A number of news bulletins on Morning Report reported findings from fact-checking group First Draft about political spending on Facebook advertising in the lead-up to the 2020 General Election and referendums. Two complaints alleged the bulletins inaccurately reported pro-cannabis group Make It Legal NZ had misleading ads removed from Facebook. The Authority did not uphold the complaints, finding although the morning bulletins were misleading and the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of those reports, a later news bulletin during Midday Report was sufficient to clarify and correct the misleading impression created earlier. The Authority also found Make It Legal was not treated unfairly, as it is a lobby group that could reasonably expect a level of public scrutiny, and it was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the morning news items.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
Warning: This decision contains language that some readers may find offensive.
The Authority has upheld a complaint that the frequent use of ‘fuck’ (and variations) during A Life on the Road breached the good taste and decency standard. The episode featured Brian Johnson of AC/DC talking to Lars Ulrich of Metallica about touring in the early 90s, along with footage from the tours and interviews with Metallica crew and fans. It was broadcast at 12pm with a ‘PGL’ rating (Parental Guidance; language may offend). The Authority found this did not provide sufficient reliable information to signpost the level and frequency of language in the programme and did not give the audience an adequate opportunity to exercise choice and control – meaning they were more likely to be surprised and offended by the content. The Authority found an ‘M’ rating and more detailed onscreen warning, for example for ‘frequent coarse language’, would have been more appropriate for the content and more consistent with the requirements of the Code.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Dasam Granth Da Sach. During the programme the host made comments about a well-known female Sikh preacher, including that she should marry a Taksali (traditionally trained Sikh) rather than a Jāgaruka (enlightened Sikh), because she supports the ideology of the former, and because husbands ‘in our society’ resort to beating when offended by their wives. The host also used words that can carry sexual connotations but, in the specific context of the broadcast, were unlikely to do so. The Authority acknowledged the potentially offensive nature of the comments to some people, but found overall the potential harm arising was not at a level justifying regulatory intervention or restriction of the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration, Violence, Privacy, Fairness
The Authority upheld a privacy complaint about an item on 1 News reporting on residents’ concerns about ‘boy racers’ in a particular Christchurch suburb. It featured an interview with a resident reported as being ‘too scared to be identified’. Close-up footage, including a side-on view of part of her face (unblurred), revealed her demographic, gender, the length and colour of her hair, voice, profile of her nose, clothes, watch, a distinctive ring and the side of her glasses. The Authority found these features enabled identification of the interviewee beyond family and close friends. Their disclosure would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person in her position, given she participated on the understanding she would not be identified. The Authority was not persuaded the defence of informed consent applied to the breach of the woman’s privacy. The broadcaster maintained the interviewee was comfortable with the item broadcast (and later obtained a note from her to this effect). However, the broadcaster did not provide sufficient evidence the interviewee fully understood she would be depicted in a manner that enabled her to be identified, and gave informed consent for this prior to the broadcast.
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on Morning Report which briefly discussed soil contamination at, and the possible repurposing of, a chemical plant site in Paritutu, New Plymouth. The complainant, an interviewee on the broadcast, argued the item misrepresented likely contamination levels by citing test results from outside of the plant site, and through a comment that the site was cleaner than that at Mapua. The Authority found the statements complained about either were not materially inaccurate, or were clearly distinguishable as opinion, to which the requirement for factual accuracy does not apply. The broadcast was unlikely to mislead listeners. The balance and fairness standards either did not apply or were not breached.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld two complaints regarding an interview of American philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler by Kim Hill. The interview discussed ‘the debate about who can be classified as a woman’ and used the term ‘TERF’, an acronym meaning trans exclusionary radical feminist, to describe those ‘who oppose transgender as a phenomenon and transgender rights more broadly’, particularly through excluding trans people from women-only spaces. The Authority found the broadcast was not discriminatory towards women and the term ‘TERF’ was used as part of a discussion of the debate and the expression of legitimately held opinion.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority did not uphold a complaint about an item on Morning Report discussing data showing Wellington to have the highest assault and sexual assault rates. Discussing the causes for this, the interviewer posed the question: ‘Do we have a problem with masculinity here?’ and a discussion followed regarding the potential contribution of ‘toxic masculinity’ to Wellington’s crime rate. The Authority found the term did not carry the derogatory connotations suggested and the item did not contain the high level of condemnation or malice towards men required to contravene the standard.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that language used in Million Dollar Listing LA breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The programme was rated G and broadcast at 2.20pm on a Sunday. In the context, and given most of the words were censored and did not appear until the final five minutes of the 55-minute programme, overall it was unlikely to likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. It was also unlikely to alarm or distress any children who were watching. The audible words did not go beyond what viewers would reasonably expect from the programme.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item summarising latest election poll results on Newshub breached the accuracy standard. The standard applies only to statements of fact, and the statements in question were clearly distinguishable as news analysis.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on support for euthanasia in the lead up to the referendum. It was based on data from the Vote Compass tool, which had been used by more than 200,000 people. The complainant argued it was inaccurate to report that most New Zealanders, or 77% of Kiwis, were supportive of euthanasia, when only 77% of an unrepresentative group of 200,000 were supportive. The Authority found the report was linked to findings from the Vote Compass tool, and its use by 200,000 people, in a clear and transparent way. It found it was legitimate and of interest to the public to extrapolate the data as it did, and the broadcast was unlikely to mislead.
Not Upheld: Accuracy