The Authority declined to determine a complaint regarding a news item covering animal welfare in rodeos. David Wratt complained that the item, which covered loss of animal life in rodeos, should focus on the deaths of babies as human life is more valuable than animal life. As this complaint relates to a matter of editorial discretion and personal preference, it is not capable of being determined by a complaints procedure. The Authority considered that, in all circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.
Declined to Determine: Good Taste and Decency; Programme Information; Discrimination and Denigration; Balance; Fairness
A complaint that a segment on The Project which discussed the delay in abortion legislative reform and the current process for obtaining a legal abortion in New Zealand was discriminatory, unbalanced and misleading was not upheld. The Authority found that the item did not breach the discrimination and denigration standard as people who are opposed to this reform and ‘the unborn’ do not amount to recognised sections of the community for the purposes of the standard. The Authority also found the item clearly approached this topic from a particular perspective and that viewers could reasonably be expected to have a level of awareness of significant arguments in the debate.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that an item on Morning Report discussing the possible boycott of the Tuia – Encounters 250 commemorations was unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. The Authority found the item was balanced through the presentation of alternative perspectives and the existence of significant media coverage within the period of current interest. The Authority also found the broadcast did not contain any material inaccuracy with respect to Captain Cook’s first arrival in New Zealand. Finally, the Authority found the fairness standard did not apply as the complainant did not identify any person or organisation who took part in or was referred to in the broadcast who was treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
A complaint alleging that an interview on Breakfast with Professor Douglas Pratt, an expert in theological and religious studies, breached broadcasting standards has not been upheld. The interview was exploring Professor Pratt’s views on the possible motivation behind the attacks on 15 March 2019 on two mosques in Christchurch. The Authority found that the interview was not a discussion as contemplated under the balance standard, but rather Professor Pratt’s in-depth, expert opinion, and therefore the balance standard did not apply. The Authority also found that the broadcast did not contain a high level of condemnation towards the Christian community nor the level of malice or nastiness required to breach the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Discrimination and Denigration
Warning: This decision contains content that some readers may find distressing.
During coverage of the 15 March 2019 attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, SKY Network Television channel 085, Sky News New Zealand, included a number of edited clips taken from the alleged attacker’s 17‑minute livestream video. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast was in breach of the violence and law and order standards. While the broadcast as a whole was newsworthy and had a high level of public interest, the clips themselves contained disturbing violent content, which had the potential to cause significant distress to members of the public, and particularly to the family and friends of victims and the wider Muslim community in New Zealand. In the context of the attacks, the content of these clips also risked glorifying the alleged attacker and promoting his messages. As such, the degree of potential harm that could be caused to audiences was greater than the level of public interest, and the Authority found overall that these clips, in the form broadcast, should not have been aired.
Upheld: Violence, Law and Order; Declined Jurisdiction: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
Order: Section 16(4) – $4,000 in costs to the Crown
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
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that ACT leader David Seymour MP was bullied and treated unfairly on Magic Afternoons with Sean Plunket. Mr Seymour called the show to present his perspective on comments made by Mr Plunket moments earlier about Mr Seymour’s motivation for sponsoring the End of Life Choice Bill. The Authority found that, while Mr Plunket’s interviewing style was robust and challenging, Mr Seymour was not treated unfairly given the nature of the programme, the fact that Mr Seymour initiated the conversation and expressed his views, and Mr Seymour’s position and his experience with the media. The Authority also found that the broadcast did not breach the balance standard as it did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance, which is required for the balance standard to apply. The merits of the End of Life Choice Bill is a controversial issue of public importance but the focus of this discussion was on the discrete topic of Mr Seymour’s political motivations and the alleged influence of ACT party donors. The Authority also found the discrimination and denigration standard did not apply as the standard does not apply to individuals or organisations.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld four complaints about a segment on The AM Show, which featured host Duncan Garner criticising parents who do not vaccinate their children, using terms such as ‘murderers’ and ‘bloody idiots’, and stating they should be ‘stripped of their right to spread their message and their viruses’. The Authority found that, taking into account audience expectations of Mr Garner and The AM Show, alongside other contextual factors, Mr Garner’s comments did not breach broadcasting standards. With regard to the balance standard, the Authority found that, while the anti-vaccination movement was a controversial issue of public importance, Mr Garner’s comments did not amount to a ‘discussion’ for the purposes of the standard, but reflected his own personal views on the issue. The Authority acknowledged that Mr Garner’s comments may have caused offence to some viewers but overall the harm alleged did not reach the threshold requiring a limitation on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order
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 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 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
