The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment on Breakfast in which co-host John Campbell used the word ‘dick’ three times in reference to Donald Trump Jr. The complaint was that this pejorative use of the term ‘dick’ denigrated those, including vulnerable children, with the surname ‘Dick’, and subjected them to ridicule. The Authority acknowledged people with that surname may be more sensitive to its use in general, in broadcasting. However, it found Mr Campbell was referring specifically to Donald Trump Jr and most viewers would have interpreted it as meaning ‘a stupid or contemptible person’ – a widely understood and generally acceptable use of the term. On this basis, the Authority found the broadcast was unlikely to cause widespread offence to the general audience, or harm to children. The Authority was not persuaded people with the surname ‘Dick’ constitute a recognised section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies but, in any event, found the broadcast did not encourage discrimination or denigration of those people.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration
In a segment on the Mike Hosking Breakfast programme, the host interviewed the Prime Minister about the Government’s decision to extend the Level 3 lockdown restrictions on Auckland in August 2020. The Authority did not uphold the complaints. It recognised the value of robust political discourse in the media and the role of media in holding to account those in positions of power. Overall, it found no harm at a level justifying regulatory intervention. While some may have found Mr Hosking’s approach and comments distasteful, they did not go beyond what could be expected of an interview of this nature.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Good Taste and Decency, Balance, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration, Children’s Interests
The Authority did not uphold an accuracy complaint about Mike Hosking’s comments on the COVID-19 testing regime during his ‘Mike’s Minute’ segment on Newstalk ZB. The complaint was that the segment was inaccurate and misleading, for example by suggesting the Prime Minister was encouraging COVID-19 testing to scare the public and as a political ploy. The Authority found the statements made by Mr Hosking were expressions of his own opinion and analysis to which the accuracy standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Breakfast discussed Novak Djokovic, his recovery from COVID-19, his comments regarding efforts to contain the virus, and the others infected at a tennis tournament he organised. The Authority did not uphold a complaint the presenter’s description of Mr Djokovic as ‘a dick’ breached the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found the use of the word would not have caused widespread undue offence or distress or undermined widely shared community values.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
The Authority has upheld a complaint that comments made by Mike Hosking during his ‘Mike’s Minute’ segment were misleading in breach of the accuracy standard. Mr Hosking made statements referring to death-rate statistics in Italy related to COVID-19, including that ‘99.2% percent died with underlying health issues. In other words, the very things that were killing them anyway, at over 1,600 per day’. The Authority found the comments were misleading as the broadcaster conflated its own conclusions, drawn from a study into Italy’s COVID-19 figures, with the figure of 1,600 deaths per day, which was based on 2018 population data and ignored both cause of death and the notion of ‘excess mortality’. In this respect, the Authority emphasised the importance of data literacy among broadcasters and journalists, to ensure statistics are not misinterpreted or misrepresented. Finally, the Authority found the comments about people with ‘underlying health conditions’ did not reach the high threshold for finding a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.
Upheld: Accuracy. Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration.
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a satirical segment would have been offensive to Christians. The segment was an imagined promo for reality show The Block, set in Jerusalem and featured contestants who shared the names of biblical figures, including Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Thomas and Judas. The promo was broadcast on Good Friday. The Authority did not consider the broadcast’s content would have unduly offended or distressed the general audience, and it did not reach the high threshold necessary for finding it encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against, Christians as a section of the community. The broadcast did not cause actual or potential harm at a level which justified limiting the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, 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 has not upheld a complaint about an interview on Breakfast with a public health researcher regarding the potentially carcinogenic properties of glyphosate, an ingredient in commonly available and widely used weed killers. The Authority found there was no breach of the balance standard as viewers would have been sufficiently aware of the existence of alternate views (both from the programme itself and from other reporting within the period of current interest) and that the accuracy standard did not apply as the relevant statements were analysis and opinion.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold two complaints that comments made by Mike Hosking during his Mike’s Minute segment breached the discrimination and denigration and accuracy standards. Discussing two recent immigration policy decisions by the Government, Mr Hosking commented, ‘discrimination is no bad thing’ and, ‘Where do too many of the radicalised nutters come from? That particular part of the planet [Africa and the Middle East]... We don’t want to take the risk of a poor-ish person’s parent arriving – so why a jihadist?’ The Authority acknowledged the complainants’ concerns that Mr Hosking’s choice of language was inflammatory. However, it found that in the context of the item, which carried public interest, the comments complained about were brief and moderated by the remainder of the item. Mr Hosking was expressing his genuinely held opinion on a legitimate issue, rather than being malicious or nasty. Therefore the comments did not reach the high threshold for encouraging discrimination or denigration, and did not warrant limiting the right to freedom of expression. The Authority also found Mr Hosking’s comments were distinguishable as analysis, comment and opinion so the accuracy standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
A complaint that a segment on The Breakfast Club, on More FM, where the hosts made jokes and puns about a woman who died after being pecked by a rooster, breached the good taste and decency standard has not been upheld. The Authority found that, while the comments were insensitive and had the potential to cause offence to family of the deceased, the programme as a whole did not reach the threshold required to justify a restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. The Authority found that, considering the context of the item (including the target audience of More FM and the audience expectations surrounding The Breakfast Club and its hosts) and the tone of the item, the item did not undermine widely shared community standards and was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress.
