A segment of Seven Sharp on 13 October 2021 reported on the COVID-19 vaccine. The complaint was the segment breached the balance, accuracy and fairness standards as the report incorrectly stated the vaccine was safe for people that are pregnant or breastfeeding. The Authority found the relevant statements were materially accurate. In any event, it was reasonable for TVNZ to rely on Dr Nikki Turner as an authoritative source. In dismissing material relied upon by the complainant to challenge the vaccine’s safety, the Authority also cautioned against the risk of contributing to misinformation by drawing conclusions from extracts of information without an understanding of the context. The balance and fairness standards did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint under the good taste and decency and other standards about comments on Magic Talk regarding the LynnMall terror incident. Host Stephen McIvor responded “well spoken” to a caller who praised police for their actions (killing the suspect) which saved the country money. While insensitive, the comments did not reach the threshold for regulatory intervention. The remaining standards either did not apply or were not breached.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order
An episode of Sunday included an investigation into the Delta strain of SARS-CoV-2 and its effects. Whilst focused on Australia, the segment included an interview with a teenager in Ireland who had recovered from COVID-19. The complainant stated the segment breached the accuracy standard as it implied the interviewee had COVID-19 in Australia and had contracted the Delta SARS-CoV-2 variant (neither of which was true). The Authority did not uphold the complaint. The Authority found the issues raised were unlikely to affect a viewer’s understanding of the segment as a whole.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has found aspects of Talanoa Sa’o breached the accuracy standard. While parts of the programme were opinion, comment or analysis to which the standard does not apply, it did contain incorrect statements of fact, false assertions, and omissions of information which would materially mislead viewers (particularly through implication). The programme created the incorrect impression that social housing will only be provided to people who are vaccinated against COVID-19; that hydroxychloroquine is an effective COVID-19 treatment and the Government has deliberately prevented New Zealanders from accessing it; and that a baby was born after an attempted abortion and left to die as a result of recently amended abortion laws. The broadcaster did not provide evidence of reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the programme.
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) – broadcast statement; Section 16(4) – $500 costs to the Crown
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interview between Indira Stewart and Hon Judith Collins as part of Breakfast’s ‘weekly check-in’ with the Leader of the Opposition breached the balance and accuracy standards. While acknowledging the robust and heated nature of the interview, the Authority found that as the segment was an interview with the Leader of the Opposition, and provided her with the opportunity to respond at length, the balance standard was not breached. Further, while the complainant considered Stewart’s line of questioning and comments to be uninformed and inaccurate, the Authority found that these were not ‘statements of fact’ to which the accuracy standard applied.
Not Upheld: Balance and Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint alleging an item on Newshub Live at 6pm lacked balance. The item reported on reactions to the sentencing of a person involved in the ‘coward punch’ death of a prominent Auckland kickboxer. A person’s sentencing is not a controversial issue of public importance, so the balance standard does not apply. In any case, it was clear the item was coming from a particular perspective.
Not Upheld: Balance
Following an interview with a COVID-19 vaccine advocate on the AM Show, the host noted Medsafe gave the vaccine the ‘same approval as everyday medicines like Panadol and Nurofen’. The complaint stated this was misleading and in breach of five standards, including the accuracy standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint as the accuracy standard is concerned with material inaccuracy. To the extent there was any inaccuracy, it was unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the programme. The Authority considered the other standards raised either did not apply or were not breached.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Balance, Fairness
An announcer on The Edge Breakfast recounted an experience at her antenatal class where she discussed how to address constipation post childbirth. The complaint was this segment breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, taking into account the programme’s target audience, audience expectations, and the low-level language complained about (being of an anatomical, rather than a profane or sexual nature).
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency and Children’s Interests
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a 1 News Covid Update broadcast breached the balance and accuracy standards by featuring modelling of the current COVID-19 outbreak provided by Professor Shaun Hendy. The Authority found the balance standard was not breached. While the item discussed the topic of COVID-19 modelling, which is a controversial issue of public importance, it was clearly signalled as approaching the topic from a particular perspective. Viewers could also reasonably be expected to be aware of alternative views from other coverage. The accuracy standard was not breached as the modelling was analysis, comment or opinion and so was not subject to the standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
The Authority has declined to determine two complaints under various standards, including discrimination and denigration, about an item on Seven Sharp on 28 September 2021. The item reported on employment issues relating to the COVID-19 vaccine. Following an interview with an employment lawyer, the presenters discussed a hypothetical dinner party where a guest turned out to be unvaccinated. The complainants were concerned about the treatment of people that were not vaccinated, who do not amount to a relevant section of society for the purposes of the discrimination and denigration standard. The remainder of the complaint reflected the complainants’ personal views and/or was unrelated to the broadcast. In all the circumstances (including scientific consensus around the safety of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic), the Authority considered it should not determine the complaints.
Declined to Determine (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, in all the circumstances): Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Balance, Fairness