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.
A segment on Thane & Dunc included an interview with a man, X, who had a relationship with a couple (the complainant and Z). During the interview, X described the nature of the relationship. He did not name the couple, referring to them as ‘A’ and ‘B’. A second interview with X was broadcast the following day, during which the hosts told X they had spoken with the couple, who alleged the relationship was abusive. The hosts interrogated X about his behaviour, then demanded X apologise and agree to make no further contact with the couple involved. The Authority upheld a complaint that these broadcasts breached the privacy of the complainant and Z. The Authority found that little, if any, sensitivity or respect was shown for the dignity, safety, reputation and mental wellbeing of the parties involved, and this represented a serious breach of broadcasting standards and a serious lack of understanding of the parties’ right to privacy.
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $3,000 compensation to JN and $3,000 compensation to Z for the breaches of privacy; Section 16(4) $2,500 costs to the Crown
In June, October and November 2016, Sikh radio station Radio Virsa broadcast four programmes in Punjabi on 107FM. The programmes included host and talkback commentary about a wide range of issues. The Authority received a complaint that these broadcasts contained threatening and coarse language and themes, and offensive statements were made in relation to a number of named individuals in the Sikh community, including the complainant. The Authority found that aspects of these broadcasts were in breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority was particularly concerned that offensive comments were made about named individuals in the local community, which resulted in the individuals’ unfair treatment and, in one instance, a breach of privacy. The Authority also found aspects of the broadcasts, which contained comments about women, were unacceptable in New Zealand society and in breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the remaining broadcasting standards.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
During Jay-Jay, Dom & Randell, the hosts discussed their conversation with a guest the previous day who was described as a successful voice coach, and who gave tips about putting on a ‘sexy voice’. One of the hosts prank called two phone sex chat lines and spoke to the operators to see whether they used a ‘sexy voice’. One of the operators he spoke with was the complainant, who discussed practical aspects of the service, including how calls were conducted and paid for. A distinctive sound could be heard in the background of the call. The Authority upheld a complaint from the operator that this broadcast breached her privacy and was unfair. The combination of the extended audio of the complainant’s voice and the background sounds meant that she could be identified by people beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about her phone sex chat line business. The complainant was also unaware she was being recorded and did not consent to the broadcast of this information. This resulted in a breach of her privacy and was also unfair. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of BL’s complaint.
Upheld: Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: $2,000 privacy compensation; $1,500 costs to the Crown
Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (Say… You’re in Love), a Bollywood romantic thriller film, was broadcast on free-to-air television channel APNA TV between 3pm and 6pm. The film featured action scenes containing violence. The Authority upheld a complaint that the film breached a number of broadcasting standards. The film was broadcast unclassified and with an incorrect programme description, which meant audiences were unable to make an informed viewing choice and were unable to regulate their own, and their children’s, viewing behaviour. The film’s inclusion of violent imagery such as beatings, shoot-outs, murder and dead bodies, and the visual depiction of these acts occurring onscreen, warranted an AO classification and later time of broadcast on free-to-air television. The film’s content would have been outside audience expectations of the programme, and child viewers, who were likely to be watching at the time of broadcast, were unable to be protected from material that had the potential to adversely affect them. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the law and order standard.
Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Good Taste and Decency, Violence; Not Upheld: Law and Order
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $1,500
An item on 1 News reported on a fatal bus crash that occurred south of Gisborne on Christmas Eve in 2016. The bus was carrying students and teachers from a visiting Tongan school band. The item featured photos, sourced from a public Facebook page for the Tongan community, of some of the injured passengers in hospital. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached the injured passengers’ privacy. While the photos were in the public domain, those featured did not consent to their images appearing in the news item. As injured patients receiving medical care, they were in a particularly vulnerable position. While the Authority acknowledged the broadcaster’s submission that the Tongan community may have seen the use of these photos as a sign of support or respect for those involved in the accident, broadcasting the images widened the potential audience beyond the community for whom the photos were initially shared. The Authority noted that where social media content is re-published on another platform, such as broadcast media, privacy considerations should be considered afresh, particularly in sensitive circumstances.
Upheld: Privacy; No Order
During The Devlin Radio Show, host Martin Devlin was forcefully outspoken about an abusive text message he had received from the complainant, TF. Mr Devlin read out the complainant’s mobile phone number multiple times and phoned the complainant on air while making abusive comments about them. The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Devlin breached the complainant’s privacy. While the Authority did not condone the strongly-worded text message initially sent to Mr Devlin, Mr Devlin’s response was disproportionate and unprofessional, even in the context of the robust talkback radio environment. The complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to their personal mobile number, and Mr Devlin’s comments amounted to a sustained and personal attack against the complainant, making use of private information to personalise the abuse and implicitly encouraging harassment of TF. This amounted to a highly offensive disclosure and was a breach of TF’s privacy.
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation $2,000; section 16(4) – costs to the Crown $2,000; section 13(1)(a) – broadcast statement
During the Hauraki Breakfast Show Deborah Stokes, mother of New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes, rang the studio to complain about what she considered to be unfair comments made by the hosts regarding her son, and to defend him. Mrs Stokes asked to speak with someone off air. Host Matt Heath assured Mrs Stokes she was off air, when in fact the conversation was being broadcast live on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached Mrs Stokes’ privacy. Mrs Stokes had a reasonable expectation that, in the circumstances, her phone call and the conversation would remain private. The recording and broadcast of her conversation, in circumstances where she had expressly asked for privacy was objectionable and would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person in the complainant’s position.
Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
During the Hauraki Breakfast Show, Deborah Stokes, mother of New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes, rang the studio to complain about what she considered to be unfair comments made by the hosts regarding her son, and to defend him. Mrs Stokes asked to speak with someone off air. Host Matt Heath assured Mrs Stokes she was off air, when in fact the conversation was being broadcast live on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by NZME, having upheld Mrs Stokes’ complaint under the fairness and privacy standards, was insufficient. The broadcast, and particularly the hosts’ deceptive conduct, represented a significant breach of broadcasting standards and a lack of understanding of an individual’s fundamental right to fair treatment and to privacy. While NZME offered Mrs Stokes a substantial remedy following her complaint, it took limited action, which did not adequately rectify the harm caused to Mrs Stokes. Furthermore, events subsequent to the broadcast and prior to NZME’s response to the complaint, such as the hosts’ behaviour, undermined the genuineness of the proposed offer.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Privacy (Action Taken)
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation for breach of privacy; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $4,000
During The Edge’s Smash! 20 countdown show, a caller successfully answered a series of questions based on the songs in the countdown and won a prize. While taking the caller’s personal details, the announcer left the phone channel in ‘on-air’ mode and inadvertently broadcast the caller’s full name, address, school, date of birth and mobile number. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached the caller’s privacy. The caller was clearly identifiable and disclosed a high level of personal detail on air, over which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Authority acknowledged the caller’s disclosure was the result of an unfortunate technical error on the announcer’s part, and that the broadcaster took immediate actions to respond to the breach. The Authority did not make any order in these circumstances.
The Breeze ran a competition in which listeners were invited to nominate an individual they felt to be deserving of a shopping spree. The programme hosts spoke to a woman (G) on air about her nomination of her friend (N), whom she described as just having left a ‘potentially abusive relationship’. The Authority upheld a complaint from N’s husband, LN, that the broadcast breached his privacy. The Authority found that LN was identifiable due to a combination of identifying features disclosed within the broadcast and readily accessible information outside of the broadcast. It considered the allegations of a potentially abusive relationship and other intimate details of the relationship were highly sensitive and personal, and clearly carried the quality of private information. The disclosure of such information would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation to the complainant $1,000
An episode of Neighbours at War featured a dispute between a group of neighbours over a right of way. Two sets of neighbours alleged that their neighbours, a couple (Mr and Mrs X), had been threatening and harassing them. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from Mr and Mrs X that the episode was unfair and breached their privacy. The Authority also determined that the broadcaster did not take sufficient action having upheld one aspect of the complainants’ original fairness complaint. The programme contained potentially damaging allegations against the complainants and did not present their side of the story. The programme also broadcast footage of incidents between Mr and Mrs X and their neighbours on the right of way obtained by one neighbour’s friend and a security camera belonging to another neighbour, which was a highly offensive intrusion into their interest in solitude and seclusion. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the fairness and privacy complaints, and did not find that the item was inaccurate or misleading.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Fairness, Privacy; Not Upheld: Accuracy
Order: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation to the complainants $500
Two hosts on George FM Breakfast asked listeners to send in the names and profiles of female users of Instagram described as ‘do-nothing bitches’. The names of two women, A and B, were submitted. The hosts went on to comment extensively on A’s profile, making inappropriate and disparaging comments about her, and also contacted A and interviewed her on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks having found breaches of the fairness and good taste and decency standards was insufficient, and also found that the broadcast breached the privacy of both women.
Upheld: Fairness (Action taken), Good Taste and Decency (Action taken), Privacy
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Law and Order, Responsible Programming, Controversial Issues, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation to A for breach of privacy; section 13(1)(d) $2,000 compensation to B for breach of privacy; section 16(4) $2,000 costs to the Crown
An episode of Dog Squad showed dog handlers with the Department of Corrections searching visitors to a prison. The episode showed two occasions of the complainant (SW) being searched; firstly, her bag was searched when she was driving onto prison premises, and secondly, a sniffer dog identified that she was carrying contraband (tobacco) inside the prison and she was shown surrendering this to Corrections staff. In both instances her face was blurred. The Authority upheld SW’s complaint that broadcasting the footage breached her privacy. She was identifiable despite her face being blurred (by clothing, body type, voice, etc), and the disclosure of private facts about her, including prescription drugs she was taking, among other things, was highly offensive. SW did not give informed consent to the broadcast and the public interest message about prison protocol could have been communicated without identifying SW.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) $1,000 compensation for breach of privacy
A story on 60 Minutes featured tragic driveway accidents involving children. Part of the story focused on the death of an 18-month-old boy, and the subsequent struggles of his mother. The mother also discussed her other son, S, and photos and footage were shown of him. The Authority upheld a complaint from S’s father that the programmes breached S’s privacy. S was identifiable by name and image, he was linked with details of his mother’s drug addiction and prostitution which constituted private facts and this disclosure was highly offensive. In the circumstances the broadcaster’s primary concern ought to have been the best interests of the child, regardless of any consent obtained. The Authority recognised the value and public interest in the story but this was outweighed by the need to protect the child.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) $1,500 compensation for breach of privacy
An episode of Water Patrol, a reality TV series following the work of the Maritime Police, showed footage of the complainant, PG, in his boat in the Marlborough Sounds. The police vessel approached him from behind and asked him to stop his motor. The complainant was caught off-guard, apparently not wearing any pants. As he stood up to engage with the police, the fact he was wrapping a towel around his waist was highlighted and the police officer turned to the camera and commented, with a smile on his face, ‘very unusual’. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached PG’s privacy because in the unique circumstances of this particular case: the filming amounted to an intentional intrusion, in the nature of prying, with the complainant’s interest in seclusion; the intrusion was highly offensive; and it was not justified by any overriding public interest factors.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) $1,000 compensation to the complainant for breach of privacy
APNA 990 broadcast a segment disclosing that a named company allegedly owed it money and asking for the director of that company to ‘contact us [as soon as possible] to sort out the account’. The Authority upheld the complaint that the broadcast breached the privacy of the company director because a debt is a private matter between the debtor and the person or company to whom the debt is owed. The disclosure was highly offensive as the complainant could reasonably expect the debt to remain private, and there was no public interest in disclosing it to the public at large.
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $1,000 compensation to the complainant for breach of privacy; Section 16(4) $1,000 costs to the Crown
An item on 3rd Degree contained an interview with a man who was involved in a family feud over the provisions of his mother’s will. The man described the legal battle with his brothers, and the item showed two old photographs of the brothers, one of whom was WS. The Authority upheld the complaint that WS’ privacy was breached as he had not consented to having his image shown in the programme.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) $1,500 compensation to the complainant for breach of privacy
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
Neighbours at War reported on a dispute between the complainant and his neighbour over who was entitled to the letterbox number ‘1’ on their street. The complainant did not take part in the programme, and his neighbour made a number of allegations against him, including that he had sex on his deck, mowed the lawn in his underwear, watched his neighbours in their spa bath, and disturbed them with loud music and security lights. The broadcaster upheld two aspects of his fairness and privacy complaints, but the Authority found that the action taken by the broadcaster to remedy the breaches was insufficient. The programme overall painted the complainant in a very unfavourable light and without his side of the story, which was unfair. The Authority considered publication of this decision was sufficient and did not make any order.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Privacy (Action Taken), Fairness
Not Upheld: Privacy, Accuracy, Controversial Issues, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming, Good Taste and Decency