The Authority upheld a privacy complaint about a Newshub item showing footage of children being uplifted from their homes by Oranga Tamariki. The Authority considered there was adequate information in the clip to enable identification of the children. While the story carried high public interest, protecting children’s privacy interests, particularly where the children are clearly vulnerable, must be paramount in broadcasters’ editorial decision making. Insufficient steps were taken to protect the children’s identities, and given the highly sensitive and distressing circumstances, the Authority considered the disclosure of footage enabling their identification was highly offensive.
Orders: Section 16(4) – $1500 costs to the Crown
The Authority upheld a privacy complaint about an item on 1 News reporting on residents’ concerns about ‘boy racers’ in a particular Christchurch suburb. It featured an interview with a resident reported as being ‘too scared to be identified’. Close-up footage, including a side-on view of part of her face (unblurred), revealed her demographic, gender, the length and colour of her hair, voice, profile of her nose, clothes, watch, a distinctive ring and the side of her glasses. The Authority found these features enabled identification of the interviewee beyond family and close friends. Their disclosure would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person in her position, given she participated on the understanding she would not be identified. The Authority was not persuaded the defence of informed consent applied to the breach of the woman’s privacy. The broadcaster maintained the interviewee was comfortable with the item broadcast (and later obtained a note from her to this effect). However, the broadcaster did not provide sufficient evidence the interviewee fully understood she would be depicted in a manner that enabled her to be identified, and gave informed consent for this prior to the broadcast.
The Authority upheld a complaint about an item on Te Ao Māori News concerning a Northland community’s opposition to the alleged conversion of a neighbouring farm track into a roadway. The Authority found the item inaccurately stated the works undertaken on the roadway were ‘unauthorised’ (and other aspects of the item had contributed to this impression). It was not satisfied the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy. The item also had the potential to mislead by omission, as it did not tell the other side of the story or include countering comment from the farm owners, which may have altered viewers’ understanding of the situation. The Authority also found broadcasting footage filmed by a third-party of the farm owners on their private property amounted to a highly offensive intrusion upon their interest in solitude and seclusion, in breach of the privacy standard.
Upheld: Accuracy, Privacy
Orders: section 13(1)(d) – $500 compensation for breach of privacy to each of the two farm owners shown in the item; section 16(4) – $1,000 costs to the Crown
The Authority has upheld a complaint that an item on Sunday, featuring a family who complained to the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) about allegedly inadequate maternity healthcare following the death of their baby, breached the fairness and privacy standards. The Authority found it was unfair to name the complainant, HV, as the consultant obstetrician on the case prior to the HDC completing its investigation or making any findings. Singling out HV in this way had the effect of predetermining an adverse conclusion about their responsibility (whether or not that was the broadcaster’s intention), and the complainant was not informed about the proposed broadcast or given an opportunity to respond or mitigate any reputational impact. On privacy, the Authority found the fact HV was subject to an HDC complaint was information about which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. This was because, although the woman who had made the HDC complaint could disclose this to others, and the HDC does not have the power to order name suppression, the HDC process is otherwise treated as a confidential process. The complainant could reasonably expect the complaint would not be disclosed to a national audience without any prior warning or a chance to respond. Removing the complainant’s name from the item would not have detracted from the public interest in the story overall.
Upheld: Fairness, Privacy. Order: Section 16(1) - $3,450 legal costs to complainant
In an episode of Mai Home Run, one of the radio presenters related a story about accidentally taking and not returning a bag containing items, including a gaming console, belonging to Lil’ Romeo. The presenter also disclosed the name of one of the people involved in the story. The Authority upheld the complaint that the item breached the privacy standard, finding that the named individual was identifiable and would have had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the information disclosed. The Authority also found the disclosure to be highly offensive to a reasonable person, as it had the potential to significantly damage the named person’s reputation. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the law and order standard, finding that in context the broadcast did not encourage or actively promote serious anti-social or illegal behaviour. The Authority also did not uphold the complaint under the discrimination and denigration standard, finding that, in the context, the item did not encourage discrimination against or denigration of the Māori or Polynesian communities.
Not upheld: Law and order, discrimination and denigration
On 13 March 2018, an item on Newshub reported on allegations of sexual assault and harassment at a Young Labour camp. The item included photos of the camp attendees, sourced from public social media accounts, with no masking or blurring. The Authority upheld a direct privacy complaint from IY, who was featured in the photos, that this item breached their privacy. The Authority noted the value of the broadcast in reporting on the response of the Labour Party to the allegations, but emphasised the high level of potential harm that could be caused to the individuals involved. The Authority found that, while the photos were available in the public domain at the time of broadcast (they were removed from social media platforms following the allegations being made public), they were shown during a story reporting on alleged sexual assault, which changed the quality of the information and the context in which the photos were made available to the public. The complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy over their image in this context, and the disclosure of their image, in connection with the allegations reported on, caused significant distress and was highly offensive. The Authority commented that care needed to be taken by broadcasters when using social media content, particularly in sensitive circumstances.
Upheld: Privacy. Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $3,000 privacy compensation; Section 16(4) $2,000 costs to the Crown.
A segment on Thane & Dunc included an interview with a man, X, who had a relationship with a couple (the complainant and Z). During the interview, X described the nature of the relationship. He did not name the couple, referring to them as ‘A’ and ‘B’. A second interview with X was broadcast the following day, during which the hosts told X they had spoken with the couple, who alleged the relationship was abusive. The hosts interrogated X about his behaviour, then demanded X apologise and agree to make no further contact with the couple involved. The Authority upheld a complaint that these broadcasts breached the privacy of the complainant and Z. The Authority found that little, if any, sensitivity or respect was shown for the dignity, safety, reputation and mental wellbeing of the parties involved, and this represented a serious breach of broadcasting standards and a serious lack of understanding of the parties’ right to privacy.
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $3,000 compensation to JN and $3,000 compensation to Z for the breaches of privacy; Section 16(4) $2,500 costs to the Crown
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
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
Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (Say… You’re in Love), a Bollywood romantic thriller film, was broadcast on free-to-air television channel APNA TV between 3pm and 6pm. The film featured action scenes containing violence. The Authority upheld a complaint that the film breached a number of broadcasting standards. The film was broadcast unclassified and with an incorrect programme description, which meant audiences were unable to make an informed viewing choice and were unable to regulate their own, and their children’s, viewing behaviour. The film’s inclusion of violent imagery such as beatings, shoot-outs, murder and dead bodies, and the visual depiction of these acts occurring onscreen, warranted an AO classification and later time of broadcast on free-to-air television. The film’s content would have been outside audience expectations of the programme, and child viewers, who were likely to be watching at the time of broadcast, were unable to be protected from material that had the potential to adversely affect them. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the law and order standard.
Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Good Taste and Decency, Violence; Not Upheld: Law and Order
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $1,500
An item on 1 News reported on a fatal bus crash that occurred south of Gisborne on Christmas Eve in 2016. The bus was carrying students and teachers from a visiting Tongan school band. The item featured photos, sourced from a public Facebook page for the Tongan community, of some of the injured passengers in hospital. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached the injured passengers’ privacy. While the photos were in the public domain, those featured did not consent to their images appearing in the news item. As injured patients receiving medical care, they were in a particularly vulnerable position. While the Authority acknowledged the broadcaster’s submission that the Tongan community may have seen the use of these photos as a sign of support or respect for those involved in the accident, broadcasting the images widened the potential audience beyond the community for whom the photos were initially shared. The Authority noted that where social media content is re-published on another platform, such as broadcast media, privacy considerations should be considered afresh, particularly in sensitive circumstances.
Upheld: Privacy; No Order
During The Devlin Radio Show, host Martin Devlin was forcefully outspoken about an abusive text message he had received from the complainant, TF. Mr Devlin read out the complainant’s mobile phone number multiple times and phoned the complainant on air while making abusive comments about them. The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Devlin breached the complainant’s privacy. While the Authority did not condone the strongly-worded text message initially sent to Mr Devlin, Mr Devlin’s response was disproportionate and unprofessional, even in the context of the robust talkback radio environment. The complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to their personal mobile number, and Mr Devlin’s comments amounted to a sustained and personal attack against the complainant, making use of private information to personalise the abuse and implicitly encouraging harassment of TF. This amounted to a highly offensive disclosure and was a breach of TF’s privacy.
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation $2,000; section 16(4) – costs to the Crown $2,000; section 13(1)(a) – broadcast statement
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 broadcast breached Mrs Stokes’ privacy. Mrs Stokes had a reasonable expectation that, in the circumstances, her phone call and the conversation would remain private. The recording and broadcast of her conversation, in circumstances where she had expressly asked for privacy was objectionable and would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person in the complainant’s position.
Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
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
During The Edge’s Smash! 20 countdown show, a caller successfully answered a series of questions based on the songs in the countdown and won a prize. While taking the caller’s personal details, the announcer left the phone channel in ‘on-air’ mode and inadvertently broadcast the caller’s full name, address, school, date of birth and mobile number. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached the caller’s privacy. The caller was clearly identifiable and disclosed a high level of personal detail on air, over which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Authority acknowledged the caller’s disclosure was the result of an unfortunate technical error on the announcer’s part, and that the broadcaster took immediate actions to respond to the breach. The Authority did not make any order in these circumstances.
The Breeze ran a competition in which listeners were invited to nominate an individual they felt to be deserving of a shopping spree. The programme hosts spoke to a woman (G) on air about her nomination of her friend (N), whom she described as just having left a ‘potentially abusive relationship’. The Authority upheld a complaint from N’s husband, LN, that the broadcast breached his privacy. The Authority found that LN was identifiable due to a combination of identifying features disclosed within the broadcast and readily accessible information outside of the broadcast. It considered the allegations of a potentially abusive relationship and other intimate details of the relationship were highly sensitive and personal, and clearly carried the quality of private information. The disclosure of such information would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation to the complainant $1,000
An episode of Neighbours at War featured a dispute between a group of neighbours over a right of way. Two sets of neighbours alleged that their neighbours, a couple (Mr and Mrs X), had been threatening and harassing them. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from Mr and Mrs X that the episode was unfair and breached their privacy. The Authority also determined that the broadcaster did not take sufficient action having upheld one aspect of the complainants’ original fairness complaint. The programme contained potentially damaging allegations against the complainants and did not present their side of the story. The programme also broadcast footage of incidents between Mr and Mrs X and their neighbours on the right of way obtained by one neighbour’s friend and a security camera belonging to another neighbour, which was a highly offensive intrusion into their interest in solitude and seclusion. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the fairness and privacy complaints, and did not find that the item was inaccurate or misleading.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Fairness, Privacy; Not Upheld: Accuracy
Order: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation to the complainants $500
Two hosts on George FM Breakfast asked listeners to send in the names and profiles of female users of Instagram described as ‘do-nothing bitches’. The names of two women, A and B, were submitted. The hosts went on to comment extensively on A’s profile, making inappropriate and disparaging comments about her, and also contacted A and interviewed her on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks having found breaches of the fairness and good taste and decency standards was insufficient, and also found that the broadcast breached the privacy of both women.
Upheld: Fairness (Action taken), Good Taste and Decency (Action taken), Privacy
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Law and Order, Responsible Programming, Controversial Issues, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation to A for breach of privacy; section 13(1)(d) $2,000 compensation to B for breach of privacy; section 16(4) $2,000 costs to the Crown
An episode of Dog Squad showed dog handlers with the Department of Corrections searching visitors to a prison. The episode showed two occasions of the complainant (SW) being searched; firstly, her bag was searched when she was driving onto prison premises, and secondly, a sniffer dog identified that she was carrying contraband (tobacco) inside the prison and she was shown surrendering this to Corrections staff. In both instances her face was blurred. The Authority upheld SW’s complaint that broadcasting the footage breached her privacy. She was identifiable despite her face being blurred (by clothing, body type, voice, etc), and the disclosure of private facts about her, including prescription drugs she was taking, among other things, was highly offensive. SW did not give informed consent to the broadcast and the public interest message about prison protocol could have been communicated without identifying SW.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) $1,000 compensation for breach of privacy
A story on 60 Minutes featured tragic driveway accidents involving children. Part of the story focused on the death of an 18-month-old boy, and the subsequent struggles of his mother. The mother also discussed her other son, S, and photos and footage were shown of him. The Authority upheld a complaint from S’s father that the programmes breached S’s privacy. S was identifiable by name and image, he was linked with details of his mother’s drug addiction and prostitution which constituted private facts and this disclosure was highly offensive. In the circumstances the broadcaster’s primary concern ought to have been the best interests of the child, regardless of any consent obtained. The Authority recognised the value and public interest in the story but this was outweighed by the need to protect the child.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) $1,500 compensation for breach of privacy