BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

RZ and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-011 (17 May 2016)

  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Leigh Pearson
TV One


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

An item on Sunday exposed the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of New Zealand’s dairy industry. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item was unfair to the complainant and breached his and his employee’s privacy, and that the item was inaccurate and lacked balance. Neither RZ nor his employee was identifiable during the footage and they were not participants, or referred to, in the item. The item was also sufficiently balanced, as the perspective of the dairy industry was given both within the item and within the period of current interest. Comments in the item that the complainant alleged were inaccurate were clearly opinion and analysis and thus not subject to the accuracy standard, and the item was not otherwise misleading.

Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Controversial Issues, Accuracy


[1]  An item on Sunday exposed the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of the dairy industry in the Waikato region.

[2]  RZ complained that footage of his farm was included in the item without his knowledge or consent and therefore linked his farm to the mistreatment of bobby calves, which was unfair and breached his and his employee’s privacy. He also complained the item was unbalanced and inaccurate, alleging it was ‘anti-farming’ and depicted standard farming practices as cruel.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the privacy, fairness, controversial issues and accuracy standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 29 November 2015. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Nature of the programme

[5]  Sunday is a well-known New Zealand current affairs programme which reports on local and international issues. The item subject to complaint was introduced by the presenter as follows:

When we sit down to dinner or drink a glass of milk, we probably don’t think too much about where it came from. But animal rights campaigners have declared war on our dairy industry, alleging cruelty. The evidence they say is in hundreds of hours of covert filming, and they want to attack the industry where it’ll hurt most – on international markets. Tonight we reveal the footage which activist group Farm Watch claims shows deliberate cruelty against animals.

[6]  A written warning was then shown onscreen: ‘Warning: some content may disturb’. Footage was shown of the Waikato countryside from the perspective of someone driving through the region, with the accompanying voiceover from the Farm Watch representative:

When you’re driving through the countryside, it all looks idyllic and peaceful, but it is only when you look closer that you see that what we think is normal farming is absolute cruelty.

[7]  The reporter was then shown drinking coffee in an inner-city café, and asked:

In order to make the milk for your latte or cup of tea, a cow has to get pregnant each season. But that raises the question, what happened to the calf who this milk was made for?

[8]  Footage was shown of animal rights campaigners setting up hidden cameras at various different farms, as the reporter explained, ‘To find out, the animal rights group Farm Watch set up hidden cameras to film numerous ordinary dairy farms across the Waikato’.

[9]  While footage of calves placed in crates on the side of the road was shown, the voiceover stated:

Farm Watch representative: For years we’ve been hearing stories from people in farming communities about calves in trucks, calves being left on the side of the road...
Reporter: Farm Watch wanted to track the fate of those animals known as bobby calves.
Farm Watch representative: We needed to start using hidden cameras in order to find out how they were treating these animals when they thought no-one was watching.

[10]  The following exchange between the reporter and the Farm Watch representative then took place:

Reporter: Have you got a thing about farmers, then? Dairy farmers?
Farm Watch representative: I’ve got absolutely nothing against dairy farmers personally. I know they work incredibly long hours in very difficult conditions, and that many of them end up earning less than the minimum wage. So this exposé isn’t vindictive, it isn’t aimed at hurting dairy farmers, I don’t want to hurt farmers, but I do want to expose what goes on in these farms.

[11]  The reporter explained that ‘over months, [Farm Watch] filmed the calves from birth’. The Farm Watch representative then described what was happening in some of the footage obtained, while the footage was shown on-screen:

So we’ve got footage of the cow being born in a muddy field, then we’ve got the footage of the farmers coming and separating the calf from the mother. You see a farmer interacting with his stock and you think nothing more of it, but when you look closely you see that it’s a farmer taking a baby away from its mother on the day it’s been born. All dairy farms separate calves from their mothers, and that is inherent cruelty on every single dairy farm in the country.

[12]  A six-second shot was then shown of a farm worker allegedly separating calves from their mothers, which the complainant identified as his employee and his farm. The farm worker was depicted with his face pixelated in a farm paddock some distance from the camera. He was shown riding a motorbike with a trailer attached, containing several calves standing up, around a herd of cows.

[13]  The reporter then showed to a cow behaviour expert additional footage of calf separation allegedly occurring on a different farm, who gave his opinion that the cow appeared ‘clearly distressed by the removal of her calf. The calf is being physically man-handled in a way which is, I think, quite unacceptable on a farm – being kicked and pushed and the cow is responding to that’.

