BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Burrows and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2012-135

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Leigh Pearson
Dated
Complainant
  • Wayne Burrows
Number
2012-135
Programme
One News
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – reported on funding cuts to telephone support service for victims of rape and sexual assault – allegedly in breach of standards relating to controversial issues and discrimination and denigration

Findings
Standard 4 (controversial issues) – item focused on funding cuts to service – did not discuss gender of perpetrators and victims of sexual violence so not required to present alternative viewpoints on that issue – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – no implication that men are the primary perpetrators of sexual violence and women the victims – item did not encourage discrimination against, or the denigration of, men as a section of the community – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  An item on One News was introduced as follows:

A support service for victims of rape and sexual assault is set to slash its helpline hours following a quarter of its funding being cut. Those working in the centre say it highlights the need for more sustainable funding.

[2]  The item was broadcast on TV One on 20 November 2012.

[3]  Wayne Burrows made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item was biased because no effort was made to “portray men as victims and women as perpetrators of sexual violence [because] all of the telephone counsellors and all of the victims [shown in the item] were female. In contrast all of the perpetrators were male”. He argued that the item denigrated men.

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached standards relating to balance (Standard 4), and discrimination and denigration (Standard 7) as set out in the the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the item discuss a controversial issue of public importance requiring the presentation of alternative viewpoints?

[6]  The balance standard (Standard 4) states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest. The balance standard exists to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.1

[7]  A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to programmes which discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The subject matter must be an issue “of public importance”, it must be “controversial”, and it must be “discussed”.2

[8]  The focus of this item was funding cuts to a telephone support service for victims of sexual violence, and the expected impact on service users. The gender of perpetrators and victims of sexual violence was not commented on, or alluded to, in any way in the brief news item. We disagree with the complainant that the footage of female staff members and a female victim, and male offenders, portrayed men as the sole perpetrators of sexual violence and women as the victims.

[9]  Television is a visual medium, and the footage of helpline workers taking telephone calls was simply used as wallpaper to accompany the story. The item contained an interview with the HELP Crisis Services Manager about the organisation’s perspective on the funding cuts. It also included an interview with one victim of sexual abuse, who explained how she made use of the telephone service. The comments were used to illustrate the expected impact of the funding cuts. The fact that staff members and the victim happened to be female had no bearing on the item or the information conveyed to viewers.

[10]  Towards the end of the item, the reporter stated, “This calls for alarm at a time when sexual abuse is so much in the spotlight”. As she said this, footage of two men involved in recent high profile sexual abuse cases were shown standing in the court dock. These images were recognisable from recent media coverage, and related to the reporter’s comment about sexual abuse being in the “spotlight”. There was no implication that men are the primary perpetrators of sexual violence; again, this footage was simply illustrative and a visual accompaniment to the reporter’s comment.

[11]  For these reasons, it was not necessary for the broadcaster to explicitly recognise that both men and women can be perpetrators or victims of sexual violence. We therefore decline to uphold the balance complaint.

Did the broadcast encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, men as a section of the community?

[12]  The discrimination and denigration standard (Standard 7) protects against broadcasts which encourage the denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community.

[13]  The item did not make any inference about the gender of sexual violence perpetrators and victims. It did not comment in any way on men in general, as a group, or demonstrate any malice or invective towards them; it was a straightforward news story focused on the funding of the support service. We are therefore satisfied that the item did not encourage discrimination against, or the denigration of, men as a section of the community, and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 7.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
2 April 2013

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1           Wayne Burrows’ formal complaint – 20 November 2012

2          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 14 December 2012

3          Mr Burrows’ referral to the Authority – 14 December 2012

4          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 22 February 2013


1Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014

2For further discussion of these concepts see Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Television (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2010) and Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Radio (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2009).