BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

West and Discovery New Zealand Ltd - 2022-038 (21 June 2022)

Members
  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • John Gillespie
  • Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
  • Aroha Beck
Dated
Complainant
  • Bruce West
Number
2022-038
Broadcaster
Discovery NZ Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint regarding an item on Newshub Live at 6pm about the current war in Ukraine. The complaint was in relation to the map used in the segment, which showed Ukraine, Russia and other nearby countries, and depicted Crimea as a part of Russia. The Authority acknowledged that the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing war in Ukraine is a highly sensitive topic and found the map did contain inaccuracies. However, the Authority found the segment was materially accurate, as the map would not have significantly affected the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole. In the circumstances the Authority determined that regulatory intervention was not required. The programme information, law and order, and fairness standards did not apply.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Programme Information, Law and Order, Fairness


The broadcast

[1]  During an episode of Newshub Live at 6pm on 12 March 2022, the presenter introduced a segment about the current war in Ukraine, stating the following:

Russia has widened its offensive in Ukraine, attacking cities in the centre and the West of the country for the first time. It could indicate a new direction of where this war is heading. Lutsk, Ivano-Frankivsk and Dnipro were all targeted with apartment blocks, factories, and even kindergartens destroyed. It has left many more civilians killed and wounded.

[2]  While the presenter was speaking, a map was shown behind him, which included the following countries, depicted in bold colours: Ukraine (yellow); Russia (black); Belarus (dark grey); Romania (light grey); and Poland (orange). The only territories or cities that were labelled on the map were Lutsk, Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnipro and Kyiv. The first three had the name of the city, and a small a symbol of an explosion next to the name. Kyiv was named but had no symbol. The map depicted Crimea, unlabelled in black, making it appear that it was a part of Russia.

The complaint

[3]  Bruce West complained that the broadcast breached the accuracy, programme information, law and order, and fairness standards:

  • ‘Crimea was annexed illegally from Ukraine, by the Russian Federation in 2014, and the invasion is not supported or recognized by New Zealand government, or the United Nations, and the majority of other countries.’
  • ‘For the second time, the headline map of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the countries to the west of Ukraine, with the Russian Federation in black, clearly showed Crimea as a definitive part of Russia, in black. Crimea is annexed, and to show it as part of Russia, is inaccurate, [and] biased’.

The broadcaster’s response

[4]  Discovery did not uphold the complaint, but acknowledged the issue. It said it has reviewed and changed the way it will present Crimea geographically in future broadcasts. It stated:

  • ‘We note that the political situation in Crimea is complex and that the situation there does amount to an ongoing occupation by Russia as determined by the International Criminal Court in its 2016 report.’
  • ‘While we do not agree this Broadcast contained a “material error of fact” in the context of a story focussing on Ukraine and the horrors of war, we acknowledge the point you have made and have reviewed the way we present Crimea graphically. In the maps broadcast since, Newshub has shown clearly Crimea as under Russian control, rather than as a part of Russian territory.’
  • ‘While the map did not go through all of the necessary checks, we… maintain the resulting content did not materially mislead the audience.’

The standards

[5]  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 that any news, current affairs or factual programme is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead.

[6]  We consider the accuracy standard is most relevant to the complaint. However, the programme information, law and order, and fairness standards are dealt with briefly at paragraph [17].

Our analysis

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

[8]  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 reasonable and justified.3

[9]  We consider the value of the expression in this broadcast was high. The war in Ukraine is of significant interest both in Aotearoa New Zealand, and internationally. The programme covered many important issues in the few minutes it played, including the following:

  • the bombing of previously safe areas, specifically Lutsk, Ivano-Frankivsk and Dnipro
  • discussion on potential misinformation around chemical weapons development
  • refugees fleeing from one of the cities referenced
  • a brief interview with a Ukrainian soldier
  • a brief interview with people in a bomb shelter at one of the cities referenced
  • President Joe Biden explaining the United States’ hesitancy to join the war
  • the destruction of villages from Russian advances
  • an active gun battle between Ukrainian and Russian soldiers.

