The majority of the Authority has not upheld a privacy complaint about an item on Asliyat responding to petitions made in opposition to Radio Virsa staff, in relation to Gurdwara management and the sale of a Gurdwara property. The host called into question the righteousness of the petitioners as Sikhs, including the complainant’s son, who the host identified as someone at the centre of a family scandal (which included issues of drug addiction and allegations of theft and other ‘bad things’). The complainant submitted the broadcast identified his son and disclosed private information in a way that was highly offensive and damaging to the reputation of his son and son’s family. Based on the information disclosed, the majority of the Authority found the complainant’s son was not identifiable beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about the matter dealt with in the broadcast. The minority view was that the information disclosed enabled listeners, beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about the issues discussed, to identify the complainant’s son, and this information had the quality of private information whether or not all of it was true, such that the disclosure breached the privacy standard.
Not Upheld by Majority: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld a privacy complaint about an episode of David Lomas Investigates, which covered the story of a woman who as a baby was found on the footpath wrapped in newspaper. In two segments, Mr Lomas visited the address at which the baby was reportedly found, and during the course of the programme disclosed the street, suburb and city. Two letterbox numbers at the bottom of an entrance path and steps were also shown ‘at the next property’, as an example of what the address may have looked like when the baby was found (before construction of the new building on the property). The complainant argued this breached her privacy as the programme disclosed her full address and filmed her property without notifying her or asking for permission. The Authority found the privacy standard did not apply, as the right to privacy attaches to identifiable individuals rather than to property, and the complainant was not identifiable in the broadcast.
Not Upheld: Privacy
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 has not upheld a complaint about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Dasam Granth Da Sach. During the programme the host made comments about a well-known female Sikh preacher, including that she should marry a Taksali (traditionally trained Sikh) rather than a Jāgaruka (enlightened Sikh), because she supports the ideology of the former, and because husbands ‘in our society’ resort to beating when offended by their wives. The host also used words that can carry sexual connotations but, in the specific context of the broadcast, were unlikely to do so. The Authority acknowledged the potentially offensive nature of the comments to some people, but found overall the potential harm arising was not at a level justifying regulatory intervention or restriction of the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration, Violence, Privacy, Fairness
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 has not upheld a complaint that an item on Fair Go dealing with the ‘flushability’ of nappy liners breached the accuracy, fairness, privacy and balance standards. The Authority found the programme was not inaccurate or misleading in suggesting the liners were not ‘flushable’. It found the complainant was not treated unfairly as a result of the broadcast of a recorded ‘cold call’ and the complainant’s views were fairly reflected in the programme. It also found there was no breach of privacy standards and the balance standard did not apply as the programme did not deal with a controversial issue of public importance.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Privacy, Balance
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
The Authority has upheld two complaints that a segment on The Project, about an incident where charges against a man who allegedly shot at a drone were dropped, was in breach of the fairness and accuracy standards. The Authority found the segment was unfair to the man and would have misled audiences as it provided an inaccurate account of events through an interview with the drone’s pilot and additional comments from presenters. The drone pilot interviewee was allowed to put forward unchallenged his views on the man, and the broadcaster did not do enough to provide the man with an opportunity to respond to the comments. As the broadcast did not disclose any private information about the man, nor discuss a controversial issue of public importance, the privacy and balance standards were not upheld.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks in response to a breach of the fairness standard during a segment of Jay-Jay, Flynny and Jase Driving You Home was insufficient. The segment featured host Flynny telling a story about an ‘embalmer’ who had embalmed their cat after it passed away. The Authority agreed that the complainant was unfairly treated by the broadcaster in breach of the fairness standard. However, the Authority found the action taken by the broadcaster, which included a direct apology to the complainant, and counselling of the hosts concerned, was proportionate to the breach. The Authority also found that the broadcast was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress and that the complainant’s privacy was not breached as they were not identifiable in the broadcast.
Not Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Good Taste and Decency, Privacy
The Authority declined to determine a complaint regarding a news item covering the expansion of a sexual violence court pilot. The complainant submitted that the victim advocate interviewed in the item should not have been interviewed and should not have been referred to as a rape survivor. The Authority concluded that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority. The Authority found the concerns raised in the complaint are matters of editorial discretion and personal preference rather than broadcasting standards, and are therefore not capable of being determined by the broadcasting standards complaints procedure.
