Terry and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1997-087
- S R Maling (Chair)
- R McLeod
- L M Loates
- A Martin
- Robert Terry
ProgrammeOne Network News
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
A nationwide campaign, including advertisements focussing on the theme of
procrastination, was being launched to recover millions of dollars in unpaid fines,
according to an item broadcast on One Network News on 6 April 1997 between
Mr Robert Terry of Reefton complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that the item
was unbalanced. He did not elaborate as to how it was unbalanced.
TVNZ advised that the item was a straightforward piece about a campaign to recover
millions of dollars in unpaid fines. The advertisements were structured as a game
show called "That's Procrastination" and were seen by TVNZ to be a zany method of
attempting to recover the outstanding debts. The reasons why people did not pay
their fines were outside the scope of the item, it said. TVNZ did not uphold the
Dissatisfied with that action, Mr Terry referred the complaint to the Broadcasting
Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
The members of the Authority have viewed the item complained about and have read
the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). On this occasion, the Authority
determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
The Department of Courts' campaign to recover unpaid fines was reported in a news
item broadcast by TVNZ on One Network News on 6 April 1997 between
Robert Terry complained that the item was unbalanced, but did not elaborate further.
He considered that people should not pay their fines, and cited his own experience of
not doing so.
TVNZ responded that the item was a straightforward piece about a campaign by a
government department. It was newsworthy because the Department of Courts was
using a novel approach – in its advertisements – to recover outstanding fines. The
reasons why people did not pay their fines, and Mr Terry's personal circumstances,
were, it maintained, outside the scope of the item.
The Authority views this complaint as bordering on vexatious. Mr Terry did not
identify the reasons why he believed the item was unbalanced, and did not advance
reasons for his dissatisfaction with the broadcaster's decision.
The Authority reminds Mr Terry that it has power under s.16(2) to award costs
against a complainant when:
(a) In the opinion of the Authority, the complaint is frivolous or vexatious
or one that ought not to have been made;
On this occasion, the Authority declines to determine the complaint in all the
For the reasons set forth above, under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the
Authority declines in all the circumstances to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
10 July 1997
Robert Terry's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 21 April 1997
A news item on One Network News broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd on 20
April concerned the Department of Courts' campaign to recover unpaid fines. It
evoked a complaint from Mr Terry of Reefton.
In Mr Terry's view, the item was unbalanced. He considered that people should not
pay their fines. He referred to some correspondence he was having with the Minister
of Justice, the Department of Courts, the Ombudsmen and his local MP. Copies of
the correspondence were enclosed.
TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint – 9 May 1997
As requested by Mr Terry, the complaint was considered in the context of standard
G6 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. TVNZ advised that it believed
the news item was a straightforward piece about a campaign being launched by a
government department to recover millions of dollars in unpaid fines.
TVNZ considered it was a newsworthy item because the method being used to recover
the money was novel - by way of television advertisements.
The reasons why people did not pay their fines were outside the scope of the item,
TVNZ continued, and it found no indication that the item breached the requirements
of standard G6. It declined to uphold the complaint.
Mr Terry's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 26 May 1997
Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Mr Terry referred the complaint to the
Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
He gave no reasons for his dissatisfaction.
Mr Terry appended copies of correspondence about other matters.
TVNZ's Response to the Authority – 9 June 1997
TVNZ advised that it had no further comment to add to its previous letter. It added
that it considered the complaint vexatious.
No further comment was sought from Mr Terry.