A broadcast of The Long Lunch hosted by Wendyl Nissen included an interview with Horowhenua District Councillor (HDC) Ross Campbell, who talked about his decision to wear a body camera to Council meetings after what was described as incidents of bullying towards him. MediaWorks upheld the complaint under the fairness standard, finding that it should have sought comment from HDC prior to the broadcast, but did not take any remedial action. The Authority upheld HDC’s complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks following the finding of the breach of the fairness standard was insufficient. The Authority found that MediaWorks ought to have broadcast a follow-up item to remedy the breach. The Authority also upheld the complaint that the item was unbalanced as it did not include any comment from HDC or acknowledgement of an alternative viewpoint with respect to the allegations of bullying. Finally, the Authority found the broadcast was likely to mislead audiences by giving the impression that HDC had a systemic culture of bullying, through the absence of the presentation of alternative perspectives, and upheld the complaint under the accuracy standard.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Balance, Accuracy
Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
A news segment on The AM Show about name suppression included a clip from an interview with former Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson QC, which had been broadcast live on air earlier in the programme. The clip from the interview played during the news item related to Mr Finlayson’s comments about bullying allegations in Parliament, rather than his views on name suppression laws. The broadcaster acknowledged this clip placement was in error. A complaint was made that this error was significantly inaccurate, as it would have misled viewers as to Mr Finlayson’s views regarding name suppression laws. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that while the broadcaster made an error in playing the clip during that particular news segment, it was not significantly misleading in the context of the item as a whole. The Authority acknowledged the technical mistake and did not uphold the complaint.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
During a segment on The AM Show, host Duncan Garner referred to an individual as a ‘woolly woofter’. A complaint that the use of this term breached broadcasting standards, as it was homophobic and offensive, was not upheld. The Authority found that, while some viewers may have found the term inappropriate or offensive, the use of the term was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or seriously violate community norms. In the context of the programme, upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Law and Order
The reality television series, Harnas Wildlife Rescue Camp, profiles various workers and volunteers and their day-to-day activities at the Harnas Wildlife Foundation (Harnas) in Namibia. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Harnas was being misleadingly promoted through the programme as an ethical wildlife sanctuary, when in the complainant’s view, the facility and conditions were inhumane. The Authority found that the programme was presented as a slice-of-life, observational documentary, which did not shy away from presenting difficult material and the challenges facing Harnas. As such, viewers were shown the conditions at Harnas and were provided with sufficient information to make up their own minds about the welfare of the animals. On this occasion therefore, the harm alleged to have been caused did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
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
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a host’s comment during Nights, regarding the likelihood of the manned moon landings being fake, was inaccurate. The comment occurred during a talkback segment of the programme, with the host providing his response to an email received from the complainant. In this context, the statement by the host was not a material point of fact but a statement of comment or opinion, to which the requirements of the accuracy standard do not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that two answers provided during Mastermind New Zealand, about historical New Zealand events, were inaccurate and unbalanced. The Authority noted that both questions appeared to have been answered accurately by the contestant. Viewers were unlikely to be left misled or misinformed by the omission of further context around these answers, particularly given the well-known quiz format of the programme. The programme did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance, given historical events were raised only briefly in the form of quiz questions, and the requirements of the balance standard therefore did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that an item on 1 News, which reported on the United States (US) government shutdown, breached the accuracy standard. The Authority found the statement: ‘The crisis began after Democrats refused to sign off on the President’s demands for eight and a half billion dollars to build a border wall with Mexico’, was unlikely to mislead or misinform viewers about the latest events in the US government shutdown, reported on during the item. The Authority noted that in the context of the item as a whole, the presenter’s comment was an acceptable shorthand introduction to the key issues reported on. Finally, in this case the Authority found that the broadcaster was not required, in the interests of accuracy, to specify that the amount sought for the border wall was reported in New Zealand dollars.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interview broadcast on Newstalk ZB in December 2018, regarding a proposed Police seizure of military style semi-automatic weapons, was unbalanced and inaccurate. The Authority first found that a valid formal complaint had been lodged with the broadcaster (which was required before the complaint could be referred to the Authority), as sufficient information was provided by the complainant for the correct broadcast to be identified and for the broadcaster to respond to the issues raised. The Authority then determined the complaint, finding that balancing perspectives on the issue of Police seizure were presented during news items prior to and following the interview. While the Authority agreed that information conveyed during the introduction to the interview could have been made more clear by the presenter, the presenter’s statement did not amount to a material error of fact in the context of the interview as a whole. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the harm alleged did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression, and any intervention in upholding the complaint would be unreasonable and unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
A complaint that a segment on Checkpoint that discussed vaccinations was inaccurate was not upheld by the Authority. WAVESnz complained that several statements made by Professor John Fraser during the segment regarding the safety of vaccinations and the contents of vaccines were inaccurate and misleading. The Authority noted that it was not its role to determine the scientific accuracy of Professor Fraser’s statements. It found, however, that RNZ made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast, taking into account a number of factors including Professor Fraser’s reputation and the lack of any reason to question the accuracy of the views expressed by Professor Fraser. The Authority did not identify any real or potential harm and therefore found any restriction on RNZ’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
Two complaints about Heather du Plessis-Allan’s use of the term ‘leeches’ to describe the Pacific Islands during Wellington Mornings with Heather du Plessis-Allan were upheld, under both the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. The Authority recognised the important role talkback radio plays in fostering open discourse and debate in society. However, the Authority found Ms du Plessis-Allan’s comments went beyond what is acceptable in a talkback environment, considering the use of language that was inflammatory, devalued the reputation of Pasifika people within New Zealand and had the potential to cause widespread offence and distress.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests, Law and Order, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; Section16(4) – $3,000 costs to the Crown
A complaint regarding two broadcasts, relating to threats to public officials over the Government’s use of 1080 (including footage of an anti-1080 protest featuring the complainant), was not upheld. The Authority found the use of the footage, in segments on Newshub and The AM Show, did not result in any unfairness to the complainant. The Authority considered these broadcasts did not link the complainant, or the majority of anti-1080 protestors, to the threats, as both broadcasts stated that the threatening behaviour was from the fringes of the movement. The Authority determined that the audience was therefore unlikely to be misled or misinformed. The Authority also found a comment made by host Duncan Garner during The AM Show segment, implying Willie Apiata should be sent to harm the people who made the threats, did not breach broadcasting standards. The Authority noted that the comment was flippant, and when weighed against the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, it did not reach a point that justified the limitation of that right.
