A complaint that Malcolm Brenner was treated unfairly when interviewed for a segment on Dom, Meg and Randell about his previous sexual relationship with a dolphin has been upheld. MediaWorks interviewed Mr Brenner about his relationship with a dolphin but ultimately decided not to broadcast the interview in full. They did however broadcast a small segment of the interview in which one of the hosts called Mr Brenner ‘sick’ and stormed out of the interview. The Authority found that Mr Brenner was treated unfairly and was not adequately informed about the nature of his participation in the broadcast. In particular, he was misled into thinking a four minute version of the interview would be broadcast (rather than only the brief segment including the host’s reaction to him), when the final broadcast had already occurred. The Authority also found that, while listeners may have already formed a negative impression about Mr Brenner, the broadcast of the interview segment had the potential to adversely affect him and he should have been given the opportunity to comment on air. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the discrimination and denigration, balance and accuracy standards, finding they were not applicable.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy
The Authority has upheld a complaint about two broadcasts on Humm FM, finding that the complainant was treated unfairly. The Authority found that comments made by the host during the broadcasts were likely to reflect negatively on the complainant and to impact on his personal and professional reputation. As the complainant was adversely affected, he should have been given an opportunity under the fairness standard to respond to the comments made about him. The Authority emphasised that the right to broadcast carries with it privileges and responsibilities, and in this case the host used his platform to air his personal grievances against the complainant without giving him an opportunity to comment, which was unfair. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the privacy standard, finding that while the complainant may have been identifiable to the Hindi community to which these broadcasts were targeted, no private information or material about him was disclosed.
Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Privacy
Order: Section 16(4) – $750 in costs to the Crown
A broadcast of The Long Lunch hosted by Wendyl Nissen included an interview with Horowhenua District Councillor (HDC) Ross Campbell, who talked about his decision to wear a body camera to Council meetings after what was described as incidents of bullying towards him. MediaWorks upheld the complaint under the fairness standard, finding that it should have sought comment from HDC prior to the broadcast, but did not take any remedial action. The Authority upheld HDC’s complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks following the finding of the breach of the fairness standard was insufficient. The Authority found that MediaWorks ought to have broadcast a follow-up item to remedy the breach. The Authority also upheld the complaint that the item was unbalanced as it did not include any comment from HDC or acknowledgement of an alternative viewpoint with respect to the allegations of bullying. Finally, the Authority found the broadcast was likely to mislead audiences by giving the impression that HDC had a systemic culture of bullying, through the absence of the presentation of alternative perspectives, and upheld the complaint under the accuracy standard.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Balance, Accuracy
Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
Māori Television Service (MTS) aired a story on Te Kāea about how hapū Te Parawhau felt they had been shut out of negotiations on the sale of a piece of land, known as Pūriri Park in Northland, to Housing New Zealand (HNZ). The Authority upheld HNZ’s complaint under the balance standard, finding the omission of HNZ’s point of view from the initial broadcast likely prevented audiences from arriving at an informed and reasoned opinion about the sale and HNZ’s involvement. The Authority also upheld HNZ’s complaint under the accuracy and fairness standards, finding that while MTS aired a follow-up broadcast featuring comment from Te Parawhau and HNZ, this broadcast did not remedy the harm caused to HNZ by the initial broadcast of inaccurate information about the land sold. As a result, HNZ was likely to be adversely affected by the broadcast and was not provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment. The Authority emphasised that while public entities may be subject to greater scrutiny, they are still entitled to fair and accurate treatment in broadcasting.
Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness; No Order
Over two evenings, on 20 and 21 January 2018, Newshub reported on the delayed launch of a rocket from the Māhia Peninsula, due to a boat being in the exclusion zone around the launch site. The first item strongly implied that Hastings District Councillor Damon Harvey was responsible for the delayed launch, referring to a tweet, featuring a photo of the launch site, that the reporter said was tweeted by Mr Harvey ‘around the same time’ as the launch delay. The second item included a short comment from an interview with Mr Harvey. The Authority found parts of these broadcasts were inaccurate and misleading, and were unfair to Mr Harvey. The broadcaster relied on social media content as a basis for the story without taking reasonable steps to inform the complainants of their contribution to the programme, or to verify that the content was what the reporter claimed. As a result, viewers were misled about who was responsible for the launch delay. Mr Harvey’s interview comments were also edited in a way that was misleading and unfair, so he was not given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the story.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness. Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement on air, online and in print; Section 16(1) $2,000 legal costs to complainant; Section 16(4) $1,000 costs to the Crown
An item on 1 News reported on an alleged ‘mistake’ by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which the reporter, Andrea Vance, said ‘cost the taxpayer a quarter of a million dollars’. The item referred to MFAT’s action in waiving the diplomatic immunity of an MFAT employee – the complainant – to allow child custody and matrimonial proceedings to be heard in an overseas court. According to Ms Vance, MFAT’s actions were disputed by the complainant’s ex-partner, resulting in MFAT issuing an apology and payment of ‘legal bills’ to both the complainant and the complainant’s ex-partner. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from the MFAT employee that the item was inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair. It was important, in the interests of ensuring viewers were properly informed and were not misled, for the broadcaster to have provided alternative perspectives on the issue of legal costs, namely that MFAT denied payment of the complainant’s costs. Further, it should have been made clear to viewers that a legal expert featured in the item did not have specific knowledge of the complainant’s case and was commenting only generally on the applicable law. The Authority noted the public interest in this item and the efforts made by the broadcaster to protect the identities of those involved, and did not uphold the complaint under the remaining standards.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Children’s Interests, Programme Information.
The Authority has upheld one aspect of a complaint from three complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Panthic Vichar, broadcast on community radio station, Planet FM. During the programme, host Kuldip Singh made a number of allegations against the complainants, regarding use of grant money and cheating or ‘unjust’ behaviour at a kabaddi tournament. The Authority found that the host’s comments reflected negatively on the complainants and as such, they should have been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint. The Authority acknowledged the limited resources available to the broadcaster, but reminded it of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, including where the broadcast subject to complaint is in a language other than English. The Authority did not make any orders.
Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy. No Order.
An item on The Project discussed the building of a new gambling venue in Tokoroa set to contain 30 gambling machines (‘pokies’). The segment was critical of the South Waikato District Council’s (SWDC) role in the authorisation of this new venue, and also one of the Councillors’ roles as both a Councillor and manager of one of the clubs involved in the creation of the proposed new venue. The following evening one of the programme hosts issued an on-air apology to the Councillor, clarifying inaccurate statements made about their involvement in the decision-making process. The Authority upheld SWDC’s complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks did not sufficiently remedy the harm caused by the breaches. The Authority found that the statement the following night did not remedy the harm caused to SWDC by the broadcast, only the Councillor. The Authority also upheld the complaint that the host’s statement that the SWDC ‘get a cut of the profits’ from the gambling machines was inaccurate, as the SWDC do not directly receive any percentage of the profits.
Upheld: Balance (Action Taken), Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy. Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.
During The AM Show, host Duncan Garner and then Newshub political editor Patrick Gower discussed various policies the new Labour Government was considering implementing, as well as legislation it planned to change or repeal. Discussing the ‘three strikes’ law, Mr Gower referred to one of the complainants, Mr Garrett, who was involved in introducing the law, and stated, ‘turned out that he had been stealing dead babies’ identities himself before he came into Parliament’. Mr Garner later clarified that it was ‘one dead baby’. The Authority upheld three complaints that the segment was inaccurate and unfair to Mr Garrett. While the broadcaster acknowledged the statement was inaccurate, the Authority found Mr Garner’s correction was dismissive and perfunctory, and insufficient to correct the error. The Authority also considered that the manner and tone in which Mr Garrett was brought up in the discussion, despite the passage of time since his offence, was unfair. The Authority did not make any order, finding publication of its decision was sufficient to publicly notify the breach of standards, and help to repair any harm caused to Mr Garrett.
Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken), Fairness. Not Upheld: Balance, Discrimination and Denigration
On 18 March 2017, RNZ reported on allegations made by the Board of Trustees at Salisbury School, a Nelson school for girls with complex learning needs, that the Ministry of Education (Ministry) had actively discouraged parents from enrolling children at the school so that it could be closed. On 31 March and 6 April 2017, RNZ broadcast a series of items about an alleged lack of funding, resources and support for Northland teachers struggling to cope with violent and disruptive children. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from the Ministry that RNZ’s coverage of these issues was unfair and unbalanced. While the Authority acknowledged the high public interest in these stories, and the important role of broadcast media in holding our government entities to account, it found that it was equally important in this case to ensure listeners were fully informed about the issues reported on, and this included being made aware of the Ministry’s views in response. This required the broadcaster to ensure that the Ministry was provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment on the items, prior to broadcast.
Upheld: Balance, Fairness
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An episode of I Am Innocent focused on the story of Y, a science teacher, who was accused and charged with indecently assaulting a female student (‘X’) in 2012. The charges against Y were withdrawn around August-September 2013. The episode featured interviews with Y and others, all of whom spoke supportively about him. Ms Johnson complained that the broadcast breached broadcasting standards, including that comments made during the programme about X and her mother resulted in their unfair treatment. The Authority upheld this aspect of Ms Johnson’s complaint, finding that the programme created a negative impression of X and her mother. While the Authority acknowledged the broadcaster’s attempts to contact X and her mother, in order for them to be treated fairly, they needed to be given the opportunity to respond specifically to the negative comments made about their character and personal lives, and if they elected not to respond, consideration ought to have been given to whether the comments should be removed or edited. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of Ms Johnson’s complaint, finding that the programme did not mislead viewers and was accurate in relation to all material points of fact. As X was not identified, no breach of privacy occurred, and the programme did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance which required balancing views.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy, Privacy, Balance. No Order.
In June, October and November 2016, Sikh radio station Radio Virsa broadcast four programmes in Punjabi on 107FM. The programmes included host and talkback commentary about a wide range of issues. The Authority received a complaint that these broadcasts contained threatening and coarse language and themes, and offensive statements were made in relation to a number of named individuals in the Sikh community, including the complainant. The Authority found that aspects of these broadcasts were in breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority was particularly concerned that offensive comments were made about named individuals in the local community, which resulted in the individuals’ unfair treatment and, in one instance, a breach of privacy. The Authority also found aspects of the broadcasts, which contained comments about women, were unacceptable in New Zealand society and in breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the remaining broadcasting standards.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
An episode of the radio documentary series, Insight, titled ‘Will cameras end commercial fish dumping’, discussed the issue of whether the quota management system (QMS) was contributing to illegal fish dumping practices in the commercial fishing industry and whether camera monitoring could be used to improve this issue. The episode featured an interview with Dr Russel Norman, the Executive Director of Greenpeace NZ, who described a camera monitoring trial run by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and undertaken by Trident Systems (Trident) and an independent research company, Archipelago. Dr Norman said that, during the trial, Archipelago found ‘lots of illegal behaviour, dumping, killing of Hector’s dolphins’, while Trident ‘found nothing’. Dr Norman then suggested that MPI awarded a contract to Trident for filming of a commercial fishery because of these results. The Authority found that, by not giving Trident the opportunity to respond to this allegation, the item was unfair. However, the Authority found that Dr Norman’s statement was based on records of the trial and on the findings of an independent inquiry into MPI’s prosecution decisions, and so his summary of those findings was not misleading or inaccurate. In the context of an item about the QMS and commercial fish dumping, the Authority found that Dr Norman’s statement, which was limited to past monitoring trials, did not amount to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance which triggered the requirements of the balance standard.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance. Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement on air and online; Section 16(1) $2,000 legal costs to complainant
During Jay-Jay, Dom & Randell, the hosts discussed their conversation with a guest the previous day who was described as a successful voice coach, and who gave tips about putting on a ‘sexy voice’. One of the hosts prank called two phone sex chat lines and spoke to the operators to see whether they used a ‘sexy voice’. One of the operators he spoke with was the complainant, who discussed practical aspects of the service, including how calls were conducted and paid for. A distinctive sound could be heard in the background of the call. The Authority upheld a complaint from the operator that this broadcast breached her privacy and was unfair. The combination of the extended audio of the complainant’s voice and the background sounds meant that she could be identified by people beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about her phone sex chat line business. The complainant was also unaware she was being recorded and did not consent to the broadcast of this information. This resulted in a breach of her privacy and was also unfair. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of BL’s complaint.
Upheld: Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: $2,000 privacy compensation; $1,500 costs to the Crown
Newshub broadcast a story about the outcome of a review by Michael Heron QC of Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) fisheries prosecution decisions. The reporter referred to the resignations of two senior MPI officials, implying that the resignations were connected to the outcome of the Heron review. The Authority upheld the complaint that the broadcast was unfair. The item reflected negatively on the two individuals’ professional reputations and had the potential to adversely affect them. In the interests of fairness, the broadcaster should have given the individuals affected a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations, which did not occur. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached the accuracy standard, as it found the broadcaster had made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy by relying on sources which it satisfied itself were credible. The allegations were presented alongside MPI’s position that the resignations were not connected to the Heron review, so viewers would not have been misled.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Fair Go reported on a family who had purchased land in Papamoa only to find that the section had an actual size of 258m2, rather than the 296m2 shown on the property title and in their Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA). The item found that the surveyor was responsible for the incorrect description on the title. However, the item also discussed an extract from an email sent to the purchaser by the real estate agent involved, Wayne Skinner, asking for a notation on the SPA seeking verification of the land site to be removed. The Authority upheld a complaint that the item was unfair and misleading, finding that the reporting of the email extract gave the impression that Mr Skinner had chosen to intentionally remove the purchaser’s right to have the title checked, and did not reflect the other protections available to the purchaser in the SPA. The negative impression created by the item was disproportionate and unfair to Mr Skinner, and undue focus was given to him in the context of the item as a whole. The item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the balance standard.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy; Not Upheld: Balance
Seven Sharp featured a story about two local residents, labelled ‘herb detectives’, who were determined to track down the man they believed was responsible for stealing their herbs. The reporter and the ‘herb detectives’ visited the local market looking for the alleged thief and spoke to a woman, Shunfang Shen, who was selling herbs. The reporter asked Mrs Shen where her herbs were from, and one of the residents said, ‘It looked very much like my mint.’ The Authority upheld a complaint from Mrs Shen that the action taken by TVNZ, in upholding her complaint that the item was inaccurate and unfair, was insufficient. The Authority acknowledged that TVNZ attempted to remedy the breach of standards, including by broadcasting a correction several days after the item. However, the Authority found it would have been straightforward for this correction to also include an apology to Mrs Shen, which would have addressed her concerns. The item clearly had the potential to be particularly damaging to Mrs Shen’s reputation in her local community, and her livelihood. She was an innocent bystander and, due to her limited English, was unable to meaningfully respond to the reporter’s questions or defend herself. The Authority found that no order was warranted, as the decision publicly notified the breach of standards.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy (Action Taken); No Order
An item on Story explored the issue of unconscious bias. During the introduction, footage of members of the public walking down the street was shown. Each individual was zoomed in and highlighted with special effects. The Authority upheld a complaint from JW, one of the individuals shown, that she was unfairly ‘showcased’ during the segment. Rather than being a face in the crowd, the edited footage used filming techniques that singled out the complainant and drew her into the issue under discussion without her knowledge or consent. This unduly impacted on her dignity and was unfair. The Authority recognised that bias is a sensitive issue and has the potential to cause hurt and offence. It is also an important social issue. In this context, without undermining the value of the item as a whole, the Authority considered more care should have been taken in the way the footage was edited to avoid the singling out of individuals who were unaware they would be featured. The Authority did not consider that JW had a reasonable expectation of privacy when she was filmed on a busy public street. Nor did the item reach the high threshold necessary to encourage viewers to treat differently, or devalue the reputation of, any section of the community.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Privacy, Discrimination and Denigration; No Order
During the Hauraki Breakfast Show, Deborah Stokes, mother of New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes, rang the studio to complain about what she considered to be unfair comments made by the hosts regarding her son, and to defend him. Mrs Stokes asked to speak with someone off air. Host Matt Heath assured Mrs Stokes she was off air, when in fact the conversation was being broadcast live on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by NZME, having upheld Mrs Stokes’ complaint under the fairness and privacy standards, was insufficient. The broadcast, and particularly the hosts’ deceptive conduct, represented a significant breach of broadcasting standards and a lack of understanding of an individual’s fundamental right to fair treatment and to privacy. While NZME offered Mrs Stokes a substantial remedy following her complaint, it took limited action, which did not adequately rectify the harm caused to Mrs Stokes. Furthermore, events subsequent to the broadcast and prior to NZME’s response to the complaint, such as the hosts’ behaviour, undermined the genuineness of the proposed offer.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Privacy (Action Taken)
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation for breach of privacy; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $4,000
In an episode of The Block NZ: Villa Wars, the complainant was portrayed as a ‘temperamental European tiler’ who allegedly wanted to be paid in advance and went ‘AWOL’ when he was not paid. The Authority upheld a complaint that the complainant was treated unfairly and that key facts about his professional conduct were misrepresented. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the broadcast also breached a number of additional standards.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy
Not Upheld: Privacy, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Controversial Issues, Responsible Programming
Order: Section 16(4) costs to the Crown $1,500