BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-005 (25 May 2021)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Donald McDonald
Number
2021-005
Programme
Newshub
Broadcaster
Discovery NZ Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

The Authority did not uphold an accuracy complaint about a Newshub item describing a storm in Australia as a ‘one in 100 year storm’. The statement was a technical point unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the item as a whole.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


The broadcast

[1]  An item on Newshub Live at 6pm on 15 December 2020 reported:

The coast of Australia has been battered by a one in 100 year monster storm. Forecasters are predicting storms will dominate the weather this summer, not bushfires.

[2]  Images of storm damage and interviews with Byron Bay locals were shown. A reporter outlined the weather:

Described as a monster storm, similar in force to a category one cyclone, Northern New South Wales and Queensland have been enduring days of heavy downpours. By this morning, homes and lives came under threat with evacuation warnings issued to coastal towns…Forecasters predict a season riddled with storms…but the shift from fire to destructive storms may turn bad as the summer progresses.

The complaint

[3]  Donald McDonald complained the description of ‘a one in 100 year monster storm’ was inaccurate as ‘the stated area experiences a one in 100 [year] storm every 2 months...Clearly an annual recurrence rate not 100 years…Reckless media exaggerate’.

The broadcaster’s response

[4]  Discovery NZ Ltd did not uphold Mr McDonald’s complaint:

The introduction referred to information released by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, whose senior forecaster, Shane Kennedy said of the intense rainfall that ‘just in the six-hour period ending roughly about 3:00am, [Springbrook] got 323mm so that's a less than a 1 per cent chance we'd generally see that — so more than a one-in-100-year event’.

The standard

[5]  The accuracy standard1 states 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 standard protects audiences from being significantly misinformed. It does not apply to technical or unimportant points that are not ‘material’ to the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.2

Our analysis

[6]  We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[7]  Our task is to weigh the value of the programme, in terms of the right to freedom of expression and the public interest in it, against the level of actual or potential harm caused by the broadcast. The harm alleged is the audience would be misled regarding the frequency of such severe storms.

[8]  The focus of the item was the severity and impact of a ‘monster storm’ on the Byron Bay area. The description of the storm as ‘one in 100 years’ was not material. It was a technical point unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the item as a whole.

[9]  In addition, we note the broadcaster has provided a description of the information on which it relied for this statement and this demonstrates its reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

25 May 2021

 

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1  Donald McDonald’s complaint to Discovery NZ Ltd – 15 December 2020

2  Discovery’s response to the complaint – 17 December 2020

3  Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 19 January 2021

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comments – 3 February 2021


1 Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Guideline 9b