[14]  Footage was shown of numerous bobby calves standing up while packed into a small crate on the side of the road, while the reporter commented:

While the milk meant for them is destined for the market, these calves have become a by-product of the dairy industry. Each season, two million calves like these will head for slaughter.

[15]  The Farm Watch representative stated:

We came back later in the afternoon expecting to see that these calves had gone, and what we found was that these calves were still there. And it was a very hot day, and these calves had gone from being bright and interacting with us to lying on the bottom of the crate almost dead. These calves had been left on the side of the road, in the hot sun, all day without food or water or shelter of any kind.

[16]  The calves were shown lying on the bottom of the pen, barely moving. While watching this footage, the cow behaviour expert stated ‘They’re showing clear evidence of distress... that’s a condition we call ‘learned helplessness’.

[17]  The reporter then questioned the Farm Watch representative:

Reporter: Farmers would say that footage was selective, that many farmers are good to their animals
Farm Watch representative: Well I can tell you we filmed every single calf in a crate that we saw, and we’ve given to you many... hours of footage and we haven’t edited that.

[18]  Additional footage of calves lying prone at the bottom of crates, outside different farms, was shown. The reporter explained ‘the video features the dead, as well as the dying’. The Farm Watch representative said that ‘we haven’t gone through and selected the worst bits. I believe that the way all these calves are being treated is bad enough that the New Zealand public would be shocked’.

[19]  Various footage of calves being moved from crates into trucks, at times very roughly, was then shown. The reported noted ‘The Farm Watch footage has numerous shots of live calves being thrown in different locations around the Waikato’. The cow behaviour expert also noted the overcrowding on the trucks and the long transport times gave a picture of ‘really quite severe stress to the calf at a very early age’.

[20]  The reporter then visited a Waikato woman who rescues bobby calves and has created a small ‘bobby calf sanctuary’. She stated ‘I was aware that calves get slaughtered between four to seven days of age, and I knew that it would be a highly unpleasant process but I didn’t realise that they were being abused to quite that extent’. She, with support from the cow behaviour expert, described cows as highly complex and intelligent creatures and stated ‘Just no level of care shown to the animal, it’s just treated as an object, that’s how I’ve seen farmers treat their cows’. The reporter then said ‘Of course the farmers will say well that’s because we’re in the food business, we have hundreds of stock and we can’t... cuddle everyone’. She replied ‘That’s entirely true, which is probably a point that needs to be raised – why are we abusing animals to this extent in such large numbers?’.

[21]  Footage was then shown of a truck transporting calves to a slaughter-house, as well as hidden camera footage of calves inside the slaughter-house. The reporter explained:

In order to record the short life cycle of these calves, Farm Watch tracked some of the trucks to a slaughter-house [name]. These calves are bound for pet food.

[22]  The footage showed calves being thrown into a pen, sometimes on top of one another, and calves struggling to stand. At times slaughter-house workers with their faces pixelated are shown kicking calves, throwing calves and hitting calves on the head with what appears to be a hammer. At times some of these acts were pixelated as well. The reporter advised ‘We can’t show you the worst of it, but amidst the kicking, the throwing of live animals and even bashing on the head, there comes one extraordinary act of compassion – not from a worker, but a calf. A new-born calf stops to lick another injured animal until it gets up’. Footage of the two calves apparently helping one another was shown.

[23]  The Executive Director of SAFE was then interviewed, who described the slaughter-house footage as:

Beyond anything I’ve actually ever seen... it clearly shows these animals being abused. You see kicking young cows in the face, you see them shoving them around, these animals are thrown from quite a height smack-bang onto that concrete. That’s just not acceptable. The moment we saw that footage we realised there was a serious problem happening, especially at the slaughter-house, so a complaint was made to [Ministry for Primary Industries]. To date, we haven’t heard back from them.

[24]  The reporter approached the owner of the slaughter-house for comment, who stated he was surprised by the footage and allegations and had not been contacted by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The reporter also interviewed a representative from MPI and introduced him by saying ‘it is [MPI’S] job to enforce animal welfare laws industry wide’. The MPI representative described the footage as ‘disappointing’ and stated ‘we have initiated an investigation and I’m not going to comment further on our processes around that investigation’.

[25]  The reporter then interviewed the Group Director (Co-operative Affairs) of Fonterra, introducing him by stating ‘when it comes to New Zealand dairy, there is nothing bigger than Fonterra’. The interview began as follows:

Group Director: As an industry we need to get together fast to sort this out, because if things have been raised to MPI, they have an obligation to do something about it... In the examples that I’ve worked with MPI in the past, they’ve been very proactive, so in this case we need to work with them resolve it because the footage I’ve seen is disgusting in that regard.

[26]  The item then cut to a statement from the SAFE Executive Director:

Given the fact that 95% of dairy is exported overseas, we will be talking to international consumers and show them how their dairy is produced. We want to see how consumers are going to react when they find out the cruelty behind New Zealand’s dairy industry

[27]  The item returned to the interview between the reporter and Fonterra Group Director:

Group Director: Yeah pretty disappointed, if that is how the dairy industry is going to be portrayed.
Reporter: You say portrayed – but do you accept that that’s how it is?
Group Director: No I don’t... I think it’s a very small minority of how the dairy industry in New Zealand operates... the vast minority of our farmers operate responsibly and this is really sad to see this footage come to light.
Reporter: You say a small minority, but [Farm Watch] did film right across the Waikato and they said everywhere they went, they saw cruelty. It doesn’t sound small.
Group Director: No it doesn’t sound small the way you outline it like that, but let’s talk to SAFE, let’s understand what they have got, let’s understand the farmers they went to and we’ll come down on them, because that’s not great. MPI have a responsibility to step up and do something about this, and we’ll work very closely with MPI to ensure they do.
Reporter: If a bunch of enthusiasts with a camera managed to pick all that up, whereas a main player in a 15 billion dollar industry didn’t, what went wrong for Fonterra?
Group Director: Well I don’t think its Fonterra, I think the whole industry needs to take a look at itself in this case. We have MPI as the regulator... we have the meat industry, the transport operators, the dairy companies association of New Zealand, and of course DairyNZ... You can’t hide behind the fact of what we’ve seen... it is very disappointing the footage we’ve picked up on and we need to fix it. The industry needs to take some responsibility to resolve this at the highest level.
Reporter: ...Do you accept that calf separation is cruel to the mother?
Group Director: There are ways to do that. There are guidelines in place that are the most humane way to do that...

[28]  The item concluded with a statement from the SAFE Executive Director, accompanied by further footage of bobby calves in crates on the roadside. The reporter put to the SAFE Executive Director, ‘New Zealanders could answer you’re being unpatriotic, because what you’re going to do potentially is undermine our economy’, to which he replied:

New Zealand claims that we have the highest animal welfare in the world, so if this is our highest animal welfare, then let’s show the rest of the world and be proud of it. And if it’s not, if we’re not that proud of it, then maybe we need to do something about it.

Freedom of expression and the public interest

[29]  The exposure of the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of New Zealand’s dairy industry carried a high level of public interest. It was a legitimate issue for Sunday to draw attention to, and the item carried high value in terms of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. This value must be weighed against the level of harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast, in terms of the underlying objectives of the relevant broadcasting standards.1 The harm alleged in this case is to the complainant’s privacy interests, by having footage of his farm broadcast without his consent, and to his and his farm’s reputation through an association of his farm with the alleged mistreatment of animals that was depicted. The complainant also argued that harm resulted from what he considered to be unbalanced and misleading coverage of the issue.

[30]  This was an important current affairs piece and we must only intervene and limit the right to free expression, and the broadcaster’s right to present the piece in the way it did, if that is reasonable and justified.

Did the broadcast breach the complainant’s privacy?

[31]  The privacy standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual. The standard exists to protect individuals from undesired access to, and disclosure of, information about themselves and their affairs. This is in order to maintain their dignity, choice, mental wellbeing and reputation, and their ability to develop relationships and opinions away from the glare of publicity.

[32]  RZ asserted that footage was taken of his farm and employee and broadcast three times during the item without consent, which breached his and his employee’s privacy. He considered his farm was clearly identifiable, for example through the motorbike and trailer shown in the footage.

[33]  TVNZ argued that neither RZ, his employee nor his farm was identified. It noted RZ did not feature in the footage and considered the footage of the farm was too brief and of such a similar appearance to other images of different farms featured in the item for identification to occur. TVNZ also said the pixelated shot of RZ’s employee was momentary and taken from a distance, so was not readily identifiable as being of a specific location or person. It further argued that no private facts about an identifiable individual or location were disclosed, as the footage in question was about the practice of calf separation which is not private. TVNZ maintained that the footage was taken from a public place (the road/farm gate) and simply showed the day-to-day running of the farm. It considered any member of the public could have seen the activity that was broadcast and the footage was not obtained by intentionally interfering, in the nature of prying, with the employee’s interest in solitude or seclusion.

Preliminary matter

[34]  In the course of determining this complaint, it became apparent that the parties disputed how many times footage of RZ’s farm and employee was featured during the item. RZ maintained that his farm was featured three times, while TVNZ only identified one six-second shot. We therefore requested further information from both RZ and TVNZ regarding the alleged additional shots of the farm during the item, which included inviting RZ to re-watch the item on TVNZ’s OnDemand website.

[35]  RZ argued that the OnDemand version of the item was different and only featured one (already identified) shot of his farm, but he maintained his farm had been featured three times in the original broadcast item. TVNZ confirmed that the OnDemand item was the same as the broadcast item, with the only difference being the removal of the ‘coming up tease’ before the beginning of the item that was featured in the original programme. TVNZ also provided us with its correspondence with RZ made during the course of responding to his initial complaint, where it had asked RZ to identify the shot(s) of his farm as they appeared in the item. At that time RZ had only identified the one six-second shot of his farm which is not in dispute.

[36]  We have carefully considered the information provided by both parties and the footage itself. We accept the broadcaster’s explanation that the OnDemand version of the item was the same as originally broadcast, apart from the removal of the ‘coming up tease’ at the beginning of the programme. We note that the footage shown in the item included many generic shots of farms which would likely have been indistinguishable to the average viewer, due to the similarities in appearance and lack of identifying details. As RZ has identified only the one shot of his farm during the item, both in his original correspondence with TVNZ and in his subsequent correspondence with us, we have proceeded to consider the privacy complaint on that basis.


[37]  When we consider a privacy complaint, we first determine whether the person whose privacy has allegedly been interfered with was identifiable in the broadcast. The Authority has previously stated that a property must be linked to an ‘identifiable individual’ before the broadcast could be said to have breached Standard 3.2 We do not consider that RZ himself was identifiable as he was not featured in the footage and was not identifiable by association with anything that was featured. The farm as depicted would only possibly have been recognisable to those who are very familiar with its particular landscape, but not to the average viewer. Therefore we do not agree that the farm setting contributed to the identification of any individual in the broadcast, by the general audience.

[38]  We also do not consider that RZ’s employee, who appeared in the footage, was identifiable. He was shown in grainy footage at some distance away from the camera, for approximately six seconds. His face was wholly pixelated and he was not distinguishable from any other farm worker. Any potentially identifying features present in the shot (such as the motorbike or the farm setting) were not sufficiently unique, in our view, to identify him despite the masking of his face. In addition, the footage was apparently taken from a public place (the road/farm gate) and merely depicted what any passer-by may have seen from the roadside looking into the farm; no private or sensitive information was conveyed by the six-second shot used. As neither RZ nor his employee was identifiable in the footage, we find no breach of the privacy standard.

General comments

[39]  Although we have found that neither RZ nor his employee was identifiable, and therefore that the item did not breach their privacy, we wish to make some general comments about the broadcaster’s use of covert footage obtained by a third party (in this case Farm Watch). The use of covert footage will usually only be justified where there is legitimate public interest in the footage. We are satisfied this was such a situation. Some of the footage used in the item exposed alleged serious mistreatment of animals within one of New Zealand’s largest industries, evidence of which could likely only be gathered covertly. In regard to the specific footage of RZ’s farm, we reiterate that this was not necessarily obtained covertly but was taken from a public place.

Was any individual or organisation taking part or referred to in the broadcast treated unfairly?

[40]  The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. One of the purposes of the fairness standard is to protect individuals and organisations from broadcasts which provide an unfairly negative representation of their character or conduct. Programme participants and people referred to in broadcasts have the right to expect that broadcasters will deal with them justly and fairly, so that unwarranted harm is not caused to their reputation and dignity.3

[41]  RZ argued that footage of his farm was shown three times during the item without his consent, and was edited to appear as three different farms. He stated this linked his farm unfairly and inaccurately with the mistreatment of bobby calves shown later in the item. RZ considered the practice of calf separation had already been touted as inherently cruel during the item, therefore his employee was depicted as practising cruelty against stock, whereas in fact what they were doing on the farm that day was reasonable, normal and necessary for the well-being of the cow and calf. RZ noted he was not offered the chance to give input of any kind into the programme and considered the ‘timing of a sensationally promoted exposé of the farming industry on the last Sunday programme of the year extinguishes any opportunity for timely rebuttal’.

[42]  TVNZ maintained that RZ and his employee were not referred to and did not take part in the item, therefore comment was not required to be included from them on the issues raised. It pointed out that the footage of RZ’s farm was not linked to the abuse of calves, but simply showed the industry-accepted practice of calf separation. TVNZ noted all organisations and individuals referred to in the item were given a right of reply.

[43]  The fairness standard applies only to individuals or organisations that participate, or are referred to, in a broadcast. In our view, one six-second shot of RZ’s employee and farm, apparently taken from a public place, did not amount to sufficient participation of the complainant to engage the fairness standard. We also do not consider that this shot on its own, without any accompanying identification or verbal mention of RZ, his farm or his employee, meant that RZ or his farm were ‘referred to’ during the item as envisaged by the standard. The footage constituted an innocuous shot of daily activity on an unidentified farm, which was merely visual wallpaper to the main story.

[44]  Accordingly, we find that the fairness standard does not apply and we do not uphold this part of the complaint.

Was the item sufficiently balanced?

[45]  The balance standard (Standard 4) states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest. The standard exists to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.4

[46]  RZ considered the item was ‘anti-farming’. He argued that the other viewpoints presented within the period of current interest were ‘shallow’, barely relevant and unlikely to be seen by the audience of the original Sunday programme.

[47]  TVNZ argued that the covert footage of the mistreatment of bobby calves by several Waikato farms, transport operators and a slaughter-house was a controversial issue of public importance. It argued that in addition to the opinions of animal rights groups, the item sought the views of the Ministry for Primary Industries (which is reportedly investigating the practices revealed in the footage) and Fonterra (for which a spokesman discussed how calf separation is being practised as humanely as possible). It maintained that as a result of seeking views across the spectrum of the dairy industry about the issue, the requirements of the balance standard were met. TVNZ noted a wide range of viewpoints were presented in a variety of its news and current affairs programmes over the period of current interest, including an interview with the Chief Executive of Dairy New Zealand broadcast on Breakfast the morning following the Sunday item, and an interview with a Waikato farmer broadcast on Seven Sharp several days later.

[48]  A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programmes which discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The subject matter must be an issue ‘of public importance’, it must be ‘controversial’, and it must be ‘discussed’.5

[49]  The Authority has typically defined an issue of public importance as something that would have a ‘significant potential impact on, or be of concern to, members of the New Zealand public’.6 A controversial issue is one which has topical currency and excites conflicting opinion or about which there has been ongoing public debate.7

[50]  We accept that the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of New Zealand’s dairy industry is a controversial issue of public importance. The exposure of mistreatment of animals within one of New Zealand’s largest industries is socially and economically significant, and is also highly controversial as there has been much debate around how widespread these alleged cruel practices are. This issue, which was the focus of the exposé, was clearly discussed in the item.

[51]  The next question, then, is whether the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to present significant points of view on the issue, either within the programme itself or within the period of current interest.

[52]  The item was a 21-minute exposé on the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of New Zealand’s dairy industry. This issue was extensively explored during the item, and we have carefully considered whether this angle, combined with the strongly critical nature of the exposé, resulted in a lack of balance. We have concluded that it did not. The Authority has consistently held that ‘balance need not be achieved by the “stopwatch”, meaning that the time given to each competing party or viewpoint does not have to be mathematically balanced’.8 In this case, we are satisfied that balance was achieved in the following ways (elaborated further from paragraph [53] below):

  • the inclusion in the story of extensive comment from a representative of Fonterra on behalf of the dairy industry
  • the use of ‘devil’s advocate’ questioning, and challenging of the Farm Watch representative, by the reporter
  • the inclusion in the item of comment from the owner of the slaughter-house where the cruel treatment of bobby calves was allegedly taking place
  • numerous follow-up items on the issue broadcast on TV ONE which presented the position of the dairy industry.

[53]  As well as interviews with representatives of animal rights groups Farm Watch and SAFE, the item featured substantial comment from the Group Director (Co-operative Affairs) of Fonterra. While he was not featured to the same degree as the animal rights group representatives or the hidden camera footage, he was nonetheless able to clearly present the position of many in the dairy industry. For example, when asked by the reporter, ‘Do you accept that’s how it [New Zealand’s dairy industry] is?’ (in response to the SAFE Executive Director’s reference to the ‘cruelty behind New Zealand’s dairy industry’), the Fonterra representative stated:

No I don’t... I think it is a very small minority of how the dairy industry in New Zealand operates... the vast majority of our farmers operate responsibly and this is really sad to see this footage come to light.