Not upheld: Good taste and decency
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that a segment on Breakfast where John Campbell interviewed technology commentator Paul Brislen about the alleged potential health effects of the rollout of the 5G cellular network breached the balance and accuracy standards. The Authority found that, considering the clear perspective of the broadcast and the ongoing media coverage of the 5G rollout, audiences had sufficient information to enable them to make reasoned decisions about 5G. The Authority noted that it was not its role to determine the scientific accuracy of Mr Brislen’s statements and ultimately found that TVNZ made reasonable efforts to ensure their accuracy.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
The majority of the Authority did not uphold a complaint that a comment made by Mike Hosking during a ‘Mike’s Minute’ segment of Mike Hosking Breakfast about the government’s surplus breached the accuracy standard. The majority found that, considering a number of contextual factors, the statement was one of comment and political analysis, the type of which is common in news and current affairs broadcasts to which the accuracy standard does not apply. The minority view was that Mr Hosking’s comment was an inaccurate statement of fact on which he then based his opinion and that the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the statement on which the following comments were based.
Not Upheld by Majority: Accuracy
A complaint alleging that an interview on Breakfast with Professor Douglas Pratt, an expert in theological and religious studies, breached broadcasting standards has not been upheld. The interview was exploring Professor Pratt’s views on the possible motivation behind the attacks on 15 March 2019 on two mosques in Christchurch. The Authority found that the interview was not a discussion as contemplated under the balance standard, but rather Professor Pratt’s in-depth, expert opinion, and therefore the balance standard did not apply. The Authority also found that the broadcast did not contain a high level of condemnation towards the Christian community nor the level of malice or nastiness required to breach the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interview broadcast on Newstalk ZB in December 2018, regarding a proposed Police seizure of military style semi-automatic weapons, was unbalanced and inaccurate. The Authority first found that a valid formal complaint had been lodged with the broadcaster (which was required before the complaint could be referred to the Authority), as sufficient information was provided by the complainant for the correct broadcast to be identified and for the broadcaster to respond to the issues raised. The Authority then determined the complaint, finding that balancing perspectives on the issue of Police seizure were presented during news items prior to and following the interview. While the Authority agreed that information conveyed during the introduction to the interview could have been made more clear by the presenter, the presenter’s statement did not amount to a material error of fact in the context of the interview as a whole. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the harm alleged did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression, and any intervention in upholding the complaint would be unreasonable and unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Breakfast, in which the phrase ‘he rooted my missus’ was read out on air, breached the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found that while the phrase was coarse and may have offended some viewers, the term ‘rooted’ was unlikely to undermine or violate widely shared community norms. Overall, the Authority found that any potential for harm did not justify a restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
Warning: This decision contains language that some readers may find offensive
During an interview on Breakfast about a proposed cull of Himalayan tahr, the Minister of Conservation, Hon Eugenie Sage, appeared to use the word ‘cunters’ when referring to the educational effort undertaken by tahr hunters. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the Minister’s use of this word during this interview breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. The use of the word was an accidental slip of the tongue and it was clear that the Minister intended to refer to ‘hunters’ during this section of the interview. The use of the word was not deliberate nor was it used with any malice or invective. The Minister herself acknowledged that she could have enunciated the word ‘hunters’ more clearly during the interview and apologised for any offence it caused. Overall, the Authority found that the use of this term, in the particular context, did not meet the threshold tests for breach of the relevant standards.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an episode of Breakfast, in which the hosts and viewer feedback discussed people stealing at supermarket self-service checkouts by putting in the wrong code for items they are purchasing. The Authority found the programme did not actively encourage viewers to steal or break the law in breach of the law and order standard. Across the programme as a whole, the hosts and viewers offered a range of views on the ethics of stealing at self-checkouts, including strong views against such behaviour, and clearly acknowledged it was ‘theft’ and illegal. The tone of the discussion was consistent with audience expectations of Breakfast and its hosts, and would not have unduly offended or distressed viewers, so the good taste and decency standard was also not breached.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Good Taste and Decency
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a discussion on Breakfast, about controversial comments made by Israel Folau, was in breach of the balance broadcasting standard. During the discussion, weather reporter, Matty McLean, gave his opinion on the comments, saying that he found them to be harmful. The Authority recognised that Mr Folau’s comments sparked ongoing public debate about the right to freedom of expression and harm. The discussion on Breakfast therefore amounted to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance under the standard. However, the Authority considered Mr McLean was clearly expressing his opinion on the issue and was entitled to do so, given Breakfast’s well-established programme format which includes the hosts expressing their views on current events. Differing perspectives on the topic were also available in surrounding media, so viewers could reasonably be expected to be aware of the significant points of view on this issue. For these reasons, the Authority considered that upholding this complaint would represent an unjustified and unreasonable limit on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance
During Hauraki Breakfast, hosts Jeremy Wells and Matt Heath discussed smoking marijuana, in relation to several National Party MPs who had recently publicly stated they had never tried it. The hosts took calls from listeners who had also never tried marijuana and asked them why they had never tried it. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast promoted and encouraged the use of marijuana. The Authority found the broadcast amounted to a comedic discussion of smoking marijuana that did not go beyond established audience expectations of Radio Hauraki, Hauraki Breakfast or the hosts. The Authority noted that humour and satire are important aspects of free speech, and found that on this occasion, there was insufficient risk of harm to justify limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Children’s Interests
A segment on Polly & Grant for Breakfast featured the hosts reading out and discussing a list of countries referred to as ‘the last places on Earth with no internet’. The list was long and included countries such as India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The list was evidently sourced from an online article that contained relevant information about the countries listed having internet user penetration rates of less than 20%. That information was omitted during the broadcast, and created an impression that the countries listed had no internet. The Authority nevertheless did not uphold a complaint under the accuracy standard. The Authority noted that the accuracy standard only applies to news, current affairs or factual programming and found that it did not apply to this light-hearted, entertainment-based programme. The Authority noted that, while the information broadcast was incorrect, the hosts’ discussion of the relevant countries did not contain the malice or invective required to encourage discrimination or denigration, or undermine widely shared community standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration