BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Connelly and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2021-003 (2 June 2021)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Richard Connelly
Number
2021-003
Programme
1 News
Channel/Station
TV One

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint images included in a 1 News item regarding the Children’s Commissioner’s report on child poverty breached the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority did not consider ‘people in poverty’ to be a recognised section of the community for the purposes of the standard. In any event, the Authority did not consider the content of the broadcast encouraged discrimination or denigration in breach of the standard.

Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration


The broadcast

[1]  A 1 News item on 2 December 2020 reporting on the Children’s Commissioner’s report on child poverty included images of:

  • barefoot children, in the streets or in poor living conditions
  • dwellings with toys and items on the ground, broken electrical sockets and holes in the walls.

The complaint

[2]  Mr Connelly complained that the broadcast breached the discrimination and denigration standard for the following reasons:

  • The images used in the item portray a poor image of people in poverty and ‘seem to give the impression that all people in poverty take no pride in property and are vandals’.
  • ‘Any landlord seeing such an article must think twice about having these people as tenants and in fact gives the impression that lower income people are vandals creating bias or unconscious bias towards this group.’

[3]  In his referral to the Authority, Mr Connelly sought to raise the fairness standard.1 Pursuant to section 8(1B) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, we are only able to consider his complaint under the standard(s) raised in the original complaint to the broadcaster. We do not consider the fairness standard could reasonably be implied from the wording of the original complaint. The fairness standard applies only to individuals or organisations and Mr Connelly’s complaint concerns ‘people in poverty’ generally.2

[4]  We have therefore considered Mr Connelly’s complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard only.

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  TVNZ did not uphold Mr Connelly’s complaint for the following reasons:

  • ‘People in poverty’ do not amount to a recognised section of the community for the purposes of the standard.
  • ‘In any case we disagree with your suggestion that the report implied that “all people in poverty take no pride in property and are vandals”. The report did not make such a claim. The footage of the rundown house was used to illustrate the idea of material hardship – it did not purport to represent the living situations of all people living in poverty. The house was rundown and in a state of disrepair, but there was no claim or suggestion that acts of vandalism had taken place there or that the occupants took no pride in their property.’

The standard

[6]  The discrimination and denigration standard3 states broadcasters should not encourage 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.

[7]  The standard applies only to recognised sections of the community consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993.4

Our analysis

[8]  As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. We weigh the right to freedom of expression against the potential harm caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.5

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

Discrimination and denigration

[10]  The complainant is concerned the broadcast encouraged discrimination against, or denigrated ‘people in poverty’ or ‘lower income people’. Such groups will comprise a broad range of people. They share only a common circumstance (poverty or low income).6 They are not a recognised ‘section of the community’ as intended by the standard. The standard therefore does not apply.

[11]  In any event, we do not consider the broadcast had the potential to encourage discrimination or denigration as envisaged by the complainant. As submitted by the broadcaster, the images were used to ‘illustrate the idea of material hardship’.

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

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

2 June 2021   

 


Appendix

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

1  Richard Connelly’s original complaint to TVNZ – 3 December 2020

2  TVNZ’s response to Mr Connelly – 14 January 2021

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

4  TVNZ’s final comments – 21 January 2021

5  Correspondence with Mr Connelly about standards raised – 26 January 2021


1 Standard 11 of the Free-to-air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
3 Standard 6 of the Free-to-air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
4 Commentary: Discrimination and Denigration, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 16
5 Commentary: Freedom of Expression, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
6 See also Gray, Scott, Vickers and Vink and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2019-020 at 25; Truijens and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2019-012; Foster and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2017-009