[54]  In addition, the Farm Watch representative was subjected to rigorous questioning by the reporter, who put to him, for example, ‘Have you got a thing about... dairy farmers then?’ and ‘Farmers would say that footage was selective; that many farmers are good to their animals’. This line of ‘devil’s advocate’ questioning alerted viewers to the perspective of those in the dairy industry and assisted in establishing the legitimacy of the exposé. The Farm Watch representative was also careful to state from the outset that his group doesn’t want to ‘hurt farmers’ and acknowledged that ‘[Dairy farmers] work incredibly long hours in very difficult conditions’.

[55]  It would have been desirable for the item itself to have included direct comment from farmers regarding their view on how widespread the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves is, as well as on the accepted farming practices that were subject to criticism. However, we are not convinced that this was critical to balancing the item, given the point of view of many in the dairy industry – that the footage showing the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves represented only a small minority in the industry – was given clearly and articulately by the Fonterra representative. The item also included comment from the owner of the slaughter-house where the cruel treatment of bobby calves was allegedly taking place, who stated he was surprised by the accusations and the footage obtained and had not yet heard from MPI regarding their reported investigation.

[56]  Furthermore, the position of the dairy industry was presented in various broadcasts within the period of current interest. For example, the Chief Executive of DairyNZ was interviewed on Breakfast the following morning. Among other things, he discussed feedback from farmers that they were appalled at the conduct depicted in the video footage but believed the item did not provide enough balance. He also asserted that most farmers care about their animals and that work needs to be done in the industry to deal with irresponsible farmers.

[57]  While we acknowledge that Breakfast may attract a different viewing audience to Sunday, Standard 4 allows broadcasters to achieve balance outside of the original broadcast, within the period of current interest. This interview, along with the other items referred to by TVNZ (see paragraph [47]) helped to remedy any perceived lack of balance in the original item by further elaborating on the dairy industry’s perspective, and in our view TVNZ has demonstrated that it satisfied its obligations under Standard 4.

[58]  For these reasons, we do not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[59]  The accuracy standard (Standard 5) states that 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 objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.9

[60]  RZ argued that the views expressed in the item alleging that separating new-born calves from their mothers is inhumane were incorrect because the practice is actually in the best interests of the animals. He also considered it was misleading to depict the calves in pens as having died from starvation there, as they had clearly been placed there after death to be kept away from the sun and farm dogs until collection.

[61]  TVNZ noted that the accuracy standard applies to statements of material fact and does not apply to opinions, comment or analysis. It argued the statements made by the animal behaviour expert regarding separating cows from their calves clearly fell into this category.

[62]  We agree with the broadcaster that the views given by the animal behaviour expert about calf separation were clearly distinguishable as his own commentary and analysis, and were therefore exempt from the requirement to be accurate. Regarding the footage of calves allegedly dying from starvation in pens on the side of the road, we note that this footage did not depict dead calves as alleged. It showed calves that were evidently in a state of distress or ill health, but were still alive.

[63]  Accordingly we do not uphold the accuracy complaint.

Name Suppression

[64]  Although we have not upheld the complaint or found any breach of privacy, having regard to the nature of the programme and the nature of the complaint, we consider it appropriate to suppress the complainant’s details in the decision. This is in light of our view that the complainant was not identified in the item, and to minimise any compounding of harm that the complainant feels he has suffered as a result of the broadcast.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Te Raumawhitu Kupenga

Authority Member
17 May 2016




The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      RZ’s formal complaint – 14 December 2015
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 28 January 2016
3      RZ’s referral to the Authority – 11 February 2016
4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 April 2016
5      TVNZ’s response to the Authority’s request for further information – 11 and 13 April 2016
6      RZ’s response to the Authority’s request for further information – 12 April 2016



See sections 5 and 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

See, for example, Agostino and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2012-084 and South Pacific Pictures Ltd and RadioWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-017

Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014

Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014

For further discussion of these concepts see Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Television (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2010) and Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Radio (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2009)

Powell and CanWest TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2005-125

See, for example, Dewe and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-076

See, for example, Keren and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2014-144; Boyce and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-163; and Brooking and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2009-012 

Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036