BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Wills and Discovery NZ Limited - 2021-087 (13 October 2021)

Members
  • Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
Dated
Complainant
  • Gary Wills
Number
2021-087
Programme
Newshub Nation
Broadcaster
Discovery NZ Ltd
Channel/Station
Three

Summary  

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint under the balance, accuracy and fairness standards. It noted the complainant had not identified any inaccuracies or particular issues of public importance requiring balance. It also found the two interviewees were treated fairly and the interviews represented what it expects of the media in performing its role of scrutinising and holding to account those in power.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness


The broadcast

[1]  In the 19 June 2021 episode of Newshub Nation, Tova O’Brien interviewed Transport Minister Hon Michael Wood, and the MP for Rongotai, Paul Eagle.

The complaint

[2]  Gary Wills complained the broadcast breached the balance, accuracy and fairness standards because, ‘Tova is biased and one-sided in her interviews and reports. She must learn that a journalist is fair and impartial.’

The broadcaster’s response

[3]  Discovery did not uphold Mr Wills’ complaint for the following reasons:

  • 'We are satisfied that the presenter’s analysis and commentary in the broadcasts did not breach the broadcasting standards and is typical of the content routinely shown in an in-depth politics and current affairs programme like Newshub Nation.’
  • The programme ‘routinely features robust interviews with politicians conducted by Tova O’Brien.’
  • ‘It is an important part of the media’s role… to question public and government officials and hold their statements to account.’

The standards

[4]  The balance standard1 ensures competing viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.2 The standard only applies to news, current affairs and factual programmes, which discuss a controversial issue of public importance.3

[5]  The purpose of the accuracy standard4 is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.5 It states that 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]  The fairness standard6 protects the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes.7 It ensures individuals and organisations are dealt with justly and fairly and protected from unwarranted damage.

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.8

Balance

[9]  The complaint concerned Tova O’Brien being allegedly ‘biased and one-sided in her interviews and reports.’ However, the balance standard is not directed at bias in and of itself but at ensuring that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, broadcasters make reasonable efforts to present alternative perspectives.9

[10]  Despite the Authority’s request for further submissions clarifying the basis of his complaint, the complainant did not identify any particular issue(s) in respect of which coverage was not balanced. Accordingly, the balance standard does not apply.

Accuracy

[11]  Similarly, the complainant has not identified any particular statements or points of fact he considered inaccurate or misleading. 

[12]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

Fairness

[13]  The complainant also did not specify who he alleges was treated unfairly. We note Ms O’Brien interviewed Michael Wood and Paul Eagle in this episode. However, we consider neither was treated unfairly, taking into account the following factors:10

  • Newshub Nation is an in-depth weekly current affairs show focusing on the major players and forces that shape New Zealand.11
  • The interviews raise important matters of public interest and political accountability.
  • The two interviewees are Members of Parliament, experienced in dealing with the media, who could reasonably expect to be scrutinised in the manner which occurred.
  • The interviewees were given reasonable opportunity to respond to the questions and present their viewpoints and perspectives.

[14]  These types of interview are what we expect of the media. We have often recognised the value of robust political discourse and the vital role of the media in holding to account those in positions of power. This enables the public to be informed and engaged, which is critical to a free and democratic society.12

[15]  For these reasons we do not uphold the complaint under the fairness standard.

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

  

Susie Staley
Acting Chair
13 October 2021    

 

 

Appendix

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

1  Gary Wills' original complaint to Discovery – 28 June 2021

2  Discovery’s response to Mr Wills – 13 July 2021

3  Mr Wills’ referral to the Authority – 13 July 2021

4  Mr Wills confirming referral – 4 August 2021

5  Discovery confirming no further comments – 24 August 2021

6  Mr Wills confirming details of complaint – 27 August 2021


1 Standard 8 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
3 As above
4 Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
5 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
6 Standard 11 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
7 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
8 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
9 Guideline 8a
10 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
11 Three “Newshub Nation” <www.threenow.co.nz>
12 Newton and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-137