not remedy the harm caused to SWDC by the broadcast, only the Councillor. The Authority also upheld the complaint that the host’s statement that the SWDC ‘get a cut of the profits’ from the gambling machines was inaccurate, as the SWDC do not directly receive any percentage of the profits.
Upheld: Balance (Action Taken), Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy. Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.
During The AM Show, host Duncan Garner and then Newshub political editor Patrick Gower discussed various policies the new Labour Government was considering implementing, as well as legislation it planned to change or repeal. Discussing the ‘three strikes’ law, Mr Gower referred to one of the complainants, Mr Garrett, who was involved in introducing the law, and stated, ‘turned out that he had been stealing dead babies’ identities himself before he came into Parliament’. Mr Garner later clarified that it was ‘one dead baby’. The Authority upheld three complaints that the segment was inaccurate and unfair to Mr Garrett. While the broadcaster acknowledged the statement was inaccurate, the Authority found Mr Garner’s correction was dismissive and perfunctory, and insufficient to correct the error. The Authority also considered that the manner and tone in which Mr Garrett was brought up in the discussion, despite the passage of time since his offence, was unfair. The Authority did not make any order, finding publication of its decision was sufficient to publicly notify the breach of standards, and help to repair any harm caused to Mr Garrett.
Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken), Fairness. Not Upheld: Balance, Discrimination and Denigration
During an item on Seven Sharp, broadcast on 23 August 2017 during the election period, the presenters discussed TVNZ’s ‘Vote Compass’, a tool available to assist the New Zealand public to make voting decisions. In response to comments by presenter Toni Street about the usefulness of the tool, presenter Mike Hosking said, ‘…so is the fact that you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate, so what are you going to do now? I’m joking.’ The following evening, Mr Hosking attempted to clarify his comment by saying, ‘Now, the fact that anyone can vote for [the Māori Party] as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years…’ The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Hosking’s comments were inaccurate, finding that Mr Hosking’s statement about who was eligible to vote for the Māori Party was a material point of fact that was inaccurate and misleading. Further, his comments the following evening were confusing and insufficient to correct the inaccurate information for viewers. The Authority acknowledged the high value of political expression during an election period, but found that the potential harm in this case – providing inaccurate information which had the potential to influence voters, despite the alleged clarification – outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Upheld: Accuracy; Order: section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.
A RNZ News bulletin reported on the NZ Police Association’s view that a recent spate of Police shootings was the result of ‘too many firearms getting into the wrong hands’. During the bulletin, the presenter said: ‘The Association’s President… says more than 20,000 firearms, including semi-automatic military weapons, are stolen or sold to offenders each year.’ The Authority upheld a complaint that the presenter’s reference to more than 20,000 firearms being stolen or sold to offenders was inaccurate. According to the Police Association, the President should have been quoted as saying ‘over 50,000 firearms enter the country each year, a number of which are stolen or sold to offenders’. While the broadcaster attempted to correct the quote in the online version of the story after the broadcast, the amendment did not correct the error, and in the Authority’s view RNZ’s audience was misled as a result.
An item on Fair Go reported on a family who had purchased land in Papamoa only to find that the section had an actual size of 258m2, rather than the 296m2 shown on the property title and in their Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA). The item found that the surveyor was responsible for the incorrect description on the title. However, the item also discussed an extract from an email sent to the purchaser by the real estate agent involved, Wayne Skinner, asking for a notation on the SPA seeking verification of the land site to be removed. The Authority upheld a complaint that the item was unfair and misleading, finding that the reporting of the email extract gave the impression that Mr Skinner had chosen to intentionally remove the purchaser’s right to have the title checked, and did not reflect the other protections available to the purchaser in the SPA. The negative impression created by the item was disproportionate and unfair to Mr Skinner, and undue focus was given to him in the context of the item as a whole. The item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the balance standard.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy; Not Upheld: Balance
Seven Sharp featured a story about two local residents, labelled ‘herb detectives’, who were determined to track down the man they believed was responsible for stealing their herbs. The reporter and the ‘herb detectives’ visited the local market looking for the alleged thief and spoke to a woman, Shunfang Shen, who was selling herbs. The reporter asked Mrs Shen where her herbs were from, and one of the residents said, ‘It looked very much like my mint.’ The Authority upheld a complaint from Mrs Shen that the action taken by TVNZ, in upholding her complaint that the item was inaccurate and unfair, was insufficient. The Authority acknowledged that TVNZ attempted to remedy the breach of standards, including by broadcasting a correction several days after the item. However, the Authority found it would have been straightforward for this correction to also include an apology to Mrs Shen, which would have addressed her concerns. The item clearly had the potential to be particularly damaging to Mrs Shen’s reputation in her local community, and her livelihood. She was an innocent bystander and, due to her limited English, was unable to meaningfully respond to the reporter’s questions or defend herself. The Authority found that no order was warranted, as the decision publicly notified the breach of standards.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy (Action Taken); No Order
Two items broadcast on Te Karere reported on Green MP Marama Davidson’s experiences as part of the ‘Women’s Boat to Gaza’ protest, which aimed to draw attention to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The Authority upheld a complaint that the reporter’s reference during the first item to the ‘illegal’ Israeli blockade was inaccurate. The legality of the blockade was a contentious and unresolved issue, with two UN reports taking conflicting positions on the point. The Authority therefore considered that the broadcaster should have qualified its statement with reference to the disputed legality of the blockade, rather than referring to it unequivocally as illegal. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard that pro-Israeli viewpoints were omitted from the broadcast, noting that a later broadcast of Te Karere returned to Ms Davidson’s story, and featured an Israeli advocate who provided alternative viewpoints to those expressed in the earlier broadcasts, which was sufficient. While the Authority accepted that precise language was required in relation to ongoing international disputes such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it determined that its decision provided adequate guidance to broadcasters and made no order.
