The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on The Project examining the history of violence and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and ‘what’s different this time’. The complainant alleged the maps illustrating the dispossession of Palestinian land were inaccurate, minimised original Jewish land, minimised current Palestinian land, and perpetuated ‘lies that are used to delegitimise the State of Israel’. The Authority acknowledged that Israeli and Palestinian entitlement to land is a highly sensitive and contested issue. It found the maps contained some inaccuracies and the broadcaster had not made sufficient effort to ensure their accuracy. However, any inaccuracies were unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole. In addition, the value in theexpression in the broadcast meant regulatory intervention was not justified in this instance. The Authority reminded broadcasters of the importance of accuracy and consistency when reporting on this issue.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority declined to determine a complaint about a promo of The Project as the complainant is responsible for identifying the programme the subject of his complaint1 and his complaint did not appear to relate to the identified broadcast content.
Declined to determine: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld two complaints about an item on The Project. A presenter commented ‘I think happily we don’t have many Americans in New Zealand so we probably won’t end up in that situation’, in response to a question from another presenter, about whether New Zealanders would start demanding a right to bear arms as in the United States, in light of a recent knife attack. The complainants alleged these comments were discriminatory against Americans, and breached the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority acknowledged the comments had the potential to cause offence, but found they did not meet the high threshold required to breach the standard and justify restricting the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on The Project, which discussed the financing of the Government’s $50 billion COVID-19 rescue and recovery budget. It suggested New Zealanders are borrowing this money from the Central Bank in the form of payment for Government bonds. The complainant argued this was inaccurate because New Zealanders are borrowing the money from private institutions. He also complained the broadcast confused direct monetary financing with quantitative easing by suggesting the Reserve Bank was buying bonds directly from the Government (rather than from private institutions). The Authority found the broadcast was materially accurate overall and unlikely to mislead viewers.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a comment by Mark Richardson on The Project regarding the Green Party and its responsibility for the protection of native trees. The statement was an opinion not subject to the accuracy standard, and was not unfair to the Green Party. The programme information standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Programme Information
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an episode of The Project in which Jesse Mulligan presented his view on whether New Zealand should ‘be more like Sweden’ in responding to COVID-19. Mr Mulligan stated ‘[Sweden's] number of COVID cases is actually going up, the virus is not under control and although their deaths are down, they're seeing more infections every day’. Mr Mulligan’s statement was not materially inaccurate and was unlikely to mislead viewers in the context, including given the wealth of other coverage and commentary available. The potential harm did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment on The Project, in which host (and comedian) Jeremy Corbett compared the time then National Party Leader Todd Muller and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spent thinking before responding to a question about whether US President Donald Trump is racist. The complaint was that the segment breached broadcasting standards by implying Mr Muller ‘failed’ by answering the question too soon and by comparing Mr Trudeau with Mr Muller rather than Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The segment was clearly intended to be comical rather than a serious political commentary. In that context it would not have misled viewers and did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard. Nor was the item unfair to Mr Muller who, as then Leader of the Opposition, could reasonably expect to be the subject of media coverage and commentary, including satirical commentary.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy, Balance
The End-of-Life Choice Society NZ (EOLCS) complained about an item on The Project which included an interview with the author of the book, The Final Choice, in the lead-up to the binding End of Life Choice referendum. EOLCS was concerned that the interview portrayed the book as ‘an independent assessment of the issue’, which was biased and inaccurate. The Authority noted its role is limited to applying the relevant broadcasting standards and guidelines and determining whether any harm was caused which outweighed the right to freedom of expression; it is not the Authority’s role to determine whether the author is ‘independent’, or her personal view on the topic. The Authority did not uphold the balance complaint, as it considered the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to present significant viewpoints within the programme, and noted that the issue was widely covered throughout the legislative process for the End of Life Choice Act and likely to continue to be covered in the lead-up to the referendum. For similar reasons, and taking the broadcast item as a whole, the Authority did not consider viewers were likely to have been misled in the manner alleged in the complaint. The overarching message of the item, and the author’s interview, was encouraging New Zealanders to become more informed about the issue of end-of-life choice before deciding which way to vote in the upcoming referendum. Therefore upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
The Authority did not uphold a complaint under the good taste and decency standard about a brief segment on The Project displaying an image of a scented candle developed by celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow. The complaint was that the name of the candle was disgusting and vile and unnecessary to report on. The Authority acknowledged that this content could have been better signposted for viewers, and some may have been surprised by it and found it distasteful. However reporting the name of the candle in itself did not threaten standards of good taste and decency at a level which warranted limiting freedom of expression, taking into account the wider context of the broadcast. The segment reported on a real product available for sale and the item viewed in its entirety was consistent with audience expectations of The Project and its typical style of presentation and humour.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
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 a joke on The Project referring to Mark Lundy breached the good taste and decency standard. After an introductory remark referring to Mr Lundy’s latest appeal, a photo was shown of a car number plate reading ‘I DID IT’, and presenter Jesse Mulligan joked that Mr Lundy ‘may want to re-think the car he’s using to get to and from court’ and referred to the car ‘travelling at a very high speed’. Diana Yukich complained that the joke was in poor taste as it made light of domestic violence by alluding to Mr Lundy’s crimes, and undermined the work being done to counter violence against women. The Authority found that while the segment might be considered insensitive by some, taking into account relevant contextual factors and the satirical nature of the comments, as well as the fact the joke did not refer specifically to Mr Lundy’s crimes, the broadcast did not threaten standards of good taste and decency and was unlikely to cause widespread offence or undue distress.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that a segment on The Project that questioned whether a ‘stolen generation’ was being created in light of an investigative report into Oranga Tamariki’s uplifting of a child breached broadcasting standards. The Authority acknowledged the sensitive nature of the issue addressed but found the item, and specifically the host’s use of the term ‘stolen generation’ was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress. The Authority also found the item was unlikely to mislead viewers regarding the situation considering the nature of the programme and the presentation of alternate viewpoints on the issue. Finally, the Authority found the broadcast did not result in any unfairness to Oranga Tamariki that justified the restriction of the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, as its perspective was clearly presented in the short item.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority declined to determine a complaint regarding a news item covering animal welfare in rodeos. David Wratt complained that the item, which covered loss of animal life in rodeos, should focus on the deaths of babies as human life is more valuable than animal life. As this complaint relates to a matter of editorial discretion and personal preference, it is not capable of being determined by a complaints procedure. The Authority considered that, in all circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.
Declined to Determine: Good Taste and Decency; Programme Information; Discrimination and Denigration; Balance; Fairness
A complaint that a segment on The Project which discussed the delay in abortion legislative reform and the current process for obtaining a legal abortion in New Zealand was discriminatory, unbalanced and misleading was not upheld. The Authority found that the item did not breach the discrimination and denigration standard as people who are opposed to this reform and ‘the unborn’ do not amount to recognised sections of the community for the purposes of the standard. The Authority also found the item clearly approached this topic from a particular perspective and that viewers could reasonably be expected to have a level of awareness of significant arguments in the debate.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that statements made by Jesse Mulligan during a segment of The Project breached the accuracy standard. Mr Mulligan criticised National MP Judith Collins for retweeting a story in relation to changes to France’s child sex laws, stating the story was ‘made up’ and claiming Ms Collins was ‘learning that in 2018 you don't need to show people the truth’. The Authority found Mr Mulligan’s statements were statements of opinion and analysis and therefore the accuracy standard did not apply. In reaching the decision the Authority considered the context in which the comments were made, including the focus of the segment as a whole and audience expectations of The Project.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
During a segment of The Project, the presenters discussed whether it was illegal to wear headphones while driving. One of the presenters, a well-known New Zealand comedian, said that he wore headphones while driving ‘because it drowns out the sound of the seatbelt warning’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the presenter’s comment trivialised an important road safety issue. The segment as a whole carried a positive road safety message, with the presenters sharing their surprise that wearing headphones while driving was not illegal in New Zealand (though distracted drivers could still be charged with careless driving). The comment was clearly intended to be humorous and the reactions of the other presenters balanced the comment and signalled to viewers that wearing your seatbelt was important. In this context, the presenter’s comment did not actively promote, encourage or glamorise illegal behaviour, and any limitation on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment on The Project that discussed whether bystanders should step in if they see parents treating their children in a way they do not agree with. At the beginning of the segment the presenters described an incident in which a father (the complainant) allegedly disciplined his son by denying him afternoon tea. Another parent reported this to Oranga Tamariki, who later found no cause for action and dismissed the complaint. The complainant argued the segment omitted important details about the incident, and was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority acknowledged the significant effect these events have had on the complainant and his family. However, the Authority found the incident, and the reporting of it to Oranga Tamariki, was used to frame the broader discussion about bystander intervention, rather than being the focus of the item. Therefore the item was unlikely to mislead viewers or result in harm at a level that justified restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
The Authority declined jurisdiction to accept and consider a complaint referral about a video uploaded to video-sharing website platform YouTube, which featured clips from a broadcast of The Project. The Authority noted that its jurisdiction, which is prescribed under the Broadcasting Act 1989, is limited to consideration of formal complaints about television and radio broadcasts. In this case, the complainant was concerned about content uploaded to YouTube and edited by a third party. The content of the video predominantly comprised commentary by that third party. The Authority therefore did not have jurisdiction to accept and consider the complaint referral.
An item on The Project discussed the building of a new gambling venue in Tokoroa set to contain 30 gambling machines (‘pokies’). The segment was critical of the South Waikato District Council’s (SWDC) role in the authorisation of this new venue, and also one of the Councillors’ roles as both a Councillor and manager of one of the clubs involved in the creation of the proposed new venue. The following evening one of the programme hosts issued an on-air apology to the Councillor, clarifying inaccurate statements made about their involvement in the decision-making process. The Authority upheld SWDC’s complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks did not sufficiently remedy the harm caused by the breaches. The Authority found that the statement the following night did not remedy the harm caused to SWDC by the broadcast, only the Councillor. The Authority also upheld the complaint that the host’s statement that the SWDC ‘get a cut of the profits’ from the gambling machines was inaccurate, as the SWDC do not directly receive any percentage of the profits.
Upheld: Balance (Action Taken), Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy. Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement.
An item on The Project discussed the End of Life Choice Bill (the Bill) before the Select Committee of Parliament. The item featured interviews with advocates for and against the legalisation of euthanasia in Aotearoa. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was unbalanced or that the use of certain terms such as ‘euthanasia’ was inaccurate. The Authority recognised the legalisation of euthanasia is an important and ongoing issue of public importance in New Zealand. The Authority found that overall the item was sufficiently balanced and was unlikely to mislead or misinform viewers, so any restriction on the broadcaster’s freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy