BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Stevenson and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1995-150

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • J M Stevenson
Number
1995-150
Programme
One Network News
Channel/Station
TV One


Summary

A new system of measuring national wealth being developed by the World Bank was

the subject of a brief item on One Network News broadcast between 6.00–7.00pm on

18 September 1995. Observing that Australia topped the list, the presenter noted that

the system favoured countries with large mineral resources and small populations.

Mr Stevenson complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that the item was untrue

and unbalanced. It was inaccurate as it omitted to note that education and health were

also factors in the new system. It was unbalanced, he continued, by ignoring the social

components in the new World Bank system.

Accepting that the new system had an important social dimension but explaining the

limitations in the amount of detail which could be included in a television news item,

TVNZ said the item had included relevant and interesting material. It declined to

uphold the complaint. Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Mr Stevenson referred the

complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting

Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the item complained about and have read

the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the Authority

has determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

Mr Stevenson complained to TVNZ about an item broadcast on One Network News

on 18 September. It had reported on a new system of measuring national health being

developed by the World Bank and a list of the world's wealthiest countries were

shown. Australia was at the top of the list which, the item stated, was a result of the

system's focus which favoured countries with large mineral resources and small

populations.

The item was inaccurate and unbalanced, Mr Stevenson wrote, as it did not mention

the extent that social components were measured in the new system.

TVNZ assessed the complaint under standards G1 and G6 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice. They require broadcasters:

G1  To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political

matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.


Focussing on the restraints imposed by the medium, TVNZ pointed out that the entire

script for a One Network News bulletin would not fill half of one page of a daily

newspaper. Dozens of stories were considered each day, it continued, and the editor

had to be extremely selective.

He or she must provide a programme which reflects the main news stories of the

day while offering the viewer a variety of visuals and programme content.


In this context, the committee sees nothing wrong in drawing from a particular

story one relevant aspect. After all, the World Bank system had identified our

near neighbour Australia as top of the table on a basis in which physical wealth

is balanced against population base.


TVNZ did not deny that the new system had an important social dimension, but

argued that the most interesting aspect was reported in the 25 seconds available. As

the item was neither inaccurate nor unbalanced, it declined to uphold the complaint.

When he referred his complaint to the Authority, Mr Stevenson said that TVNZ had

not dealt with the basic thrust of his complaint which was that a person whose only

information came from the TVNZ item would have an incorrect perception of the

topic.

Taking into account the restraints under which a television company operates in

preparing a news bulletin, the Authority examined the item. It was a brief reference to

the new system of measuring national wealth and the item contained one example of a

difference from previous systems. A person who relied on the item for information

about the system would have only a superficial knowledge. However, the Authority

noted, the item did not pretend to provide information at any level other than that.

Although the item was brief, the Authority decided that it was neither misleading,

unbalanced nor inaccurate. It declined to uphold the complaint.

 

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


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith M Potter
Chairperson
14 December 1995


Appendix

Mr Stevenson's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd - 19 September 1995

J M Stevenson of Dunedin complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about an item

broadcast on One Network News between 6.00 - 7.00pm on 18 September 1995

which, he said, was inaccurate and unbalanced.

The item dealt with a new system of measuring national wealth being developed by

the World Bank and, after showing a list of the wealthiest countries according to the

system, stated that the new system was mainly for countries with large mineral

resources and small populations.

The item was inaccurate, Mr Stevenson alleged, as it did not report that education and

health care were also factors in the new system. Referring to the current practice in

New Zealand where New Zealand's wealth was defined economically rather than

socially, Mr Stevenson contended that the item was unbalanced as it had ignored the

social components used in the new World Bank system.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 10 October 1995

Assessing the complaint under standards G1 and G6 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice, TVNZ noted that the item which told of the new system

reported that Australia was at the top of the table with a per capita wealth of

$US835,000.

TVNZ then dealt with the restraints imposed by the medium and explained that the

entire script of a One Network News bulletin would not fill half a page of a daily

newspaper. Thus, an editor had to be extremely selective to ensure that the day's

main news stories were dealt with "while offering the viewer a variety of visuals and

programme content". It continued:

In this context the [Complaints] Committee sees nothing wrong in drawing from

a particular story one relevant aspect. After all, the World Bank system had

identified our near neighbour Australia as top of the table on a basis in which

physical wealth is balanced against population base.

Accepting that the new system had an important social dimension, TVNZ argued that

the fact of most interest to New Zealanders was the measurement of our neighbours as

nearly paper millionaires. It wrote:

One Network News had 25 seconds to report this matter and selected what its

editor considered was the most interesting aspect as far as the viewers were

concerned. The Complaints Committee believes that decision was correct.

Noting that the report of the new system in the "New Zealand Herald" only

mentioned the social aspect near the conclusion of its article, TVNZ declined to accept

that the item breached the standards.

Mr Stevenson's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 14

October 1995

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Mr Stevenson referred his complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

He argued that TVNZ had not dealt with the basic thrust of his complaint which was

that a person who relied on One Network News for information would have an

incorrect perception of the topic.

TVNZ's Response to the Authority - 25 October 1995

When asked whether it wished to comment on the referral, TVNZ said it had nothing

further to add.