Upheld: Accuracy; Not Upheld: Balance; No Order
In an episode of The Block NZ: Villa Wars, the complainant was portrayed as a ‘temperamental European tiler’ who allegedly wanted to be paid in advance and went ‘AWOL’ when he was not paid. The Authority upheld a complaint that the complainant was treated unfairly and that key facts about his professional conduct were misrepresented. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the broadcast also breached a number of additional standards.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy
Not Upheld: Privacy, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Controversial Issues, Responsible Programming
Order: Section 16(4) costs to the Crown $1,500
An item on ONE News reported on incidents of violence in Israel and Palestine. The newsreader said, ‘Road blocks are in place and thousands of police and soldiers are patrolling across Israel as it tries to stop a wave of violence’, and then crossed to a correspondent reporting from East Jerusalem. The item also went on to report on other incidents of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, including in Gaza. The Authority upheld a complaint that the item was inaccurate because East Jerusalem is internationally recognised as being part of Palestine, not Israel, and viewers would have been misled into thinking that much of the violence took place in Israel.
An item on ONE News covered the quarrying of a Dunedin landmark, Saddle Hill, and featured interviews with three people opposed to the quarrying. The reporter stated that quarry owner Calvin Fisher did not respond to his request for an interview, although an offer had been made to ‘replace the hill once the rock has been taken away’. TVNZ upheld Mr Fisher’s complaint, finding that insufficient attempts were made to contact Mr Fisher and the reporter unfairly represented that he was not willing to comment. TVNZ apologised in writing to Mr Fisher, removed the story from its website and discussed the upheld complaint with the reporter and management. However the Authority upheld Mr Fisher’s complaint that this action was insufficient to remedy the breach. The nature of the breach required further action from the broadcaster, such as a public acknowledgement or apology or a follow-up broadcast that included comment from Mr Fisher and/or an alternative perspective in support of the quarry.
Upheld: Action Taken (Fairness, Accuracy, Controversial Issues)
Order: Section 16(4) $750 costs to the Crown
Paul Henry featured an interview with the president of the Police Association about assaults on police and the debate about whether to arm front-line police officers with tasers. Towards the start of the interview, Mr Henry said, ‘The numbers are truly extraordinary, aren’t they? Violent attacks on police officers are definitely going up’. The Authority upheld a complaint that this comment was inaccurate, as the number of assaults on police officers was actually decreasing. However, it did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced, as MediaWorks made reasonable efforts to provide balance on the issue of taser carriage by police within the period of current interest.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues
Campbell Live covered a story about an eader (a pit for raw milk waste) in the town of Eltham in Taranaki that was allegedly making local residents ill. The South Taranaki District Council complained that the item was inaccurate and unfair. The Authority found that this was an important story which carried high public interest and that much of it was accurate and well-reported. Nevertheless, a number of statements conveying the gravity of the problem with the eader did not have a sufficient basis and were overblown, which was misleading and unfair. Accordingly the Authority upheld some aspects of the complaint.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
Campbell Live marked the fourth anniversary of the first Canterbury earthquake with a live broadcast from a Christchurch school hall where an audience of local residents with unresolved insurance claims participated in the programme. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached the controversial issues and accuracy standards because the programme did not include the insurance industry’s perspective and was misleading about the industry’s willingness to participate in the programme.
Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy
Order: Section 13(1)(a) – broadcast statement
Five Campbell Live items featured the complainant, Margaret Harkema, a former director of the Valley Animal Research Centre, and investigated concerns that she was using TradeMe to rehome beagles that were bred or used for testing. The Authority upheld her complaints that the programmes were unfair, misleading and breached her privacy.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy, Privacy
Not Upheld: Law and Order
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $2,000 compensation to the complainant for breach of privacy; Section 16(1) $12,000 legal costs to the complainant
Campbell Live broadcast two items that were critical of Ranfurly Veterans Home and Hospital, relating to an incident in which a resident, Q, was found lying on the driveway after falling from his power chair. The Authority upheld one aspect of the accuracy complaint in relation to another incident involving a resident, F, and upheld the complaint that the items were unfair to Q, and to Ranfurly. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the residents’ privacy was breached. The Authority did not make any order as only limited aspects were upheld.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Privacy
Close Up reported on comments made by the Principal of Pompallier Catholic College in a school newsletter, objecting to gay marriage. The item claimed that the Principal suspended a teacher, who was interviewed by Close Up, and that students who opposed the comments were "threatened". A news ticker on Breakfast the following morning echoed the claims. The school argued the programmes were misleading and unfair, because the teacher was suspended for reasons other than his objection to the Principal's views, and no students were threatened. The Authority found that Close Up did not fairly present the reasons for the suspension, which created an unfairly negative impression of the Principal and the College, who were not given a fair chance to comment. It said the item should have couched the "threats" as allegations or the students' views, rather than unequivocal statements of fact. The Breakfast ticker was not material in the context of the programme.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness