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
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
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 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
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
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
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 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
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 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 an episode of Shortland Street, characters Lincoln and Jack took Nicole out for drinks to take her mind off her attacker. Lincoln, who was previously in a relationship with a man, was shown taking an illegal drug which he gave to Nicole. Later in the episode, Lincoln and Nicole were shown in bed together. In the episode broadcast the following evening, Jack asked Lincoln about being gay and sleeping with Nicole. Lincoln replied that he did not have to ‘put a label on it’, saying, ‘I’m just me’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme’s portrayal of Lincoln’s sexuality, by a straight actor, could have damaging effects on young viewers or those struggling with their sexuality. The character explained that he preferred not to use labels and there was no suggestion that Lincoln’s sexual orientation changed under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that his sexual orientation was ‘a phase’. While the Authority acknowledged that ensuring diversity in casting was an important issue, the casting of straight actors to play gay or queer characters was a decision for the broadcaster. The actor’s portrayal of Lincoln was part of the programme’s fictional narrative, which in context was not in breach of standards. The Authority therefore did not identify any grounds which would justify restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression or dramatic license in this case.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
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
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an interview between Checkpoint’s John Campbell and former United States television personality, Matt Lauer, who at the time was involved in controversy regarding public access to his New Zealand property. The complainant alleged that Mr Campbell unfairly emphasised the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office’s (OIO) reassessment of Mr Lauer under its ‘good character test’, and later made false allegations about who had initially raised this topic. The Authority found that the circumstances of the OIO’s assessment were directly relevant to the discussion and that this was raised again later in the interview by Mr Lauer himself. Mr Lauer was given ample opportunity during the interview to present his perspective on his treatment by New Zealand media and the issue of foreign land ownership and public access.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a RadioLIVE Drive show, which discussed the issue of property managers or landlords asking to see the bank statements of prospective tenants. The Authority found the broadcast did not breach any of the broadcasting standards raised by the complainant, noting the broadcast included a range of viewpoints from the hosts, interviewees and listeners who phoned into the programme. The broadcast discussed a legitimate issue and was in line with audience expectations for the programme and for talkback radio. The Authority therefore found no actual or potential harm that might have outweighed the important right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Privacy, Fairness
A complaint about a Newshub item in which the presenter commented, ‘And I thought the only reason we watch Aussie Rules [AFL] was for the short shorts’, has not been upheld by the Authority. The Authority found that the comment, while inappropriate, did not reach the threshold to be considered a serious violation of community norms of good taste and decency. The Authority acknowledged the importance of contextual factors in considering whether the standards have been breached, including the nature of Newshub as an unclassified news programme and audience expectations of the broadcast. The Authority recognised that the statement was not made with malice or nastiness and found the comment did not breach the discrimination and denigration, balance or fairness standards.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment on The Project that discussed whether bystanders should step in if they see parents treating their children in a way they do not agree with. At the beginning of the segment the presenters described an incident in which a father (the complainant) allegedly disciplined his son by denying him afternoon tea. Another parent reported this to Oranga Tamariki, who later found no cause for action and dismissed the complaint. The complainant argued the segment omitted important details about the incident, and was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority acknowledged the significant effect these events have had on the complainant and his family. However, the Authority found the incident, and the reporting of it to Oranga Tamariki, was used to frame the broader discussion about bystander intervention, rather than being the focus of the item. Therefore the item was unlikely to mislead viewers or result in harm at a level that justified restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News reporting on the separation of migrant families in the United States. The complaint was that references to President Donald Trump’s ‘immigration crackdown’ and ‘Trump’s policy’ of separating children from their parents were misleading, unbalanced and unfair as the relevant law pre-dated Trump’s presidency. The Authority concluded the broadcast did not breach the accuracy, balance or fairness standards, as the references reasonably reflected the Trump administration’s position regarding the enforcement of criminal prosecutions for illegal immigrants. The Authority emphasised the high level of public and political interest in the story and found that any limitation on the right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
Two complaints regarding an episode of Shortland Street were not upheld. In the episode a new character appointed CEO of the Shortland Street hospital commented, ‘Puffed up, privileged Pakeha men drunk on control, terrified of change… we are the future, Esther, not them,’ referring to the hospital’s management. Complaints were made that this statement was sexist, racist and offensive to white men. The Authority reviewed the programme and relevant contextual factors, including established expectations of Shortland Street as a long-running, fictional soap opera/drama, and concluded the character’s statement did not breach broadcasting standards. It found upholding the complaints in this context would unreasonably limit the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness