The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item during the sports segment of the news showing an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight and one of the competitor’s injuries after the fight. The item was brief, and in the context of an unclassified sports news segment, within audience expectations. Viewers would have had sufficient information to exercise choice and control.
Not Upheld: Children’s Interests, Violence
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a segment of Newshub Nation which discussed the National Party’s top Members of Parliament (MPs) under then leader Todd Muller. In the segment, reporter Tova O’Brien asked ‘Why is it that all of these women do the mahi and then this dude gets the treat?’ The question referred to Mr Muller being rewarded as leader over his top three female MPs, Hon Nikki Kaye, Hon Amy Adams and Hon Judith Collins. The complaint was that reference to Mr Muller as ‘that dude’ was in bad taste, unbalanced, unfair and sexist. The Authority found the comment was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress as contemplated under the good taste and decency standard. The fairness standard was not breached as the comment would not have left the audience with an unduly negative impression of Mr Muller. The balance standard was not breached as Ms Kaye’s response to the comment was presented.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Balance
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 Authority has not upheld a complaint about an election advertisement for the Labour Party that included very brief footage of a young person using a hand-held grinder without a guard. The complaint was that this was contrary to health and safety guidelines and promoted poor industrial practice. Noting the clip was fleeting and peripheral to the overall nature and purpose of the advertisement, the Authority did not find any breach of broadcasting standards. No actual or potential harm was caused in terms of the objectives of the applicable standards that outweighed the importance of freedom of expression and free political speech in the lead up to the general election.
Not Upheld: Election Programmes Subject to Other Codes (Law and Order, Good Taste and Decency, Accuracy)
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 has not upheld a complaint that visually displaying the word ‘dickhead’ onscreen during a Newshub item breached the good taste and decency standard. The Authority considered that in the context of the item, which canvassed public opinion towards Simon Bridges, the visual depiction of the word ‘dickhead’ would not have caused widespread undue offence, or distress, and would not have undermined widely shared community values.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
An election advertisement for the Labour Party included the statement, ‘we’ll…make apprenticeships free to prepare for tomorrow’s jobs...’ The complainant argued that this statement was inaccurate because the apprenticeships are not free but paid for by the taxpayers. The Authority did not uphold the complaint finding that a reasonable viewer was unlikely to be misled by the programme.
Not Upheld: Election Programmes Subject to Other Standards (Accuracy)
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item on Newshub Nation about the New Conservative Party breached broadcasting standards. The Authority found that the New Conservative Party was not a recognised section of the community for the purposes of the discrimination and denigration standard, and that the accuracy standard did not apply as the complaint concerned matters of analysis and opinion rather than statements of fact. The Authority also found that the New Conservative Party and Party members were not treated unfairly, noting that the scrutiny of political parties is a vital component of freedom of expression, and is of particular importance in the lead-up to a general election.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an interview conducted with then-Minister of Health, Dr David Clark, on his breaches of the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 ‘lockdown rules’. The complainant argued that the interview amounted to harassment and bullying, and breached the fairness standard. The Authority found that the robust questioning was within the scope of what could be expected of a public figure being interviewed on a matter of significant public interest, particularly given the expectation as to how politicians will be treated by the media.
Not Upheld: Fairness
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that comments made by Paul Henry during Rebuilding Paradise with Paul Henry undermined the Director-General of Health’s directions regarding compliance with COVID-19 Alert-Level conditions. Mr Henry noted there were no new cases of COVID-19 on the day of broadcast and commented, ‘I don’t want Dr Ashley Bloomfield to threaten me and you with the “if New Zealanders aren’t good at Level 3, they won’t get to Level 2” warning. I realise people think he walks on water, but I don’t. …Obedience in the population is the job of the police and, god help us, the reluctant [Police] Commissioner’. Noting the importance of the right to freedom of expression and that Mr Henry was clearly giving his views on a topic of high public interest, the Authority found no actual or potential harm that justified regulatory intervention. Mr Henry is well known for offering strong, sometimes controversial, opinions and at the time of broadcast a wide range of information and alternative views were available to the public regarding the importance of complying with the Government’s Alert-Level conditions. The comments did not actively encourage non-compliance or seriously undermine law and order. Nor did they result in Dr Bloomfield or the Police Commissioner being treated unfairly. Given their high-profile positions, they can reasonably expect to be the subject of robust scrutiny and a wide range of media coverage and commentary.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Balance, Fairness, Accuracy, Programme Information
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a Newshub Live broadcast reporting on the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s treatment for COVID-19 was inaccurate when it referred to President Donald Trump as ‘the world’s leading expert on fake news’. The Authority considered the statement was distinguishable as a statement of opinion and accordingly the accuracy standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that two guest panellists’ comments on The AM Show about English rugby players following the Rugby World Cup final breached the discrimination and denigration standard. Discussing some players’ refusal to wear their silver medals after losing the final, the panellists made comments including that the English players were ‘pouty little babies, pathetic, stupid, dumb, bad sportsmanship’, ‘petulant English kids’, ‘prats’, ‘it’s their upbringing’, ‘those English players who wanted to toss their medals on the ground’. The complaint was that these comments were nasty and offensive, and ‘racist’ by suggesting ‘it’s [the players’] upbringing’. The Authority noted the large majority of the comments were clearly directed at the individual players concerned, rather than commenting on a group of people. In the context, the only comment that could be interpreted as extending beyond the individual players (‘it’s their upbringing’), did not reach the high threshold for finding the broadcast encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against, all English people as a section of the community. The panellists’ comments were clearly opinion meaning they were not subject to the accuracy standard, and they did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance so the balance standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy, Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the movie Fifty Shades Darker was in breach of standards because it glorified a manipulative and abusive relationship. The Authority found viewers were sufficiently informed about the nature of the content to enable them to manage their own viewing. The movie did not contain any content that would go beyond audience expectations for the classification and timeband, especially given the well-publicised nature of the movie. The movie did not encourage violent or law-breaking activity. Finally, the Authority also found that people who engage in BDSM (a sexual practice that involves the use of physical control, psychological power, or pain) are not a recognised group for the purposes of the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority did not uphold a complaint under the good taste and decency standard about the use of the phrase ‘child pornography’ in a Newshub item reporting on the arrest of Sir Ron Brierley. The complaint was that the item should have instead referred to child sexual exploitation, as ‘pornography’ infers consent and normalises a terrible practice. The Authority acknowledged the complainant’s concerns about the use of appropriate terminology with regard to very serious criminal conduct against children, and noted that what is appropriate terminology is contested internationally among authorities and global agencies. The Authority also consulted the Digital Safety Team at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), which deals with issues including countering child sexual exploitation. DIA advised that it does not use the phrase ‘child pornography’ and considers the term ‘child sexual abuse material’ most accurately describes the illegal material involving children. Taking into account the wider context of the news broadcast, including the high public interest in the item, the Authority found that the single use of the phrase complained about did not breach broadcasting standards or justify regulatory intervention. However the Authority encouraged broadcasters to note the issues highlighted in this decision and exercise judgement when selecting appropriate terminology to refer to this type of serious criminal conduct.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mark Richardson’s response to a gift from a guest on The AM Show breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. Noting contextual factors, including audience expectations of the programme and of Mr Richardson, the Authority did not consider that Mr Richardson’s comments were likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, undermine widely shared community standards or adversely affect children. The Authority also did not uphold a complaint that a discussion about beer brands breached the alcohol standard. While the Authority found that the positive comments regarding Peroni could be regarded as promotion of the Peroni brand, the Authority considered that any promotion of alcohol was socially responsible in the context.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Alcohol
The Authority has found that a segment on Newshub regarding the sale of a report summarising data received from schools in a survey run by the Ministry of Education and I.D.C. New Zealand Limited breached the accuracy standard. The item reported on concerns of the New Zealand Educational Institute and survey participants regarding the sale of the report to Microsoft and Google. The Authority found that the statement ‘sensitive, private data about schools and their students pawned off to private companies by Chinese data giant’, which was included in the item, was materially inaccurate and likely to mislead viewers given the data contained in the report was anonymised and aggregated. The Authority also found the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure that the relevant statement was accurate and did not mislead.
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 Newshub item reporting on changes to Reserve Bank rules requiring commercial banks to hold more capital in reserve was unbalanced. The item focussed on the potential effects of new capital requirements on the public, particularly borrowers. The Authority recognised that the item discussed a controversial issue of public importance and was satisfied that the item featured significant viewpoints on the particular issue discussed. The Authority also noted that the issue had been widely covered in other news media and viewers could be expected to receive a broad understanding of the main perspectives on the issue within the period of current interest.
Not Upheld: Balance
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that a Newshub report regarding government employees accessing pornographic sites while at work breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The Newshub report included images of web addresses for the sites accessed. The Authority noted the public interest in the prevalence of, and harm caused by, pornography and considered that the content was within audience expectations for the news. In the context, the item was unlikely to cause widespread offence or undermine community standards and unlikely to adversely affect child viewers.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests