The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a promo for Checkpoint, broadcast after the 8am news on 11 May 2021, which included soundbites, showcasing the previous day’s news, concerning a supermarket stabbing in Dunedin. The complaint alleged the promo sensationalised news that was no longer current, suggesting another stabbing had occurred, and unnecessarily repeated scenes of violence when affected families were still suffering and children were likely to be listening. In its context, the Authority found the promo content was not likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress and did not breach the children’s interests standard. The programme information, violence and balance standards either did not apply or were not breached.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Balance
The Authority has declined to determine two complaints on the basis they were trivial – one about a teaser for a Nights interview that allegedly mispronounced ‘Rhondda’, and one about a Checkpoint item that referred to England instead of the United Kingdom during a discussion about educational achievement of countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Declined to Determine: Accuracy (section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 – trivial)
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a Checkpoint report breached the accuracy and balance standards by stating attacks against 5G cell towers internationally were due to ‘widely debunked conspiracy theories, linking telecommunications technology to illness, including COVID-19’. The Authority found the statement was unlikely to significantly affect listeners’ understanding of the segment and the balance standard did not apply, as the broadcast was not a discussion regarding the safety of 5G technology.
Not Upheld: Accuracy and Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item on Checkpoint covering the Select Committee report on the Abortion Legislation Bill was unbalanced, unfair and discriminated against unborn children. The Authority found: ‘unborn children’ were not a recognised section of the community; the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to present significant viewpoints on the issue discussed; and the item did not result in unfairness to anyone taking part or referred to.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority upheld a complaint that a Checkpoint report summarising the complainant’s submission at a Waitematā local board public meeting was inaccurate and unfair to her. The item reported that ‘the sparks continued to fly when activist Lisa Prager described how she had claimed mana whenua status in her bid to save the trees [on Ōwairaka Mt Albert] but now regrets the move. [One] board member… refused to thank Ms Prager for her submission because, she said, her comments were “a bit racist”.’ The Authority agreed with Ms Prager that the use of the word ‘regrets’ did not accurately reflect her view expressed at the meeting: “...I retire any claim to being mana whenua whatsoever. But I have no regrets in standing up and initiating the conversation...” The Authority also agreed the manner in which the complainant’s views were reported had the potential to adversely affect her reputation and dignity, particularly alongside the suggestion that her submission was ‘a bit racist’. While audio of Ms Prager’s brief, heat-of-the-moment response to this allegation was included, given the seriousness of the accusation, and that it did not address the misreporting of her position overall, this was insufficient to meet requirements under the fairness standard.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness. Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration.
Order: Section 16(1) $1,818 legal costs to the complainant
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 not upheld a complaint that a Checkpoint segment about a media release issued by Forest and Bird stating that commercial fishing set nets were responsible for the deaths of an estimated 30 yellow-eyed penguins was unbalanced or unfair. The Authority found that Fisheries Inshore New Zealand Ltd was treated fairly by RNZ as it was contacted for a response to Forest and Bird’s statement prior to the broadcast. The Authority found this amounted to being given a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment for the programme before it was broadcast. The Authority also found that the item was balanced as RNZ broadcast a summary of the response sent by Fisheries Inshore during the Checkpoint segment. The Authority noted the importance of freedom of expression with respect to the examination and criticism of public and industry organisations and found that, on this occasion, any restriction on that freedom would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance
The Authority has upheld one aspect of a complaint that an interview with Sir Andrew Dillon, the CEO of the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) breached the accuracy standard. The Authority found that listeners were invited by the item to draw negative comparisons between the role and functions of NICE and of PHARMAC in the New Zealand context, which was misleading through the omission of relevant contextual information about the two agencies. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard, as inviting a comparison of the two agencies did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue to which the balance standard applied. The Authority also did not find any breach of the fairness standard on the grounds PHARMAC is a high-profile, public-facing agency which is frequently subject to scrutiny and criticism and it was not necessary to give PHARMAC an opportunity to comment in this case. Additionally, Sir Andrew made some moderating remarks which reduced the potential for unfairness.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the use of the term ‘booted out’, in reference to the Speaker of the House, Hon Trevor Mallard, ejecting the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Simon Bridges, from the House, was inaccurate. The Authority found there was no reason to suggest the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcasts complained about. The Authority found that the use of terms such as ‘booted out’ and ‘kicked out’, in reference to Members of Parliament who have been ordered by the Speaker of the House to leave the House, is common in New Zealand and therefore its use was unlikely to mislead or misinform listeners.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
A complaint that a segment on Checkpoint that discussed vaccinations was inaccurate was not upheld by the Authority. WAVESnz complained that several statements made by Professor John Fraser during the segment regarding the safety of vaccinations and the contents of vaccines were inaccurate and misleading. The Authority noted that it was not its role to determine the scientific accuracy of Professor Fraser’s statements. It found, however, that RNZ made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast, taking into account a number of factors including Professor Fraser’s reputation and the lack of any reason to question the accuracy of the views expressed by Professor Fraser. The Authority did not identify any real or potential harm and therefore found any restriction on RNZ’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an interview between Checkpoint’s John Campbell and former United States television personality, Matt Lauer, who at the time was involved in controversy regarding public access to his New Zealand property. The complainant alleged that Mr Campbell unfairly emphasised the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office’s (OIO) reassessment of Mr Lauer under its ‘good character test’, and later made false allegations about who had initially raised this topic. The Authority found that the circumstances of the OIO’s assessment were directly relevant to the discussion and that this was raised again later in the interview by Mr Lauer himself. Mr Lauer was given ample opportunity during the interview to present his perspective on his treatment by New Zealand media and the issue of foreign land ownership and public access.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency
An item on Checkpoint reported that the Sky World building, a multi-storey entertainment complex in central Auckland, had not been issued with a warrant of fitness in 435 days, and that the building remained open throughout that time, with the knowledge of Auckland Council, despite critical fire safety compliance issues. The item (which was broadcast on free-to-air television as well as on radio) included footage of the reporter attempting to contact the owner of the complex, ‘A’, visiting his home and offices, where he spoke to two employees, ‘X’ and ‘Y’. JNJ Management made a direct privacy complaint to the Authority, submitting that these segments breached the privacy of A and his employees. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that A’s home was filmed only to the extent visible to the public and he was filmed in a public place at Sky World so he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. No private information or material was disclosed about the employees during the programme, and they did not have an interest in solitude or seclusion, given the workplace was accessible to members of the public to seek an appointment. Further, the employees were informed of the reporter’s identity and the purpose of the reporter’s interview, and therefore had an opportunity to object to filming at that time.
