Cave and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-013 (29 June 2020)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
- Richard Caves
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that news items on 1 News about New Year’s celebrations welcoming in 2020 were inaccurate when referencing the start of ‘the second decade’. The Authority found that the broadcast did not refer to ‘the second decade’, only ‘the new decade’. The reference to 2020 as the start of a new decade (when arguably the decade begins in 2021, as modern calendars began counting at 1) did not amount to a material inaccuracy for the purposes of the accuracy standard. The Authority also found that the broadcast’s references to ‘the new decade’ (and similar) were not inaccurate as the term has different meanings when used from calendrical and cultural perspectives.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
 An episode of 1 News broadcast on New Year’s Day 2020 opened with several items about New Year’s celebrations. The items covered celebrations across New Zealand; the work of emergency services on New Year’s Eve; celebrations around the world and the first babies born around New Zealand on the first day of the New Year.
 The items included the following statements:
- ‘Here’s Kim Baker-Wilson with a look at how Kiwis welcomed in the new year, and the new decade.’
- ‘And reflections on ten years past…’ (introducing interviews with New Year’s revellers)
- ‘The new decade’s been ushered in with spectacular displays around the world even amid wildfires and protests.’
- ‘Some families were welcoming their new additions. Later, meet some of the first babies of the decade.’
- ‘It’s understood John was the first baby born in Canterbury this decade…’
- ‘The first child of the decade in Wellington – it’s, like, such an amazing feeling.’
 The segment was broadcast on 1 January 2020 on TVNZ 1. In considering this complaint, we have watched a recording of the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
The complaint and the broadcaster’s response
 Richard Caves submitted the broadcast breached the accuracy standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice1 for the following reasons:
- ‘Over several items aired, the news reader and reporters inaccurately referred to the New Year  as being the start of the second decade of the 21st century.’
- ‘…the 1st decade of the 1st century of the first millennium is 1 AD. The 2nd decade started on 1 Jan 11 AD. The second century started on 1 Jan 101 AD. The second millennium started on 1 Jan 1001 AD. The 1st decade of the third millennium started on 1 Jan 2001 CE. Ergo, the second decade started on 1 Jan 2011 CE, and the third decade will start on 1 Jan 2021.’
- ‘1 Jan 2020 is the start of the last year of the second decade of the third millennium.’
- ‘While some might consider this pedantic and trivial, I would venture to suggest that a slightly more majority - especially the better educated, would not. They would find it irritating and a sign of TVNZ's "dumbing down" of NZ citizens.’
 TVNZ did not uphold the complaint, stating that it ‘did not identify any commentator talking about the start of the second decade in the reporting’. Rather, during the report ‘many commentators discuss the “new decade.”’
The relevant standard
 The accuracy standard (Standard 9) states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from being significantly misinformed.2
 The right to freedom of expression, including the broadcaster’s right to impart ideas and information and the public’s right to receive that information, is the starting point in our consideration of complaints. Equally important is our consideration of the level of actual or potential harm that may be caused by the broadcast. We may only interfere and uphold complaints where the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.
 The standard is concerned only with material inaccuracies. Technical or unimportant points that are unlikely to significantly affect viewers’ understanding of the programme as a whole are not considered material.3
 On watching the broadcast, we did not identify any references to the ‘second decade’, simply references to the start of a ‘new decade’ (and similar). However, we recognise that Mr Caves was concerned that 1 January 2020 was not the start of a new decade but rather ‘the last year of the second decade of the third millennium.’
 Considered in the context of the news items in question, we found that this was a technical point which was not material to the broadcast. Accordingly, it was unlikely to significantly affect viewers’ understanding of the programme. The news items were, for the most part, human interest stories, with a focus on how New Year’s Eve was celebrated around the world and across New Zealand, a look at the impact New Year’s Eve has on emergency services and interviews with the parents of babies born just after midnight, at the start of the New Year.
 In addition, we are not satisfied that it was inaccurate, in this context, to describe 1 January 2020 as the start of a ‘new decade’. The term has different meanings when used from calendrical and cultural perspectives.4 This broadcast did not purport to instruct viewers regarding proper calendrical terminology and, given the way decades are commonly referred to, (for example, ‘the 80’s’, ‘the 90’s’ and ‘the 2010’s’), it is not misleading to refer to 2020 as the start of a new decade.
 For these reasons, we do not uphold the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
29 June 2020
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Richard Caves’ complaint to TVNZ – 6 January 2020
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 12 February 2020
3 Mr Caves’ referral to the BSA – 12 February 2020
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 1 May 2020
1 The Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice was refreshed with effect from 1 May 2020. This complaint has been determined under the April 2016 version of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice as the relevant broadcast pre-dated the 1 May 2020 version.
2 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
3 Guideline 9b
4 When does the new decade begin? That's debatable (NPR, 24 December 2019); People can't even agree on when the decade ends (NPR, 27 December 2019)