Declined to determine: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy, Fairness
The Authority has upheld complaints from two complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Panthak Vichar, broadcast on Access Community Radio Inc (Planet FM). During the programme, the hosts made a number of allegations against the complainants, regarding their fundraising activities and whether they were trustworthy, and played a recorded phone conversation with Jaspreet Singh on-air. The Authority found that the comments reflected negatively on the complainants, and that Jaspreet Singh would not have known that the phone call would be played on-air. The Authority upheld the complaint under the fairness standard but did not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint.
Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Accuracy, Privacy, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a 1 News segment that discussed allegations and criticisms about the operations of the Tongan Health Society. The segment featured interviews with former employees and Board members who criticised the management of the Society, its CEO Dr Glenn Doherty, and called for an independent review of the Society. The Authority found that the requirements of the fairness and balance standards were met as TVNZ had taken reasonable steps to seek, and then adequately presented, the Society’s point of view on the issues raised in the programme. The Authority found the disclosure of the CEO’s request for a bonus and extracts from correspondence between the CEO and Board relating to this amounted to a breach of privacy, but determined that the defence of public interest applied on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Balance Fairness, Accuracy, Privacy
Two complaints from the subjects of a Fair Go investigation have not been upheld. The investigation focussed on the sale of a massage product to an elderly man with severe foot pain. The Authority found the privacy of the salesperson was not breached through the brief broadcast of their business card which contained their image and contact details. The Authority found this did not amount to a highly offensive disclosure of private information. The Authority also found the broadcasts did not breach the balance, accuracy and fairness standards, finding that the broadcasts were unlikely to significantly misinform viewers regarding the sale of the product and the product itself. The Authority also found that, while there was public interest in the story, it did not amount to a controversial issue of public importance for the purposes of the balance standard. Finally, the Authority found the company responsible for the sale and the company’s founder had been treated fairly by TVNZ.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that an episode of Sunday about voluntary ‘DIY’ sperm donation in New Zealand, and in particular the complainant’s history of frequent sperm donations, breached broadcasting standards relating to privacy, fairness and accuracy. The Authority found there was a high level of public interest in discussing the risks associated with using DIY sperm donors, as well as CA’s extensive donation history in particular, which outweighed the potential harm to CA. The Authority concluded the programme did not disclose any private information about CA, and overall CA was treated fairly and was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment in response to allegations made about him in the programme. Doorstepping CA (approaching him on the street with cameras rolling) was not unfair in the circumstances, and he willingly engaged in a lengthy interview with the reporter. Finally, the Authority did not consider the programme contained any inaccurate statements of fact or would have misled viewers.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information
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
Warning: This decision contains content that some readers may find distressing.
On 15 March 2019 a special 1 News broadcast covered the terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques. The broadcast featured footage of victims being taken into hospital, many of whom had visibly sustained gunshot injuries and/or were identifiable. The Authority did not uphold two complaints that the coverage breached the privacy standard. The Authority found that media coverage of this event had high public interest in light of the unprecedented nature of extreme violence that occurred. The media had an important role to play in informing the public of events as they unfolded, including the nature and scope of injuries suffered and the action of first responders, including medical personnel. The Authority acknowledged that the repeated use of footage of identifiable victims amounted to a breach of privacy but found that the public interest defence applied. The Authority also did not uphold a complaint that the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards were breached. The Authority found that there was sufficient signposting by the broadcaster of the nature of the event being reported on to enable audiences to make informed choices as to whether they, or children in their care, should watch the coverage. The Authority held that the footage of the victims (which illustrated the gravity of the situation) was justified in the public interest.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence
The Authority has not upheld a privacy complaint about items on Newshub and The AM Show, which reported on a Police raid of a gang house and featured footage of the complainant’s property, with the house number blurred. The Authority found that the privacy standard did not apply in this case, as the complainant was not identifiable in the broadcast and no private information or material was disclosed about them. As the house was only filmed to the extent visible from the street, the broadcaster did not intrude upon the complainant’s interest in solitude or seclusion in a way that was highly offensive. The Authority recognised the public interest in the broadcast and found that the harm alleged to have been caused by the complainant did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a broadcast of Punjabi talkback programme, Dasam Granth Da Sach, in which the hosts identified the complainant and broadcast audio clips of him speaking about various religious topics. While the complainant was clearly identified, the Authority found no private information or material was disclosed during the broadcast over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The information disclosed during the broadcast was available in the public domain, and in these circumstances, the Authority found that its intervention in upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression. The Authority noted, however, that there were steps available to the broadcaster to mitigate the potential for harm, particularly in its use of social media content, and encouraged the broadcaster to consider the Authority’s guidance on these issues before broadcasting such content in the future.
Not Upheld: Privacy