Not Upheld: Privacy
A segment on Checkpoint featured an interview with former Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei. The interview occurred just after Ms Turei had announced her resignation as Co-Leader. John Campbell questioned Ms Turei about the recent allegations of benefit fraud which had recently arisen, the effect these allegations had on her and whether they ultimately led to her resignation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced. While the subject matter amounted to a controversial issue of public importance, the Authority found alternate views were put forward through the use of ‘devil’s advocate’ questioning, and noted there was also considerable media coverage of the allegations, meaning there was a wide range of information available on the issue. The interview’s focus was Ms Turei’s response to the allegations, and as a whole would not have left the audience misinformed regarding the nature of the allegations and Ms Turei’s position.
Not Upheld: Balance
An item on Checkpoint reported on the final stages of a court case in Auckland, known as the ‘Dome Valley’ kidnapping, in which a young woman was kidnapped, beaten, sexually violated and left to die by a group of her former friends. The reporter outlined the events of the kidnapping and the item featured segments of the victim giving evidence (with her voice disguised) via audio-visual link from another room in the closed court. The reporter and the victim outlined her assault and injuries in some detail. No audience advisory was broadcast. The Authority found that, while this item had high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, and was in the public interest, a brief audience advisory should have been broadcast to enable listeners to decide if they wished to listen to the detailed, violent content included in the item. While the Authority supported the broadcast of an item that gave voice to the victim, the segment contained descriptions and details that were disturbing in nature and potentially upsetting for listeners, particularly those who had suffered similarly and any children who may have been listening. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the law and order standard.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence
Not Upheld: Law and Order
An item on Checkpoint discussed the return of a child after she went missing off the coast of New Zealand with her father. Extensive media coverage reported that the pair had sailed to Australia on a catamaran and that the family was involved in a custody dispute, with proceedings pending under the Care of Children Act 2004. The item aired after the child had been located and featured an interview with the child’s mother, who discussed her fears for her daughter’s safety, and their reunion. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item breached the child’s privacy and treated her unfairly. The information discussed during the interview was in the public domain at the time of broadcast, and the topic was treated sensitively and respectfully by the interviewer. There was also an element of public interest in the child’s welfare and her being found safe. A number of other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant were not applicable or not breached in the context of the broadcast.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
An item on Checkpoint reported on tensions between the Horowhenua Rowing Club and certain local Māori residents over the future of the club’s use of the building next to Lake Horowhenua. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair. The item carefully conveyed a complex issue, was not factually inaccurate and would not have misled viewers in any material respect. While the conflict surrounding the rowing club’s presence at Lake Horowhenua is a controversial issue of public importance, the item included the viewpoints of both parties and was sufficiently balanced. The item did not treat the nominated individuals unfairly, as they were not criticised and had a reasonable opportunity to give their views.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues, Fairness
An item on Checkpoint was introduced by the newsreader saying, ‘The Māori Education Trust has had to sell its only assets – its farms – putting at risk the grants it is required to make to Māori students’. The item went on to discuss the financial history of the Trust. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the introduction was inaccurate in that the sale of the farms had actually improved the financial position of the Trust. The financial ‘risk’ alleged by the broadcast is not a fact able to be objectively determined, and the Trust was able to put forward its position in the item, so listeners would not have been misled.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority declined to determine a complaint that it was inappropriate for RNZ to use Forsyth Barr and First NZ Capital as business advisors and suppliers of business news for its ‘Market Update’ segment on Checkpoint. RNZ’s choice of business advisors is a matter of editorial discretion rather than broadcasting standards. The complainant has previously made similar complaints and been warned that further similar complaints would be unlikely to be determined in future. Accordingly the Authority declined to determine the present complaint on the basis it was frivolous and vexatious.
Declined to Determine: Law and Order, Fairness, Responsible Programming
An item on Checkpoint reported on the Lombard Finance case, focusing on a former investor and her reaction to the revised sentences handed out to the Lombard directors. The item included a quote which was incorrectly attributed to the directors. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the misattributed quote was misleading. The quote was from the High Court judge who had summarised what he considered to be the directors’ position, so listeners’ impression of the directors from the item would not have been materially different.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
Five items reporting on an episode of escalating violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Gaza Strip were broadcast on Radio New Zealand National. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that they breached the balance standard because they were biased towards the Palestinian position. The broadcaster had clearly made reasonable efforts to present significant viewpoints, including the Israeli perspective, across more than 250 news bulletins and programmes within the period of current interest.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues