BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

O’Brien and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2021-006 (22 June 2021)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Dan O’Brien
Number
2021-006
Broadcaster
Discovery NZ Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on Newshub Live at 6pm, covering the reactions of world leaders to the Capitol Hill riots in Washington DC, that referred to Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani as ‘Iran’s dictator’. The Authority found the description was not a material fact in the context of the item, and in any case the caption describing Mr Rouhani as ‘President of Iran’ reduced any risk of viewers being misled.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


The broadcast

[1]  An item on Newshub Live at 6pm, on 8 January 2021, covered the reactions of world leaders, including the President of Iran, to the Capitol Hill riots in Washington DC:

Europe Correspondent:                      Iran’s dictator Hassan Rouhani used [the opportunity] to question democracy as a whole, saying, ‘When a sick person takes office, we see how he disgraces his country and creates trouble for the world.’

[2]  The verbal report was accompanied by footage of Mr Rouhani followed by a still-image headshot and the following caption:

“When a sick person takes office, we see how he disgraces his country and creates troubles for the world.”

Hassan Rouhani
President of Iran

The complaint

[3]  Mr O’Brien complained the broadcast breached the accuracy standard on the basis it described Mr Rouhani as ‘Iran’s dictator’:

  • ‘This is [an] inaccurate description of Rouhani’s office.’
  • ‘The Iranian presidency lasts four years with one possibility of renewal.’
  • ‘Iran’s president was elected on 3 August 2012 and indeed will complete his term this year in 2021.’

The broadcaster’s response

[4]  Discovery NZ did not uphold Mr O’Brien’s complaint on the basis the description of Mr Rouhani as ‘Iran’s dictator’ was not a material fact in the broadcast, and therefore viewers would not have been misled.

The standard

[5]  The accuracy standard1 protects the public from being significantly misinformed.2 It states broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure any news, current affairs or factual programme is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead.

Our analysis

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

[7]  We have also considered the right to freedom of expression, which is our starting point. This includes the broadcaster’s right to offer a range of content and the audience’s right to receive it. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the broadcast has caused actual or potential harm at a level that justifies placing a limit on the right to freedom of expression. For the reasons below, we have not found such harm in this case.

Accuracy

[8]  The requirement for accuracy does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than statements of fact.3 Where statements of fact are at issue, the standard is concerned only with material inaccuracy. Technical or unimportant points unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole are not material.4

[9]  Being ‘misled’ is defined as being given ‘a wrong idea or impression of the facts’.5 Programmes may be misleading by omission, or as a result of the way dialogue and images have been edited together.6

[10]  In the context of an item covering the reactions of numerous world leaders to the Capitol Hill riots in Washington DC, we do not consider the reference to Mr Rouhani as ‘Iran’s dictator’ was a material fact. This reference was unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole, or of the brief segment featuring Mr Rouhani, which focused on his reaction rather than the nature of his political authority.

[11]  In any case, the caption describing Mr Rouhani as ‘President of Iran’ correctly identified his official political title and reduced any risk of viewers being misled.

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

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

22 June 2021  

 

  
Appendix

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

1  Dan O’Brien’s formal complaint – 8 January 2021

2  Discovery’s response to the complaint – 21 January 2021

3  Mr O’Brien’s referral to the Authority – 24 January 2021

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comment – 27 January 2021


1 Standard 9 of the Free-to Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
3 Guideline 9a
4 Guideline 9b
5 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
6 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 19