Not Upheld: Programme Information, Violence, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that statements made during Uncharted with Sam Neill were inaccurate. A complaint was made that host Sam Neill and an interviewee during the programme implied that missionaries primarily came to New Zealand for the purpose of acquiring land, which was misleading and misrepresented their good work. The Authority considered that the programme was clearly framed from the outset as a chance for untold or unexplored stories and perspectives to be expressed. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the statements complained about were clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion and were therefore not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard. The Authority’s intervention in upholding the complaint would therefore represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld complaints from two complainants, a Christian organisation and its director, about an episode of Sunday which investigated gay conversion therapy and whether this practice was happening in New Zealand. The director, ‘X’, was filmed covertly during the programme, appearing to offer gay conversion therapy to an undercover reporter, ‘Jay’, who posed as a young Christian ‘struggling with same sex attraction’. The Authority found that the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera in this case represented a highly offensive intrusion upon X’s interest in seclusion and that, on its face, this broadcast breached their privacy. However, the Authority found that the high level of public interest, both in the programme as a whole and in the hidden camera footage, justified the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera. Further, the broadcaster complied with its obligations under the fairness standard, providing the complainants with sufficient information about the nature of the broadcast and X’s participation, and a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment in response to the issues raised by the programme. Finally, the Authority found that the broadcast accurately and fairly portrayed the nature of the conversation between X and Jay, and the support and services being offered to him.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Sunday, which investigated gay conversion therapy in New Zealand, was unbalanced and inaccurate. The Authority found the existence of differing viewpoints was pointed to throughout the programme, with balancing comments provided by those featured and in final comments from the presenter. The broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the programme, relying on authoritative medical opinion from health experts regarding current views on gay conversion therapy and the potential harm that could be caused by the practice. In making these findings, the Authority recognised the high public interest in this story and found that upholding the complaint would represent an unjustified and unreasonable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
An item on Te Kāea reported on a new public interest defence recognised by the Court of Appeal in the complainants’ defamation proceedings against the Māori Television Service (MTS). The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the appellants in the Court of Appeal case that this item was inaccurate and unfair. The Authority found that the item accurately reported the essence of the Court of Appeal’s judgment and that the omission of further information about the technical or legal aspects of the case would not have significantly affected viewers’ understanding of the item as a whole. The Authority did not consider that the broadcast created an unfairly negative impression of the complainants and, as they were unlikely to be adversely affected by the broadcast, their comment was therefore not required to be included in order for them to be treated fairly. Overall, the Authority did not consider the harm alleged by the complainants outweighed the right to freedom of expression, and its intervention in upholding the complaint would therefore be unreasonable and unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has declined to determine a complaint that an individual on The Panel should not have been on the programme due to ‘corrupt practices’ and therefore the broadcast was inaccurate. The Authority found that the arguments raised in the complaint had no direct correlation to the standard raised.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint about a comment made by business commentator, Rod Oram, during a segment on Nine to Noon. The Authority found that Mr Oram’s view as to the effectiveness of a former Chair of a seed business was an opinion that is not subject to the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on a recent win and the increasing success of the Black Ferns rugby team. The complainant alleged the item was inaccurate and misleading as the number of attendees at the game was incorrectly reported. The Authority found that while the number of attendees was stated incorrectly, this was immaterial to the focus of the item which was the Black Ferns’ win and growing success, and unlikely to affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
A complaint from environmental group Friends of the Earth (NZ) about an interview between Saturday Morning host Kim Hill and former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman was not upheld. Ms Hill interviewed Sir Peter about his time as Chief Science Advisor and a wide range of issues, including how societies respond to scientific research, the role of science in government, activism within the scientific community and the criminal justice system. During the interview, Sir Peter made comments about the safety and history of genetic modification. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments were inaccurate or that the interview was unbalanced or unfair. The Authority found Sir Peter’s comments were not statements of fact, noting they were clearly established as being from Sir Peter’s perspective throughout the interview. The Authority also found that while genetic modification amounted to a controversial issue of public importance, it was not ‘discussed’ in the interview for the purposes of the balance standard. The Authority did not consider that Sir Peter’s comments were likely to mislead or misinform listeners.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness