A Close Up item focused on a New Zealand doctor who was offering an experimental stem cell treatment to people with Multiple Sclerosis. Hidden camera footage was obtained by a patient, and parts of it were broadcast in the story. The Authority upheld the complaint from the doctor that he was treated unfairly and his privacy was breached. The doctor was not given a fair opportunity to comment for the programme, his privacy was invaded through the use of a hidden camera, and, as the raw footage from the consultation was unavailable, the broadcaster could not demonstrate that the level of public interest in the footage outweighed the breach of privacy.
Upheld: Fairness, Privacy
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues
Orders: Section 16(1) – legal costs to the complainant $5,500
Close Up reported on comments made by the Principal of Pompallier Catholic College in a school newsletter, objecting to gay marriage. The item claimed that the Principal suspended a teacher, who was interviewed by Close Up, and that students who opposed the comments were "threatened". A news ticker on Breakfast the following morning echoed the claims. The school argued the programmes were misleading and unfair, because the teacher was suspended for reasons other than his objection to the Principal's views, and no students were threatened. The Authority found that Close Up did not fairly present the reasons for the suspension, which created an unfairly negative impression of the Principal and the College, who were not given a fair chance to comment. It said the item should have couched the "threats" as allegations or the students' views, rather than unequivocal statements of fact. The Breakfast ticker was not material in the context of the programme.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
An item on Close Up reported on vandalism at Horowhenua Rowing Club and included cell phone footage of the complainant verbally abusing a kayaker. The complainant was interviewed about his views on public access to Lake Horowhenua and about his behaviour in the footage. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached the fairness and accuracy standards: while it was suggested that the complainant might have been responsible for the vandalism, the complainant was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to rebut that suggestion, and the reporter made it clear that no one had been charged with the vandalism; the complainant explained his behaviour; the reference to an assault conviction was correct at the time of broadcast and the item was accurate on all points of fact; and the focus of the item was vandalism at the rowing club in the context of a wider dispute over public access. The complainant was provided with sufficient opportunity to comment on the issues and to provide balance.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness
An item on Close Up on TV One reported on a man who faced losing two of his fingers if he chose to continue smoking cigarettes. The presenter jokingly asked the man if he wanted a cigarette. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the presenter's comments breached standards relating to good taste and decency, fairness and responsible programming: the man was a willing participant and took the comments with good humour, and the comments would not have offended or distressed most viewers.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Responsible Programming
An item on Close Up on TV One reported on the controversy around the establishment of an abortion clinic in Invercargill, and the strong opposition from 'pro-life' group Southlanders For Life. The item included interviews with a 'pro-life' representative and a 'pro-choice' representative. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached standards relating to accuracy, fairness, and discrimination and denigration. The item did not suggest that all 'pro-life' groups were violent; the perspective of Southlanders For Life, including its position on violence, was reflected fairly and its representative treated impartially. The reporter's general statement about violence committed by a 'pro-life' group in America was accurate, and the item was not required to define abortion or to include images of aborted babies. The item did not encourage discrimination against, or the denigration of, any section of the community.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
A Close Up item reported on the sentencing of a man convicted of shooting another man in a hunting accident. During a visual reconstruction of a hunting trip, a gun was shown pointing towards the camera; the image was brief and out-of-focus and was on screen for approximately two seconds. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this breached the law and order standard: footage of a gun pointed at the camera, while confronting, did not, when taken in context, encourage viewers to break the law or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
The complainant alleged that four items on TVNZ News and Close Up breached standards relating to accuracy or law and order. These included footage of a reporter walking backwards which was considered to be dangerous; a reference to a reference to a wildfire covering “an area of around 15,000 rugby fields”; a comment about “letting loose” in a car that could reach speeds of 130 miles per hour; and a comment about the size of hen cages being “4cm more than conventional cages”.
The Authority declined to determine the complaints on the basis they were frivolous and trivial in accordance with section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
Declined to Determine: Law and Order, Accuracy
An item on Close Up, a current affairs programme broadcast on TV One, reported on the activities of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) which was said to be part of a “Pay and Pray” movement. The item profiled an ex-congregation member, X, who claimed she had made substantial donations to the church which left her in a position of financial hardship. The item contained hidden camera footage of a Bishop and Pastor preaching to a large audience about tithes and donations. The Authority did not uphold complaints that the item breached standards relating to privacy, controversial issues, accuracy, fairness, discrimination and denigration, and responsible programming. Though X was identifiable and the item disclosed private facts about her, she was a willing participant and there was insufficient evidence to show she had withdrawn her consent to the broadcast. The Bishop and the Pastor were identifiable in the hidden camera footage but they did not have an interest in seclusion in a church service that was open and accessible to the general public; in any event the public interest defence applied. The item was clearly framed as X’s opinion and included opinions from members in support of the church. UCKG was provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment and its statement was adequately summarised in the item. The item did not amount to a “discussion” of a controversial issue, and in any event the broadcaster made reasonable efforts, and gave reasonable opportunities, to present significant viewpoints. The comments did not carry the level of invective necessary to encourage discrimination against, or the denigration of, any section of the community.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming
An item on Close Up, broadcast on TV One, profiled the complainant and introduced him by referring to some of his previous complaints, including “that a One News isobar on the weather map was a subliminal advertisement for the movie Shrek”, and that he “complained to the Wellington City Council that its fireworks displays contained phallic symbols”. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached the accuracy and fairness standards: the item did not suggest that all or most of Mr McDonald’s complaints were unfounded but that he complained “too often about too little”; it provided a context to the complaints, and the complainant was able to put forward his own perspective. Accuracy was subsumed into the Authority’s discussion of fairness.
Not Upheld: Fairness
Subsumed: Accuracy (into Fairness)
A Close Up report profiled Māori activists and their views on the Government’s sale of state assets and proposed mining activities. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached standards relating to good taste and decency, controversial issues, and discrimination and denigration: the views expressed by the activist represented one end of a political spectrum – they were described as radical and the audience would have understood that they were not representative of all Māori or young Māori; the item did not encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, any section of the community; the interview focused on the activist and his brother and their political views; the reporter took a “devil’s advocate” approach, and the programme included viewer feedback.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Controversial Issues, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Close Up reported on an incident at Fairfield College, Hamilton in which a group of teenage girls were admitted to hospital after taking drugs. The presenter included a summary of problems previously experienced at Fairfield College. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached the controversial issues, accuracy and fairness standards: the item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance, it did not create a misleading impression about the problems faced at Fairfield College, and the College was provided with a reasonable opportunity to comment and its response was adequately conveyed in the broadcast.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness
A satirical item on Close Up featured a comedian reviewing the election campaign the night before the general election. The comedian used a whiteboard, on which the name of the Leader of the Opposition appeared and disappeared from time to time. The Authority declined to uphold the complaint that the broadcast breached the controversial issues and fairness standards: the item was a light-hearted review and did not require the presentation of alternative viewpoints, and the complainant did not identify who he thought had been treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Fairness
Close Up. Interview with New Zealand vodou high priest. Not upheld (privacy, accuracy, fairness and discrimination and denigration).
Close Up. Item stated that Watercare had failed to respond to complaints about water leak in West Auckland. Not upheld (accuracy, fairness and children’s interests).
Close Up. Studio interview about police corruption. Not upheld (controversial issues).
Close Up: “Worst Town”. Satirical item on marketing strategy to enhance Palmerston North’s image as a visitor destination included file footage of clock tower and other buildings. Not upheld (accuracy).
Close Up. Viewers’ poll questioning whether the Government should have apologised to India for Paul Henry’s controversial remarks included edited footage from a debate on an Indian television network. Not upheld (controversial issues, accuracy).
Close Up. Interviewee launching brand of natural cosmetics made statements about the chemicals contained in standard cosmetics. Not upheld (controversial issues, accuracy, fairness).
Close Up. Item discussed high teenage pregnancy and abortion rates in New Zealand. Not upheld (controversial issues).
Close Up. Interview with female porn star included footage of her wearing lingerie and clips from her pornographic movies. Upheld (good taste and decency and children’s interests): action taken. Orders (broadcast statement, $3,000 costs to Crown).