Livingstone and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2023-013 (16 May 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Steve Livingstone
ProgrammeNewshub Live at 6pm
BroadcasterDiscovery NZ Ltd T/A Warner Bros. Discovery
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a promo leading to a news report on Newshub Live at 6pm breached the discrimination and denigration standard in its use of the word ‘Aboriginals’ when describing Aboriginal peoples / First Nations peoples in Alice Springs, and for discussing concerns of rising crime in Alice Springs. While acknowledging the description ‘Aboriginals’ rather than ‘Aboriginal people(s)’, is no longer considered appropriate terminology in Australia, the host’s statement was made without malice or nastiness as part of a straightforward news report on rising criminal activity. The broadcaster also advised the complainant’s concern regarding correct terminology has been passed on to the Newshub team. The Authority did not consider regulatory intervention justified in these circumstances.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
 A broadcast of Newshub Live at 6pm on 25 January 2023 reported on increased criminal activity in Alice Springs, Australia, following the removal of alcohol bans the previous year. The programme included a ‘promo’ leading up to the item where host Samantha Hayes stated:
Hayes: There is a crime crisis in Alice Springs, prompting authorities to bring in tough restrictions on alcohol sales, but do they discriminate against Aboriginals?
 The item itself was introduced as follows:
Mike McRoberts: Australia’s Prime Minister has reinstated alcohol restrictions in a bid to halt the crime crisis in outback Australia.
Hayes: Strict alcohol bans in Alice Springs were labelled racist and removed. Now they’re back to help the town being overwhelmed.
 The item then reported on increased criminal activity, including interviews with a concerned local (a baker whose bakery was robbed 41 times in three years), local politicians, and the Prime Minister of Australia. The reporter referred to the Indigenous population twice during the segment, stating:
Similar [alcohol bans] were scrapped in July last year, labelled discriminatory in a town with a large Indigenous population.
Aboriginal Elders say alcohol bans will help but are still pleading for more action.
 Steve Livingstone complained the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard, stating the term “Aboriginals” was ‘offensive and is outdated’, and the correct terminology is ‘Aboriginal people(s)’; ‘First Nations people(s)’; or terms which reflect tribal group(s). Hayes’s description ‘normalises a generalisation of multiple ethnic groups into one category’.
 Livingstone also complained the negative story about crime and problem drinking in Alice Springs ‘depicted the problem being with “aboriginals”’, and that this created a stigma towards the race of people described.
The broadcaster’s response
 Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) apologised for the offence caused to the complainant, however, did not consider the broadcast was in breach of the discrimination and denigration standard as the broadcast contained no malice or nastiness.
 The broadcaster added:
While we are satisfied that the Broadcast did not reach the threshold to be considered a breach of this standard, we do acknowledge the point you have made. Language evolves over time and as broadcasters, we understand the need to keep pace with audiences' changing expectations of the language we use. The [WBD standards committee] has shared your concerns with the Newshub editorial team to ensure this issue is raised with the wider team.
 The discrimination and denigration standard1 protects against broadcasts which encourage the discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. Our task is to weigh the right to freedom of expression, which includes the broadcaster’s right to offer a range of content and the audience’s right to receive it, against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast.
 Where discrimination and denigration complaints are concerned, the importance of freedom of expression means a high level of condemnation, often with an element of malice or nastiness, will usually be necessary to find a breach of the standard (although broadcast content which has the effect of reinforcing or embedding negative stereotypes may also be considered).2
 Ultimately, we may only intervene and uphold a complaint where limiting the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified by the level of harm.3
 We acknowledge the complainant’s concerns about terminology, and consider the complainant’s suggested terms ‘Aboriginal people(s)’ and ‘First Nations people(s)’, or reference to specific territorial groupings to be to be more appropriate4 (for example, the traditional owners of Mparntwe/Alice are the Arrernte people).5
 However, in the context of this broadcast, we conclude the broadcast did not breach the standard. In particular:
- While less accepted than other terms, the host did not speak with malice or nastiness: there was no disrespect towards Aboriginal people.
- The item reported on an issue of public interest – a significant increase in criminal activity.
- The reporter used more appropriate terminology in the item itself, referring to the ‘Indigenous population’ and ‘Aboriginal Elders’.
- Regarding the complainant’s broader concerns of the broadcast stigmatising Aboriginal people, we note the standard is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material that is factual and/or a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion.6 In this case, the broadcast was a straightforward news report about an ongoing issue in Alice Springs.
- While not determinative, we acknowledge the broadcaster took action in passing on the complainant’s concerns to ensure the relevant team understood the need to keep pace with changing expectations of language use.
 Taken together, these factors mean the broadcast did not reach the threshold for finding harm at a level that justifies restricting freedom of expression.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
16 May 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Steve Livingstone’s formal complaint to WBD – 26 January 2023
2 WBD’s response to the complaint – 27 February 2023
3 Livingstone’s referral to the Authority – 27 February 2023
4 WBD’s confirmation of no further comment – 27 March 2023
1 Standard 4, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
2 Guideline 4.2
3 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
4 See Australian Public Service Commission “First Nations vocabulary – using culturally appropriate language and terminology” (27 July 2022) Australian Government <apsc.gov.au>; Public Health Association Australia “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Guide to Terminology”, (November 2020) <phaa.net.au>; and Act Council of Social Services Inc “Preferences in terminology when referring to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples” (December 2016) <actcoss.org.au> at 3 which suggests the use of ‘Aboriginal’ as a noun is less preferred today
5 Alice Springs Town Council “Living in Alice: Local Community & Culture” (2023) <alicesprings.nt.gov.au>
6 Guideline 4.2