BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Miller and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2022-036 (21 June 2022)

Members
  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
Dated
Complainant
  • Andrew Miller
Number
2022-036
Programme
1 News
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary

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

As part of a news item on ‘main developments overnight’ in the war between Russia and Ukraine, a clip was shown where the presenter stated ‘This is footage we’re seeing from Ukraine, a Russian tank in the capital of Kyiv swerving to drive over the top of a car with someone inside.’ The complainant alleged this was inaccurate, submitting it was actually a Ukrainian anti-aircraft vehicle which lost control and swerved into the vehicle. The Authority found that the exact type of military vehicle involved in the incident was not material to the broadcast and the accuracy standard did not apply to this point. In terms of whether the vehicle was attributable to Russian or Ukrainian forces, and whether the collision was deliberate, given conflicting reports it was unclear whether the broadcast was misleading on these points. However, as the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the item by relying on a reputable source, the accuracy standard was not breached.

Not upheld: Accuracy


The broadcast

[1]  An item on 1 News, broadcast on 26 February 2022, reported on the war in Ukraine and the ‘main developments overnight.’ As part of the item, a clip that had been filmed in Ukraine was shown with the following explanation:

This is footage we're seeing from Ukraine, a Russian tank in the capital of Kyiv swerving to drive over the top of a car with someone inside. The driver of the car survived the initial impact and more footage shows a group of people trying to free him from the wrecked car. There's no word yet on his condition.

[2]  As described above, the clip shows an armoured vehicle swerving in the road and driving over a car which was coming the other way.

The complaint

[3]  Andrew Miller complained that 1 News’ report was inaccurate because it:

  • ‘described the vehicle as a "tank". It was in fact a mobile anti-aircraft vehicle.’ ‘In this vehicle there is no turret or forward-facing gun – central features of a “tank.”’
  • ‘ascribed the driver as "Russian". In fact Ukrainian forces in the area were fleeing Russian infiltrators and saboteurs. There's a reason Russian vehicles have a white "Z" painted on them. It's so Russians don't fire on their own vehicles.’
  • ‘said the collision was deliberate. This makes sense if you jump to conclusions that the driver is "Russian.”’ Stating ‘”swerving to drive over” indicates a deliberate move.’

[4]  In the complainant’s view, ‘It was actually a Ukrainian mobile anti aircraft platform. The driver lost control and swerved into the vehicle. The Ukrainians were fleeing from Russian infiltrators.’

[5]  The complainant also raised concerns that that the broadcast said the driver reversed back over the vehicle. We note the broadcast did not state this.

[6]  To the extent the complainant’s concerns in this respect related to content on TVNZ’s website and Facebook page, the Authority’s jurisdiction does not extend to these platforms. We therefore do not deal with this particular concern in our decision.

The broadcaster’s response

[7]  TVNZ did not uphold the complaint. It stated:

  • ‘the facts about the incident are still disputed’, but the complainant’s description of events ‘is not substantiated by reputable sources.’
  • ‘news stories now vary in their descriptions of the armo[u]red vehicle, some still stating it is a Russian tank1 … others that it was a Strela-10, an anti-aircraft vehicle used by both the Russian and Ukrainian armies… believed to have been driven by pro-Russian “saboteurs,”2 and others still that it is simply an armo[u]red vehicle.’
  • However, ‘There is no material difference for viewers between what Mr Miller refers to as an “armoured vehicle” or what 1 News calls a “tank.” In any case viewers have the ability to see the vehicle for themselves in the 1 News footage and so can be fully apprised, and form their own view, of what the vehicle is.’
  • ‘The vehicle is described as a Russian tank, no mention is made of the nationality of the driver. The 1 News Foreign Editor has confirmed… it is definitely a Russian made tank.’
  • ‘Eyewitness accounts were reported saying that the crash was intentional.’3 In any event, ‘No definitive statement is made about whether the swerving is deliberate or not.’
  • ‘1 News reported information from reputable sources as it was known at the time.’ It noted that one of the sources it relied on was EYEPRESS (an independent news agency whose content is hosted by Reuters) which had described the footage as ‘Video of Russian tanks run over a car as they advance through a residential area en route to Kyiv.’ Reuters also described the vehicle as a ‘Russian infantry fighting vehicle BMP (Boyevaya Mashina Pjehoty).’
  • ‘1 News relied on reputable news sources and provided information as it was known at the time, and that information about the incident is still not definitive.’

The relevant standard

[8]  The accuracy standard 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.4 Its purpose is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.5

Our analysis

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

[10]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.6

[11]  Determination of a complaint under the accuracy standard occurs in two stages. The first step is to consider whether the programme was inaccurate or misleading. If it was, the second step is to consider whether reasonable efforts were made by the broadcaster to ensure that the programme was accurate and did not mislead.7 This means that a programme may be inaccurate or misleading, but nevertheless may not breach the standard if the broadcaster took reasonable steps to check accuracy.8

[12]  Audiences may be misinformed in two ways: by incorrect statements of fact within the programme; and/or by being misled by the programme as a whole.9 Being ‘misled’ is defined as being given ‘a wrong idea or impression of the facts.’10

[13]  The standard is concerned only with material inaccuracies. Technical or other points unlikely to significantly affect listeners’ understanding of the programme as a whole are not considered material.11 In the event a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it at the earliest appropriate opportunity.12

[14]  In relation to the complainant’s concerns that the vehicle was described as a ‘tank’ rather than an ‘anti-aircraft platform,’ we do not consider this distinction to be material to the broadcast. The key facts of the incident were that a military vehicle had driven into a civilian car; the exact type of military vehicle involved was not of material significance. The accuracy standard therefore does not apply to this particular concern. We note that in any event, the audience could see the military vehicle for themselves and were able to form their own view on the nature of the vehicle.