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
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
A complaint about an interview between Kim Hill and Rt Hon Winston Peters regarding the relationship between New Zealand First and the Labour Party was not upheld. The complainant submitted the interview was unbalanced because Kim Hill’s interviewing of Mr Peters was ‘biased, rude and condescending’. The Authority found that, while Ms Hill asked Mr Peters challenging and critical questions, Mr Peters had a reasonable opportunity to put forward his competing point of view. Given the level of public interest in the interview, Mr Peter’s position and his experience with the media, the Authority also found Ms Hill’s interview style did not result in Mr Peters being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
The Authority did not uphold three complaints about an episode of Sunday that discussed freedom of expression and hate speech and which featured edited excerpts of an interview with Canadian commentators, Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern. The Authority found the broadcast was balanced, containing a wide range of perspectives on a controversial issue of public importance, being the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in New Zealand. The Authority also found that the interview with Mr Molyneux and Ms Southern was used to illustrate points relevant to the wider topic but was not in itself the central focus of the item. The pending visit of Mr Molyneux and Ms Southern was therefore used to frame the issues in the item. The Authority further determined that, while an interview of Mr Molyneux was heavily edited, the extract was unlikely to mislead viewers or result in any undue harm to the reputations of Mr Molyneux or Ms Southern. Finally, the Authority emphasised the importance of public discussion and discourse about the issues of freedom of expression and harmful speech and the important role broadcasts like this play in that discussion.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
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
The Authority has not upheld two complaints that comments by Leighton Smith about climate change issues were unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. Mr Smith provided his views in response to a news item, saying that climate change was not predominantly man made and was instead due to ‘normal variability’. The Authority noted that the balance and accuracy standards apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes, and the requirements of the accuracy standard do not apply to statements of analysis, comment or opinion. In this case, the Authority considered it was clear that Mr Smith’s statements amounted to statements of opinion in a talkback context. In these circumstances, and taking into account the role and reputation of Mr Smith as a well-known climate change sceptic, listeners would not expect to hear a balanced or authoritative examination on the topic of climate change. Further, no individuals or organisations were treated unfairly in the broadcast. The Authority therefore found that the alleged harm did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and its intervention in upholding the complaint would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
During a segment on The Leighton Smith Show, host Leighton Smith quoted a listener’s views on news sources such as CNN, the BBC and Newshub. Mr Smith went on to say that consumers of similar sources lived in ‘blissful ignorance’ because they did not listen to the views of ‘the other side’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Smith’s comments were biased and dismissive towards reputable news sources. The Authority noted that, while talkback radio is not immune to broadcasting standards, the balance and accuracy standards in particular apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes, and the accuracy standard does not apply to statements clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion. In this case, and taking into account wider contextual factors such as audience expectations of the programme (which is predominantly talkback) and the reputation of Mr Smith, the Authority agreed that Mr Smith’s comments were clearly distinguishable as opinion and listeners would not have been left misinformed or misled. This was an opinion open to Mr Smith to express, and was not unfair to the news organisations or their consumers. The Authority therefore found that its intervention, in upholding the complaint and limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a 1 News item, reporting on a national hikoi against the use of 1080, was unbalanced. The item focused on claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Forest & Bird that the increased protest activity was resulting in a rise in threats to staff. The Authority recognised that the item addressed a controversial issue of public importance and found that it pointed to significant viewpoints on this issue, with comment sought from the hikoi organiser, as well as representatives from DOC, Forest & Bird and the Minister of Conservation. The issue was also widely reported in other news media, during the period of current interest, with viewers therefore likely to be aware of the main perspectives on this narrow issue associated with the 1080 debate. In these circumstances, the Authority found that upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the broadcasters’ right to editorial discretion and freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on the Government’s intention to remove a benefit reduction sanction that can apply to sole beneficiary parents who do not name the remaining parent. The complainant alleged the item was unbalanced and misleading, as the report omitted details about the exemptions that can apply to the sanction, including that a parent will not have to name the other parent where the child or sole parent could be at risk of violence. The Authority found that the focus of this item was the Government’s desire to remove the sanction. The omission of details about the exemptions was therefore not material to the overall focus of the item, and did not mislead viewers. The Authority also found that the balance standard did not apply, as the item was a brief, straightforward news report on the possible legislative change, and did not purport to be an in-depth discussion of the detail and merits of the existing law and proposed change.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness