Peddie and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2023-054 (30 August 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Andrew Peddie
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint a 1 News item on the Ministerial Inquiry into woody debris (including forestry slash) and sediment in Tairāwhiti | Gisborne and Wairoa was inaccurate, due to the inclusion of some background footage of a forest near Tūrangi which had suffered windthrow. The complainant alleged the footage misled the audience to think forest damaged by windthrow was an example of what poor practices in the forestry sector look like. The Authority found the alleged inaccuracy was not material, and would not have significantly impacted viewers’ understanding of the item as a whole.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
 An item on 1 News on 12 May 2023 reported on the findings of the Ministerial Inquiry into woody debris (including forestry slash) and sediment in Tairāwhiti | Gisborne and Wairoa. The introduction contained the following:
An environmental disaster unfolding in plain sight. That's the warning about forestry debris in a new report that includes more than 50 recommendations to end the factors that have combined to devastate some East Coast communities. It calls for an immediate halt to wide scale, clear felling of forestry, replaced with staged logging, transitioning the most eroded blocks out of production forest and into permanent forest and government support for the clean-up and rebuild of communities that have been hardest hit. It says people's health, safety and the environment were put at risk by an industry that's lost its social license in Tairāwhiti with a culture of poor practices facilitated by Gisborne District Council's under-resourced monitoring.
 Throughout the introduction images and footage were shown of slash filled rivers and beaches, as well as cut logs and pine forests. The main points made by the host were written on the screen over the footage and images. At the end of the introduction, the words ‘Culture of poor practices’ was seen on the screen over footage of a sparse pine forest with only the trunks remaining on most trees.
 Andrew Peddie complained that the broadcast breached the accuracy standard of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand on the basis the footage shown when the words ‘Culture of poor practices’ featured on screen was of a forest that was not on the East Coast, and was instead a forest in the Taupō region, ‘devastated by the winds of Gabrielle - not the rainfall.’ They added:
- ‘This is misleading as the implication is that the picture of the damage is the result of poor practices.’
- ‘The practices referred to are about how/where trees are planted/harvested and if all of the wood is taken off steep slopes and placed or removed so it cannot enter streams. This opening footage and statement (across the screen) are therefore not an accurate or even close representation of the “poor practices” referred to as it is a forest blown over by wind.’
- ‘I think that a reasonable viewer would assume the association between the words “culture of poor practice” and the generic footage shown at the same time were because these were the poor practices referred to in the report’.
- ‘…the broadcaster had the capacity to determine this was not an example of a “culture of poor practice.” It knew the source and that it was not a culture of poor practice and that it was not an example of East Coast practices. It was not an example of any forest management practice in fact.’
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:
- ‘In the introduction generic footage is shown of pine forests, including stock footage of a plantation pine forest near Tūrangi badly damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle.’
- ‘While [TVNZ] agrees that this footage is not a record of the type of forestry land use which caused the issues in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa, we do not agree that the image of these particular trees is material to viewers' understanding of the issues being discussed, or that it would cause viewers to be misled or otherwise confused about the discussion. The image is simply a generic depiction of tree debris on the ground. The item itself is clear what types of forestry behaviour have caused the damage in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa and so [TVNZ] does not agree that the image is material to viewers' proper understanding of the issue.’
 The purpose of the accuracy standard1 is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.2 It states broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure news, current affairs or factual content is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. Where a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it within a reasonable period after they have been put on notice.
 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. It is our role to weigh up 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 demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.3
 The complainant is concerned the broadcast misled the audience to think forests damaged by windthrow in Tūrangi was an example of what poor practices in the forestry sector look like.
 The accuracy standard is concerned only with material inaccuracies. Technical or unimportant points that are unlikely to significantly affect viewers’ understanding of the programme as a whole are not considered material.4
 The broadcaster has acknowledged the footage complained of was ‘stock footage of a plantation pine forest near Tūrangi’ and ‘not a record of the type of forestry land use which caused the issues in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa’. However, it did not consider the image of the forest was material to viewers understanding of the issues discussed.
 While we acknowledge the complainant’s concern, we agree that the footage used was not material to the audience’s understanding of the broadcast as a whole. In coming to our finding, we considered the following key factors:
- The footage was a visual background for the story, which also included multiple different images and videos of forestry slash piled up in rivers and at the beach, as well as cut logs in forests.
- The broadcast made it clear the report’s focus was on forestry slash, and concerns related to wide scale clear felling and damage from eroded blocks in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa.
- The segment was not about windthrow or the management practices in the Tūrangi region, and made no reference to either.
- The footage complained about was shown for only 10 seconds, out of a 6.34 minute report.
- Most viewers would not have had time to properly examine the footage shown, and very few would be able to differentiate forests damaged by windthrow, to those damaged by poor forestry practices, or would be able to tell what part of the country the forests shown were in.
 While we acknowledge a small segment of the footage did not depict forestry which was the subject of the broadcast, in this context, we find any inaccuracy would not have significantly affected the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.5 Accordingly, the accuracy standard was not breached.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
30 August 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Andrew Peddie’s formal complaint – 15 May 2023
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 7 June 2023
3 Peddie’s referral to the Authority – 7 June 2023
4 TVNZ’s final comments – 27 July 2023
5 Peddie’s final comments – 1 August 2023
1 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
2 Commentary, Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 16
3 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
4 Guideline 6.2
5 Guideline 6.2