The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News that discussed ‘growing calls’ for New Zealand’s right to silence laws to be urgently changed. The complaint was the item failed to present the views of the many authorities who support the status quo, or include relevant historical context, and used unduly emotive language to advance an unbalanced narrative. The Authority noted the balance standard allows for significant viewpoints to be presented over time, within the period of current interest, and does not require every programme to canvass all significant views on a particular topic. It found there was extensive coverage around the time of the broadcast that provided a range of views and information on the right to silence in cases of child abuse. It also found the broadcast approached this issue from a particular perspective and did not purport to be a balanced examination. In the context, the Authority found the broadcast did not breach the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News that reported a third marine heatwave in four years in Auckland and Northland. It described the causes of the heatwave in terms of subtropical winds and global warming, and its consequences in terms of sea level rises and ocean acidification, and included comments from local experts. The complaint was that the broadcast misled viewers to believe the higher ocean temperatures in Northland and Auckland were due principally to climate change and the warming effects were global (when actually the heatwave was driven by a natural climate event, occurring locally). The Authority found the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy, including reliance on authoritative experts, and the broadcast was unlikely to mislead viewers.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News in which Darryl Leigh Thomson was described as a co-writer of the song ‘E Tū’. While the Authority agreed it was not accurate to describe Mr Thomson as having co-written the song, it found TVNZ made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that a 1 News at Midday item about the United States presidential election lacked balance because it included clips of Joe Biden supporters and Biden’s campaign, but not Donald Trump supporters or the Trump campaign. The US election, while it could be considered a controversial issue of public importance for the purposes of the balance standard, was an issue that was widely covered by the media, including by TVNZ. Balance is not achieved by a ‘stopwatch’ meaning broadcasters are not required to give equal time to alternative viewpoints. The lack of emphasis on Trump supporters and the Trump campaign in this particular item would not have left viewers uninformed and did not breach the balance standard, given the widespread coverage available including of Mr Trump’s campaign and supporters.
Not Upheld: Balance
A 1 News item reported on studies showing an increase in emperor penguin numbers in the Antarctic, followed by ‘a word of caution’ about the danger posed to the penguin population by climate change. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the second part of the piece, which included a forecast that the global population of emperor penguins could decrease by half by the end of this century, was based on ‘unproven science’. Considering, in particular, the subject matter, language and manner of presentation, the Authority found viewers were likely to interpret the comments and predictions as analysis or opinion to which the accuracy standard does not apply. Given the wide social acceptance of the existence and predicted impacts of climate change, the Authority did not consider the item discussed a ‘controversial issue’. Therefore the balance standard and the requirement to present alternative viewpoints did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a 1 News item reference to a New Conservative Party policy of ‘repealing gay marriage’ was inaccurate. The Authority found the statement was not inaccurate or misleading, in light of the party’s advertised marriage policy.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a news report covering the US Democratic Convention breached standards by referring to then US President Donald Trump as ‘Trump’ or ‘Donald Trump’ rather than with the title ‘President’. The broadcast was fair to Mr Trump, considering his position and profile as a politician and public figure. It was not misleading to refer to Mr Trump as ‘Donald Trump’ and the report was unlikely to cause widespread offence. The discrimination and denigration standard did not apply to Mr Trump as an individual.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News covering police brutality in the United States of America and comments made by its President Donald Trump about deceased victim of police brutality, George Floyd. The item reported Mr Trump was ‘copping more flack’ for his comments and that, ‘celebrating better than expected employment numbers, he bizarrely called it a great day for George Floyd’. To the extent the broadcast may be considered inaccurate or misleading for suggesting an incorrect interpretation of Mr Trump’s comments, the Authority found it was not material. The Authority also considered Mr Trump is a high profile politician and public figure and could have reasonably expected to be subject to such scrutiny.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint from Māori Television Service (MTS) about an item on 1 News concerning the MTS online COVID-19 programme Tapatahi. MTS argued the piece inaccurately reported it had received nearly $300,000 of Government funding for the programme, and that the Government was calling for a review as Tapatahi was presented by MTS’s Chief Executive. The Authority found the item was materially accurate and MTS was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has upheld a complaint about a broadcast which referred to the owners of the road cycling team ‘Israel Start-up Nation’ as ‘Jewish billionaires’. The complainant submitted the broadcast was offensive and racist as it made an unnecessary connection between money and Jewish people. The Authority found the effect of the broadcast was to embed and reflect harmful stereotypes, albeit unintended. The harm in this instance outweighed the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and therefore the Authority upheld the complaint.
Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
The University of Otago (the University) complained that three broadcasts by TVNZ, about sexual assault allegations by former and current students of the University, breached the fairness, balance and accuracy standards of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The complaint about Sunday was not upheld, but aspects of the complaint about Breakfast and 1 News were upheld. Overall, the Sunday programme was balanced, as it included comment from the University and was clearly signalled as coming from the perspective of the women interviewed. No material inaccuracies were identified, and the University was given a reasonable opportunity to respond. However, the Breakfast and 1 News items focussed more specifically on perceived shortcomings of the University and its decision not to be interviewed, resulting in unfairness to the University. The Authority also found that the Breakfast programme lacked balance. The Authority made no orders, and determined that the publication of the decision was sufficient to publicly notify the breach, to censure the broadcaster and to provide appropriate guidance to the broadcaster and broadcasters generally.
Sunday: Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Accuracy
Breakfast: Upheld: Fairness, Balance. Not Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken)
1 News: Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that a 1 News segment breached the discrimination and denigration and balance standards. The Authority found that people who hold the views represented in the segment do not amount to a ‘recognised section of the community’ for the purposes of the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority also found that, while the broadcast discussed a controversial issue of public importance, it was balanced by the inclusion of multiple points of view from several parties.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Balance
Warning: This decision contains content that some readers may find distressing.
Following the 15 March 2019 attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, 1 News at 6pm twice broadcast an edited clip taken from the alleged attacker’s 17‑minute livestream video. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast was in breach of the good taste and decency and violence standards. The content of the clip, and the broadcast as a whole, was newsworthy and had a high level of public interest. The very brief clip was an edited segment of the livestream video which provided information to audiences, but which did not contain explicit graphic or violent content and did not promote or glorify the actions of the attacker. Specific warnings and extensive signposting ensured audiences were sufficiently informed about the disturbing nature of the content. Taking into account the unprecedented nature of these attacks in New Zealand, the Authority found that the alleged harm did not outweigh the important right to freedom of expression and the high level of public interest in the broadcast. The Authority’s intervention in upholding the complaint would therefore represent an unreasonable or unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about the action taken by a broadcaster in response to a complaint it received about incorrect reporting of casualties in an event in Gaza. Three news bulletins on 1 News and 1 News Midday reported inconsistent numbers of Palestinians killed and injured following protests in Gaza. The broadcaster upheld a complaint that two of the bulletins were inaccurate, however the complainant was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster in response to these breaches and referred the complaint to the Authority on this basis. The Authority found that TVNZ took sufficient action, noting the broadcaster apologised in its decision to the complainant and circulated a reminder to all newsroom staff about the importance of reporting this type of information correctly.
Not Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken)
During the 1 News Vote 17 Leaders Debate, moderator Mike Hosking questioned Bill English about a damaged fuel pipeline in Auckland that caused disruption to flight services, using the phrase ‘for God’s sake’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Hosking’s use of this phrase was blasphemous and offensive. The Authority has consistently found that variations of ‘God’, ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus Christ’ are commonly used as exclamations and in this case, Mr Hosking used the phrase to express his own, and voters’, frustration at the Government’s management of the fuel crisis. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the alleged harm did not outweigh the important right to freedom of expression, particularly in the lead up to a general election.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
An item referred to during 1 News Coming Up reported on a meeting between the President of the United States of America, President Trump, and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. During the update, the newsreader said, ‘So, what did Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau say about Trump’s Muslim ban?’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the term ‘Muslim ban’ was inaccurate, in the context of the brief ‘coming up’ teaser which aimed to convey a lot of information in a short period of time. In this particular case it was acceptable shorthand referring to Executive Order 13769, and briefly highlighted a topic of discussion between the two leaders. The Authority did not consider that the use of the term – which was not used in the full news item – would have materially affected viewers’ understanding of the main thrust of the report.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
On 14 November 2016, in a 1 News special update, the newsreader updated viewers on events surrounding a 7.8 magnitude earthquake centred near Kaikoura that occurred just after midnight that day. The newsreader stated, ‘there has been another quake-related death at Mt Lyford; that is after someone suffered a heart attack’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the partner of the person who died at Mt Lyford that this statement was inaccurate given that his partner had died from earthquake-related injuries, but not a heart attack. The Authority acknowledged these were distressing circumstances for the complainant. It also emphasised, however, the high public interest in the broadcast and the role of the media in providing information to New Zealanders following a significant natural disaster. The Authority found the broadcaster made reasonable efforts in the circumstances to ensure the accuracy of the statement by relying on information provided to it by emergency services. While precise verification was not available at the time of this broadcast, TVNZ ceased referring to a heart attack as the cause of death once it became aware earlier information provided to it may not have been correct. The fairness standard was not applicable in the circumstances.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness (Action Taken)