[15]  In relation to the complainant’s concerns that it was inaccurate to refer to the driver as Russian and state the collision was deliberate, while we note the broadcast did not explicitly state these things, we accept that they may nevertheless have been implied. We consider these points were material to the item and accept that if they were inaccurate, the broadcast may be misleading.

[16]  However, there have been conflicting reports of the circumstances around this incident, and in particular, whether the military vehicle was attributable to the Russian or Ukrainian forces. While some reports named the vehicle as a ‘Russian tank,’13 others couched it as ‘what witnesses say is a Russian tank,’14 and still others did not attribute the vehicle to either side and described it as a ‘military’ or ‘armoured’ vehicle.15

[17]  Similarly, while some reports describe the military vehicle as having deliberate intent to hit the civilian car,16 others described it as simply ‘crashing into’17 or ‘colliding with’18 the car. We also note that there has been some commentary questioning the narrative that the clip shows a Russian tank deliberately running over a civilian.19 It does not appear that the facts of the matter have since been resolved.

[18]  We are not able, nor is it our role to verify the exact circumstances around this incident. In light of the above factors, we consider it is ultimately unclear whether the military vehicle was attributable to Russian or Ukrainian forces or whether the collision was deliberate, and in turn whether the broadcast was misleading. In this respect, we note the difficulty of news reporting on war zones, where information coming out of such zones is evolving and sometimes difficult to verify.

[19]  Given this context, we have focused our findings on whether the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the item. We find that it did. TVNZ advised it relied on EYEPRESS Video, a news agency hosted by Reuters. Reuters is a reputable and trusted news provider, and we consider it was reasonable for TVNZ to rely on its description of the event. We also note TVNZ did not materially depart from the description provided by EYEPRESS Video.

[20]  Therefore, as TVNZ took reasonable steps to check the accuracy of the report, we find no breach of the accuracy standard and do not uphold the complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Susie Staley
Chair
21 June 2022   

 

 

Appendix

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

1  Andrew Miller’s original complaint to TVNZ – 5 March 2022

2  TVNZ’s response to complainant – 1 April 2022

3  Miller’s referral to the Authority – 2 April 2022

4  TVNZ’s response to the referral – 22 April 2022

5  Miller’s final comments – 27 April 2022

6 TVNZ’s final comments – 12 May 2022


1 TVNZ provided these articles in support: Savannah Meacham “Harrowing footage shows Russian tank run over Ukrainian civilian car” 9 News (online ed, 26 February 2022); James Gordon “He SURVIVED: Shocking moment elderly Ukrainian driver is pulled ALIVE from crushed car after ‘barbaric’ Russian troops DELIBERATELY swerved tank to drive over his car” Daily Mail (online ed, 26 February 2022)
2 TVNZ provided this article in support: Henry Holloway “Horror moment rampaging tank totally CRUSHES car in Kyiv & reverses over it as driver miraculously survives” The Sun (online ed, 25 February 2022)
3 TVNZ provided this article in support: Alia Shoaib “Viral video shows elderly Ukrainian man miraculously survived after the car he was driving was run over by a Russian armored vehicle ‘for fun’” Business Insider (online ed, 27 February 2022)
4 Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
5 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
6 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
7 Commentary: Accuracy, as above
8 As above
9 As above
10 Attorney General of Samoa v TVWorks Ltd, CIV-2011-485-1110
11 Guideline 9b
12 Guideline 9c
13 Michael Evans “Ukrainian motorist crushed by Russian tank” The Times (online ed, 26 February 2022); Savannah Meacham “Harrowing footage shows Russian tank run over Ukrainian civilian car” 9 News (online ed, 26 February 2022)
14 “New video shows tank targeting car as Russian tightens grip on Ukraine” NBC News (online ed, 26 February 2022)
15 “Ukrainian man survives after military vehicle swerves and drives over his car – video” The Guardian (online ed, 25 February 2022); “Video shows military vehicle crushing car with driver inside” CNN (online ed)
16 Michael Evans “Ukrainian motorist crushed by Russian tank” The Times (online ed, 26 February 2022); Savannah Meacham “Harrowing footage shows Russian tank run over Ukrainian civilian car” 9 News (online ed, 26 February 2022)
17 “Ukrainian man survives after military vehicle swerves and drives over his car – video” The Guardian (online ed, 25 February 2022)
18 “Video shows military vehicle crushing car with driver inside” CNN (online ed, 27 February 2022)
19 Arthur Bamas “Ukraine: These videos do not show a Russian tank running over a civilian in Kyiv” France 24 (online ed, 28 February 2022); Ella Lee and McKenzie Sadeghi “Fact check: Unclear whether armored vehicle shown crushing car in Kyiv is Russian” USA Today (online ed, 28 February 2022)