The Authority received a complaint about a promo for a scheduled programme Seven Sharp which was viewed on TVNZ’s Facebook page. The Authority declined to determine the complaint under s11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. The Authority acknowledged that it raised complex issues of jurisdiction arising from the online environment, which had not yet been determined by the Authority. Taking into account its assessment of the substance of the complaint, which it considered was unlikely to result in a finding of a breach of standards, the Authority declined to determine the complaint.
Declined to determine: Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration
During an episode of Seven Sharp the presenter Hilary Barry welcomed a temporary presenter, Matt Chisholm, who responded by saying ‘it’s bloody good to be here’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the word ‘bloody’ breached the good taste and decency standard, finding the use of the term in the context of this programme was not inappropriate or unnecessary. The Authority has consistently found this expression to be colloquial language commonly used as an exclamation in our society. The Authority noted that Seven Sharp is aimed at adult viewers and the expression was not intended to be aggressive or pejorative. Overall, the Authority found that any potential for harm by the use of this term did not justify a restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
An item on Seven Sharp discussed the case of a woman and an offensive message which was sent to her by a City Councillor. The road sign which was captured in the message read, ‘Jesus is cuming… open your mouth’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that showing the road sign during the segment was potentially offensive to Christians, in breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority acknowledged that people may find the wording of the sign offensive. However, taking into account relevant contextual factors, including the nature of the programme, the relevance of the sign to the subject matter of the item, signposting of the lewd nature of the sign, and audience expectations of Seven Sharp, the Authority did not consider the use of the phrase threatened community norms of taste and decency, or justified restricting the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
During an item on Seven Sharp, broadcast on 23 August 2017 during the election period, the presenters discussed TVNZ’s ‘Vote Compass’, a tool available to assist the New Zealand public to make voting decisions. In response to comments by presenter Toni Street about the usefulness of the tool, presenter Mike Hosking said, ‘…so is the fact that you can’t vote for the Māori Party because you’re not enrolled in the Māori electorate, so what are you going to do now? I’m joking.’ The following evening, Mr Hosking attempted to clarify his comment by saying, ‘Now, the fact that anyone can vote for [the Māori Party] as a list party I automatically assumed we all knew given we have been doing this for 20 years…’ The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Hosking’s comments were inaccurate, finding that Mr Hosking’s statement about who was eligible to vote for the Māori Party was a material point of fact that was inaccurate and misleading. Further, his comments the following evening were confusing and insufficient to correct the inaccurate information for viewers. The Authority acknowledged the high value of political expression during an election period, but found that the potential harm in this case – providing inaccurate information which had the potential to influence voters, despite the alleged clarification – outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Upheld: Accuracy; Order: section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.
A segment on Seven Sharp featured an interview between Mike Hosking and Jacinda Ardern on the day Ms Ardern became leader of the Labour Party. Mr Hosking questioned Ms Ardern about the state of the Labour Party and her leadership credentials, and also commented on what he believed to be the ‘chaotic’ state of the Labour Party and its chances of winning the 2017 General Election. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the segment was unbalanced and inaccurate, finding that the broadcaster provided sufficient balance by allowing Ms Ardern a reasonable amount of time to answer the interview questions. The Authority also noted the significant amount of coverage the leadership change received during the period of current interest. This segment amounted to robust political discourse that was to be expected during an election period, and the Authority concluded that upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of expression and political speech.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
An item on Seven Sharp discussed the UK’s move to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, to encourage the use electric vehicles (EVs). Following the item, presenter Mike Hosking outlined the ‘hurdles’ to be overcome before a similar move could be made in New Zealand, stating that there was ‘no charging network’ in New Zealand and that the cost of EVs was ‘too high’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Hosking’s statements were inaccurate and misleading. Noting that the accuracy standard does not apply to statements of analysis, comment or opinion, the Authority found that, in this case, Mr Hosking’s statements on the cost-effectiveness of EVs, and the lack of charging network in New Zealand, represented his own opinion and analysis on the topic, which viewers would not have expected to be authoritative. While the complainant may have disagreed with Mr Hosking’s views, the Authority found that these were opinions which were open to Mr Hosking to express, noting that the free and frank expression of opinions is an important aspect of the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
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 Seven Sharp discussed a five-week, outdoor ‘life skills’ camp held for high school students on Great Barrier Island. Footage of a sheep being restrained to be killed for food, the sheep’s dead body and blood, and the gutting of the sheep was shown. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the killing of the sheep was ‘brutal’ and unacceptable for broadcast. While the footage was graphic and would not have appealed to all viewers, it was adequately signposted during the item, which enabled viewers to exercise discretion and decide whether to continue watching. The actual killing of the sheep was not shown, and the footage appeared to show standard, accepted practices of killing animals for food in New Zealand. In the context of an unclassified current affairs programme screened during PGR time and aimed at adults, the footage did not reach the threshold for finding a breach of standards.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence
A Seven Sharp item discussed the reasons that outgoing New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd was not seeking re-election. These included that Mr Judd had suffered abuse and become ‘deeply unpopular’ because of his campaign to increase Māori representation on the New Plymouth District Council, in particular by proposing that a Māori ward be established on the Council. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s editorial comments following the item were unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. In making its decision, the Authority acknowledged the influential position of the presenters, but found that alternative views were conveyed during the item and in subsequent items during the period of current interest. The presenters’ comments were their opinion and analysis of the issues discussed, rather than statements of fact, so they were not subject to the accuracy standard. The item was not unfair to Mr Judd, as any criticism of his views or actions was in relation to his public, elected role, in which he could reasonably be expected to be subject to scrutiny. Mr Judd was presented positively throughout the item and the presenters’ disagreement with his position did not result in him being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
A Seven Sharp item discussed the reasons that outgoing New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd was not seeking re-election. These included that Mr Judd had suffered abuse and become ‘deeply unpopular’ because of his campaign to increase Māori representation on the New Plymouth District Council, in particular by proposing that a Māori ward be established on the Council. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the reporter’s statements about the referendum regarding the establishment of a Māori ward were inaccurate. While several of the reporter’s statements could be seen to conflate the issues about representation, the surrounding statements clarified what was being discussed so viewers would not have been misled. In the context of the item, these statements did not reach the threshold for breaching the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
A Seven Sharp item discussed the reasons that outgoing New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd was not seeking re-election. These included that Mr Judd had suffered abuse and become ‘deeply unpopular’ because of his campaign to increase Māori representation on the New Plymouth District Council, in particular by proposing that a Māori ward be established on the Council. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item lacked balance and was misleading by failing to accurately present the perspective of the New Plymouth public who were opposed to Mr Judd’s proposed reforms. While it was framed primarily as a profile piece on Mr Judd, the item’s discussion of the proposed Māori ward triggered the requirement for balance. Sufficient balance was provided by Mr Hosking in both the item itself and in a follow-up item, as he gave the alternative viewpoint that a specific Māori ward may be undemocratic. While several of the reporter’s statements could be seen to conflate the issues about representation, the surrounding statements clarified what was being discussed so viewers would not have been misled. In the context of the item, these statements did not reach the threshold for breaching the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
An item on Seven Sharp featured a young girl who was passionate about pig hunting. The item contained footage of the girl and her father on a pig hunt, including footage of the pig bailed up by dogs, as well as the young girl holding the pig’s heart after it had been gutted, and carrying the carcass. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The subject matter of the item was clearly signposted by the hosts, who also provided a warning about the content. Viewers and caregivers were therefore given a reasonable opportunity to exercise discretion or make a different viewing choice. In any event, the footage shown during the item was not overly gory or gratuitous, and while some viewers may have found it unpleasant to watch, the broadcast of hunting footage is generally acceptable in New Zealand so long as standards are maintained.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests
An item on Seven Sharp discussed whether celebrity endorsement of any particular flag would sway public voting in the New Zealand flag referendum. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast of the personal views of certain celebrities who supported changing the flag resulted in an unbalanced and partial programme. While the item featured several celebrities in support of the alternative flag, it also mentioned some who supported the current flag. In the context of the item this was a sufficient acknowledgement of significant viewpoints on the issue. Furthermore, viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of the different perspectives on the flag referendum issue.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy
A Seven Sharp item discussed the upcoming flag referendum and featured an interview with an Australian advocate for changing the flag. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that presenter Mike Hosking ‘encouraged the New Zealand public to vote a certain way by reiterating his own prejudices and then using an Australian broadcaster to support his own views’. While Mr Hosking made his view in support of changing the flag known, the alternative view was adequately presented during the item. Given the widespread coverage of the flag referendum, viewers could also reasonably be expected to be aware of significant perspectives on the issue, and would not have been deceived or disadvantaged as a result of this item.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Responsible Programming
Seven Sharp featured an interview with singer Robbie Williams, during which he referred to his desire to be a naturist and said he had a small ‘cock’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment was distasteful. The comment was at the low end of the spectrum of sexual material and was not outside audience expectations of Seven Sharp, which is an unclassified current affairs/entertainment programme aimed at adults.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
On an episode of Seven Sharp, the hosts discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and interviewed a law professor. The professor explained the contrast between the dispute resolution mechanisms of the TPP and those of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). After the interview, one host asked the other, ‘So these foreign countries could potentially hold the government for ransom down the track? Surely it goes both ways; surely we’ll have some control’. The other host replied, ‘Of course it does. Who did we take to the WTO? We’ve taken a number of countries to the WTO…’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this was misleading in that it suggested that TPP disputes would go through a similar process as the WTO, when in fact this was not the case for investor-state disputes. The host’s statement was not technically inaccurate as it appeared to refer to state-to-state disputes rather than investor-state disputes. Additionally, the professor had already articulated the key concepts well, so when viewed as a whole the item would not have misled viewers.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
Seven Sharp featured the story of a man who, due to delays in having minor surgery for a skin cancer cyst, suffered severe health problems. The man said that ‘[The cyst] went from less than a centimetre to 35 centimetres’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the description of the cyst as ‘35 centimetres’ was inaccurate. The exact measurement was not a material point of fact in the item, and it was clearly the man’s own recollection of his experience.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
During her ‘final word’ segment on Seven Sharp presenter Toni Street discussed her support for arming front-line police officers with tasers and mentioned the recent murder of Blessie Gotingco. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that her comments were inaccurate and misleading. Ms Street’s comments were clearly opinion which were exempt from standards of accuracy; she did not connect the use of tasers to Blessie Gotingco’s murder; and she did not make any statements of fact that were inaccurate or would have misled viewers.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Seven Sharp featured the story of a terminally ill woman who is a long-standing voluntary euthanasia campaigner. The item also discussed the history of attempts to legalise voluntary euthanasia in New Zealand and overseas. The Authority upheld a complaint that the item lacked balance. The item did not solely approach voluntary euthanasia from the personal perspective of the interviewee. It included a wider discussion of the voluntary euthanasia debate and law reform that triggered the requirement for presentation of alternative views, which were not presented within the programme or within the period of current interest.
Upheld: Controversial Issues
At the end of an episode of Seven Sharp, host Mike Hosking offered his views on the incident of Prime Minister John Key’s repeated pulling of a café waitress’ ponytail. He described the waitress’ motivations for speaking out as ‘selfish’ and ‘a puffed up self-involved pile of political bollocks’. The Authority upheld complaints that this was unfair to the waitress. While public figures can expect criticism and robust scrutiny, in the Authority’s view the waitress was not a public figure. The format of the ‘final word’ segment did not allow for a response from the waitress so she was unable to defend herself in this context. The Authority did not uphold the remainder of the complaints.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration