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
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
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Breakfast, in which the phrase ‘he rooted my missus’ was read out on air, breached the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found that while the phrase was coarse and may have offended some viewers, the term ‘rooted’ was unlikely to undermine or violate widely shared community norms. Overall, the Authority found that any potential for harm did not justify a restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
Warning: This decision contains language that some readers may find offensive
During an interview on Breakfast about a proposed cull of Himalayan tahr, the Minister of Conservation, Hon Eugenie Sage, appeared to use the word ‘cunters’ when referring to the educational effort undertaken by tahr hunters. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the Minister’s use of this word during this interview breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. The use of the word was an accidental slip of the tongue and it was clear that the Minister intended to refer to ‘hunters’ during this section of the interview. The use of the word was not deliberate nor was it used with any malice or invective. The Minister herself acknowledged that she could have enunciated the word ‘hunters’ more clearly during the interview and apologised for any offence it caused. Overall, the Authority found that the use of this term, in the particular context, did not meet the threshold tests for breach of the relevant standards.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an episode of Breakfast, in which the hosts and viewer feedback discussed people stealing at supermarket self-service checkouts by putting in the wrong code for items they are purchasing. The Authority found the programme did not actively encourage viewers to steal or break the law in breach of the law and order standard. Across the programme as a whole, the hosts and viewers offered a range of views on the ethics of stealing at self-checkouts, including strong views against such behaviour, and clearly acknowledged it was ‘theft’ and illegal. The tone of the discussion was consistent with audience expectations of Breakfast and its hosts, and would not have unduly offended or distressed viewers, so the good taste and decency standard was also not breached.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Good Taste and Decency
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a discussion on Breakfast, about controversial comments made by Israel Folau, was in breach of the balance broadcasting standard. During the discussion, weather reporter, Matty McLean, gave his opinion on the comments, saying that he found them to be harmful. The Authority recognised that Mr Folau’s comments sparked ongoing public debate about the right to freedom of expression and harm. The discussion on Breakfast therefore amounted to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance under the standard. However, the Authority considered Mr McLean was clearly expressing his opinion on the issue and was entitled to do so, given Breakfast’s well-established programme format which includes the hosts expressing their views on current events. Differing perspectives on the topic were also available in surrounding media, so viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of the significant points of view on this issue. For these reasons, the Authority considered that upholding this complaint would represent an unjustified and unreasonable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance
During Hauraki Breakfast, hosts Jeremy Wells and Matt Heath discussed smoking marijuana, in relation to several National Party MPs who had recently publicly stated they had never tried it. The hosts took calls from listeners who had also never tried marijuana and asked them why they had never tried it. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast promoted and encouraged the use of marijuana. The Authority found the broadcast amounted to a comedic discussion of smoking marijuana that did not go beyond established audience expectations of Radio Hauraki, Hauraki Breakfast or the hosts. The Authority noted that humour and satire are important aspects of free speech, and found that on this occasion, there was insufficient risk of harm to justify limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Children’s Interests
A segment on Polly & Grant for Breakfast featured the hosts reading out and discussing a list of countries referred to as ‘the last places on Earth with no internet’. The list was long and included countries such as India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The list was evidently sourced from an online article that contained relevant information about the countries listed having internet user penetration rates of less than 20%. That information was omitted during the broadcast, and created an impression that the countries listed had no internet. The Authority nevertheless did not uphold a complaint under the accuracy standard. The Authority noted that the accuracy standard only applies to news, current affairs or factual programming and found that it did not apply to this light-hearted, entertainment-based programme. The Authority noted that, while the information broadcast was incorrect, the hosts’ discussion of the relevant countries did not contain the malice or invective required to encourage discrimination or denigration, or undermine widely shared community standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
During an interview on Breakfast, presenter Hilary Barry and Hon Julie Anne Genter, Minister for Women, discussed the gender pay gap in New Zealand, the Minister’s views on possible causes of the pay gap, and what the Government intended to do to close the gap in the public and private sectors. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the discussion was unbalanced because it did not present alternative perspectives on the existence of the gender pay gap, or its causes. The Authority did not consider the item amounted to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance, noting there is evidence available that the gender pay gap exists, and the item did not purport to be an in-depth examination of the causes. The interview was also clearly presented from the perspective of the Minister for Women, advocating for women’s interests. In this context viewers would not have expected to receive countering views, and the omission of an ‘anti-feminist’ or ‘men’s rights’ perspective did not result in a breach of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Balance
During a sports news segment on Breakfast, the sports presenter was discussing American golfer Jordan Spieth’s victory at the British Open Championship. At the end of the segment the presenter remarked, ‘Yeah, they don’t have very good humour the British, do they? They probably didn’t get [Mr Spieth’s] speech.’ A complaint was made that this comment was ‘racist and untrue’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding the comment was not malicious and was unlikely to cause widespread offence, therefore any potential harm caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy
A short news item during Breakfast reported that the body of a German hostage, who had been beheaded by militants in the Philippines, had been recovered. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item depicted a ‘severed head’, which was offensive and unacceptable to broadcast, especially during a time when children were likely to be watching television. In the context of a very brief news report, the item would not have exceeded audience expectations and would not have unduly offended or disturbed viewers. The content shown was not graphic or at a level which required a warning to be given, and the story carried public interest. While the news item was broadcast at a time when children were likely to be watching television, Breakfast is an unclassified morning news and current affairs programme, it is not targeted at child viewers and there is an expectation of adult supervision during this type of programming.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence
Various items on Breakfast featured a weather reporter providing weather forecasts from Airbnb accommodation, as part of a competition for viewers to win Airbnb vouchers. During the items, the reporter interviewed three New Zealanders who rented out their accommodation through Airbnb, as well as an Airbnb representative, about the service. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these items failed to cover key information about Airbnb, resulting in inaccurate and unbalanced broadcasts that were also in breach of the law and order standard. The items were in the nature of advertorials, being programme content that was not news, current affairs, or factual programming to which the accuracy and balance standards applied. In any event, the Authority considered that the level of information provided about Airbnb was appropriate to the series of segments as a whole, which encouraged viewers to enter the Airbnb competition by providing a light-hearted look at the type of accommodation available on Airbnb and how New Zealanders got involved. The items did not purport to be in-depth investigations of Airbnb and its repercussions on the economy, and did not promote illegal activity.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order
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
An item on Breakfast reported on a shoot-out during an anti-terror raid in Brussels. During the item, the Europe Correspondent stated, ‘We’ve now heard that one suspect has been neutralised’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the term ‘neutralised’ was not accurate, appropriate or neutral language. The Authority found the choice of language was not a material point of fact in the item, which focused on an anti-terror raid linked to the Paris terror attacks. Further, the term ‘neutralised’ is at times used in the context of reporting on police or counter-terrorism action. The use of this term was not biased against, and did not imply fault on the part of, the Belgian Police.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues
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
During Jeremy Wells’ ‘Like Mike’ skit on Hauraki Breakfast Regurgitated, in which he parodied radio and television presenter Mike Hosking, Mr Wells discussed the flag debate and his admiration for John Key. Imitating Mr Hosking’s voice he said, ‘I was pleasuring myself watching John Key on Parliament TV the other day, and, just when things were coming to a climax, they cut to [Labour leader Andrew] Little and I lost thickness immediately’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comment breached standards of good taste and decency. The item was clearly satirical and intended to be humorous, and was consistent with audience expectations of Mr Wells, Mr Hosking, the programme and the radio station. The comments were inexplicit and in the nature of innuendo, and would have gone over the heads of most children.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
A segment on Breakfast featured an interview with the chair of the Eating Disorders Association, who discussed that some individuals may mask eating disorders with particular ‘fad diets’. Although the chair did not specifically mention veganism, banners shown on-screen during the segment read, ‘Fears teens use veganism to restrict food intake’ and ‘Fears people use veganism to restrict food intake’. The Authority did not uphold complaints that the banners were misleading by suggesting veganism was an eating disorder and encouraged bullying of vegans. Viewers would not have been misled by the broadcast as a whole or encouraged to bully vegans. In any case, vegans are not a section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness, Responsible Programming
During the Port FM Breakfast Show the presenters allegedly mentioned ‘Jimmy from Omarama’. The Authority declined to determine a complaint from Jimmy Courtney that the broadcast breached his privacy, as the broadcaster was unable to provide a recording of the broadcast. The Authority however noted that on the basis of the information before it, it appeared unlikely the broadcast amounted to a breach of privacy. The Authority also recorded its expectation that broadcasters retain recordings of broadcasts for 35 days following the broadcast.
Declined to determine: Privacy
During Jeremy Wells’ ‘Like Mike’ skit on the Hauraki Breakfast show, in which he parodied radio and television presenter Mike Hosking, Mr Wells made various comments about Māori people and Stewart Islanders. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments were racist, offensive and degraded Māori and Stewart Islanders. The item was clearly satirical and intended to be humorous, and was consistent with audience expectations of the programme and the radio station. As satire, the item did not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, Māori or Stewart Islanders and this form of speech is a legitimate and important exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming