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
The Authority has declined to determine a complaint about an item on Nights, which discussed the New Zealand Book Council’s initiative to create a men’s book club, with the aim of encouraging more men to read books. Mr Golden complained that the item was inaccurate. He submitted that men should not be encouraged to read more books, as paper-based books were, for example, heavy, spread unwanted bacteria and could cause eye problems. The Authority declined to determine the complaint on the basis that it was frivolous and trivial, and ordered the complainant to pay a reasonable portion of costs to the broadcaster to compensate for the time and resources spent in dealing with the complaint.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy
Order: Section 16(2)(a) – $100 costs to the broadcaster
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that replacement programming broadcast on RNZ National instead of Children’s Storytime breached the children’s interests standard. On 17 March 2019, shortly after the 15 March 2019 attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, instead of the usual Children’s Storytime, RNZ played excerpts from the podcast Public Enemy, a four-part series from 2016/17 looking at growing up Muslim in the post September 11 world. The Authority found that while the replacement broadcast contained material that could be disturbing for children, and while there was a greater chance of children tuning in due to the usually scheduled programming at that time, the broadcaster took steps to adequately inform listeners of the nature of the programme. This would have enabled caregivers to decide whether the content was suitable for children in their care. Further, the replacement programme had significant public interest in the context of the recent 15 March attacks. The Authority therefore found any restriction on the right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests
The Authority has not upheld a privacy complaint about items on Newshub and The AM Show, which reported on a Police raid of a gang house and featured footage of the complainant’s property, with the house number blurred. The Authority found that the privacy standard did not apply in this case, as the complainant was not identifiable in the broadcast and no private information or material was disclosed about them. As the house was only filmed to the extent visible from the street, the broadcaster did not intrude upon the complainant’s interest in solitude or seclusion in a way that was highly offensive. The Authority recognised the public interest in the broadcast and found that the harm alleged to have been caused by the complainant did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Privacy
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
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a segment of Dom, Meg and Randell breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The Authority found that, while comments made on the show may have been distasteful to some, the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression includes the right to broadcast such material provided this does not cause undue harm. The Authority found that, given the well-established nature of the programme, the station and their target audience, listeners and particularly those with children in their care had sufficient information to make an informed decision about what they listened to. The Authority noted that the standards do not prohibit inexplicit sexual references or sexual innuendo during children’s normally accepted listening times, and it was likely that many of the references during this segment would have gone over the heads of child listeners. In any event, The Edge is not targeted at children and this particular segment, while it may have been distasteful to some, did not meet the threshold to justify regulatory intervention.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests
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
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 Broadcasting Standards Authority has not upheld a complaint that a clip from Family Guy, featured in a promo montage for upcoming programmes on TVNZ, breached the good taste and decency standard. The clip showed Peter Griffin, a male cartoon character, sitting on a chair and opening his legs to show his genitals (which were pixelated). The Authority found that, given the time of the broadcast was after 9pm, the fact that Family Guy is a cartoon comedy and that the scene was brief, the promo was not outside audience expectations and did not undermine current norms of good taste and decency. The Authority therefore found any restriction on the right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
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
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interviewee’s language, broadcast during an item on Morning Report on 10 December 2018, was violent and inappropriate. The item reported on the declining memberships of sports clubs in New Zealand and featured an interview with the Club Captain of a tennis club. The interviewee commented that the tennis courts were so empty ‘you could… fire a machine gun and hit no one.’ The Authority noted that the right to freedom of expression allows individuals to express themselves in their own words, provided this does not cause undue harm. In this case, the comment made by the interviewee was brief, was not overly graphic or targeted at a particular individual or group, and was not intended to be taken literally. Taking into account contextual factors, such as the adult target audience of Morning Report and RNZ National, the broadcast was unlikely to unduly distress or disturb listeners, or any children that might have been listening, and was not so graphic as to require an audience advisory for violent content.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interview on The Weekend, which covered various aspects of racism in Canada, breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. The Authority found that the interviewee’s use of ‘goddamn’ as an expletive was unlikely to undermine or violate widely shared community norms. Further, the interviewee’s reference to the colonial treatment of Canada’s indigenous people did not breach the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority found that the comments did not apply to a recognised section of the community consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993. The Authority therefore found any restriction on the right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a Newshub item, which featured blurred footage of a child, was in breach of the children’s interests standard. The item reported on the conviction of a British tourist for stealing from a service station and featured blurred footage of the woman’s child as the pair exited a New Zealand court. The Authority noted that the children’s interests standard is designed to protect children when viewing and listening to broadcasts. Complaints about children featured in broadcasts are more appropriately dealt with under other standards. In any event, there was no material in this item that might have adversely affected child viewers. The child was fully blurred throughout the item, protecting their identity, and while the item contained footage of the child making an obscene gesture, the item as a whole was focused on the actions of the adult family members and the resulting convictions. There was no element of exploitation or humiliation of the child, and the Authority found the harm alleged did not reach the threshold required to find a breach of broadcasting standards.
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the use of the term ‘booted out’, in reference to the Speaker of the House, Hon Trevor Mallard, ejecting the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Simon Bridges, from the House, was inaccurate. The Authority found there was no reason to suggest the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcasts complained about. The Authority found that the use of terms such as ‘booted out’ and ‘kicked out’, in reference to Members of Parliament who have been ordered by the Speaker of the House to leave the House, is common in New Zealand and therefore its use was unlikely to mislead or misinform listeners.
Not Upheld: Accuracy