Accuracy

[10]  The accuracy standard is concerned only with material inaccuracy. For example, technical or unimportant points unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole are not material.4

[11]  Overall, in this instance, we found the programme was materially accurate, and would not significantly misled viewers in the context of the programme as a whole. We expand on our reasoning below.

Were the maps inaccurate?

[12]  In considering the accuracy of the map, we note the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and most States recognise Crimea as an occupied territory of Ukraine.5 Further, Discovery has acknowledged the inaccuracy of the map. We consider the map, without further information to explain that Crimea is an occupied territory, was inaccurate.

Was the inaccuracy material?

[13]  Despite our finding that the map was inaccurate, we note that the standard is concerned only with material inaccuracy. We appreciate the high level of sensitivity around the annexation of Crimea and the importance of accuracy in relation to the ongoing occupation. Our finding here that the broadcast was materially accurate, does not mean the inaccuracy was unimportant or trivial. Rather the key question is whether the inaccuracy would have significantly affected the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.6

[14]  Context can aid the consideration of whether an aspect of a broadcast was materially inaccurate.7 The following contextual factors are relevant to our consideration:

  • The map was only shown for 10 seconds, out of a 4.51 minute segment.
  • The focus of the segment was on conflict occurring in Lutsk, Ivano-Frankivsk and Dnipro, which were highlighted and labelled on the map.
  • Crimea was shown on the map as part of Russia, however Crimea was not part of the discussion during the segment.
  • The segment was not about the 2014 annexation of Crimea, nor the complexities of the ongoing occupation of the area.
  • Most viewers would not have had time to properly examine the maps as shown, and many would not have identified Crimea without the area being labelled.

[15]  While we acknowledge the map did not accurately depict Crimea, in this context, we find the inaccuracy would not have significantly affected the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.8 

[16]  Given the high value of the broadcast, the importance of the information it contained, the need to provide it quickly in an accessible and informative way to viewers, and taking into account the importance of freedom of expression, we find that no regulatory intervention is justified in this instance.

Remaining standards

[17]  We consider the remaining standards either did not apply or were not breached:

  • Programme information: The programme information standard9 requires broadcasters to ensure programmes are correctly classified and screened in appropriate timebands, and where appropriate, issue audience advisories. News and current affairs are not subject to classification because of their distinct nature,10 and this segment was not outside of audience expectations for the programme.
  • Law and order: The law and order standard11 states broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order, taking into account the context of the programme and the wider context of the broadcast. Its purpose is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone crime or serious antisocial activities.12 It is not clear what aspects of the broadcast the complainant considers to have breached this standard. In any event, the broadcast did not encourage or glamorise illegal or serious antisocial behaviour.
  • Fairness: the fairness standard13 is concerned with preventing undue harm to the dignity and reputation of any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.14  As the complainant has not identified a person or organisation treated unfairly in the broadcast, this standard does not apply.

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  Bruce West’s formal complaint – 12 March 2022

2  Discovery’s response to the complaint – 7 April 2022

3  West’s referral to the Authority – 9 April 2022

4  Discovery’s confirmation of no further comment – 13 April 2022

5  Discovery’s response to request for further information – 31 May 2022


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 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
4 Guideline 9b
5 United Nations “Backing Ukraine’s territorial integrity, UN Assembly declares Crimea referendum invalid” (27 March 2014) <news.un.org>; International Criminal Court: The Office of the Prosecutor “Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2016)” (14 November 2016) <https://www.icc-cpi.int>
6 Guideline 9b
7 See, for example, Cumin and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-068 at [17] and Collie and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2021-008 at [15]
8 Guideline 9b
9 Commentary: Good Taste and Decency, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 12
10 Guideline 2f
11 Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
12 Commentary: Law and Order, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15
13 Standard 11 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
14 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21