Newshub broadcast a story about the outcome of a review by Michael Heron QC of Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) fisheries prosecution decisions. The reporter referred to the resignations of two senior MPI officials, implying that the resignations were connected to the outcome of the Heron review. The Authority upheld the complaint that the broadcast was unfair. The item reflected negatively on the two individuals’ professional reputations and had the potential to adversely affect them. In the interests of fairness, the broadcaster should have given the individuals affected a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations, which did not occur. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item breached the accuracy standard, as it found the broadcaster had made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy by relying on sources which it satisfied itself were credible. The allegations were presented alongside MPI’s position that the resignations were not connected to the Heron review, so viewers would not have been misled.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Fair Go reported on a family who had purchased land in Papamoa only to find that the section had an actual size of 258m2, rather than the 296m2 shown on the property title and in their Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA). The item found that the surveyor was responsible for the incorrect description on the title. However, the item also discussed an extract from an email sent to the purchaser by the real estate agent involved, Wayne Skinner, asking for a notation on the SPA seeking verification of the land site to be removed. The Authority upheld a complaint that the item was unfair and misleading, finding that the reporting of the email extract gave the impression that Mr Skinner had chosen to intentionally remove the purchaser’s right to have the title checked, and did not reflect the other protections available to the purchaser in the SPA. The negative impression created by the item was disproportionate and unfair to Mr Skinner, and undue focus was given to him in the context of the item as a whole. The item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the balance standard.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy; Not Upheld: Balance
Seven Sharp featured a story about two local residents, labelled ‘herb detectives’, who were determined to track down the man they believed was responsible for stealing their herbs. The reporter and the ‘herb detectives’ visited the local market looking for the alleged thief and spoke to a woman, Shunfang Shen, who was selling herbs. The reporter asked Mrs Shen where her herbs were from, and one of the residents said, ‘It looked very much like my mint.’ The Authority upheld a complaint from Mrs Shen that the action taken by TVNZ, in upholding her complaint that the item was inaccurate and unfair, was insufficient. The Authority acknowledged that TVNZ attempted to remedy the breach of standards, including by broadcasting a correction several days after the item. However, the Authority found it would have been straightforward for this correction to also include an apology to Mrs Shen, which would have addressed her concerns. The item clearly had the potential to be particularly damaging to Mrs Shen’s reputation in her local community, and her livelihood. She was an innocent bystander and, due to her limited English, was unable to meaningfully respond to the reporter’s questions or defend herself. The Authority found that no order was warranted, as the decision publicly notified the breach of standards.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy (Action Taken); No Order
An item on Story explored the issue of unconscious bias. During the introduction, footage of members of the public walking down the street was shown. Each individual was zoomed in and highlighted with special effects. The Authority upheld a complaint from JW, one of the individuals shown, that she was unfairly ‘showcased’ during the segment. Rather than being a face in the crowd, the edited footage used filming techniques that singled out the complainant and drew her into the issue under discussion without her knowledge or consent. This unduly impacted on her dignity and was unfair. The Authority recognised that bias is a sensitive issue and has the potential to cause hurt and offence. It is also an important social issue. In this context, without undermining the value of the item as a whole, the Authority considered more care should have been taken in the way the footage was edited to avoid the singling out of individuals who were unaware they would be featured. The Authority did not consider that JW had a reasonable expectation of privacy when she was filmed on a busy public street. Nor did the item reach the high threshold necessary to encourage viewers to treat differently, or devalue the reputation of, any section of the community.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Privacy, Discrimination and Denigration; No Order
During the Hauraki Breakfast Show, Deborah Stokes, mother of New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes, rang the studio to complain about what she considered to be unfair comments made by the hosts regarding her son, and to defend him. Mrs Stokes asked to speak with someone off air. Host Matt Heath assured Mrs Stokes she was off air, when in fact the conversation was being broadcast live on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by NZME, having upheld Mrs Stokes’ complaint under the fairness and privacy standards, was insufficient. The broadcast, and particularly the hosts’ deceptive conduct, represented a significant breach of broadcasting standards and a lack of understanding of an individual’s fundamental right to fair treatment and to privacy. While NZME offered Mrs Stokes a substantial remedy following her complaint, it took limited action, which did not adequately rectify the harm caused to Mrs Stokes. Furthermore, events subsequent to the broadcast and prior to NZME’s response to the complaint, such as the hosts’ behaviour, undermined the genuineness of the proposed offer.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Privacy (Action Taken)
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation for breach of privacy; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $4,000
In an episode of The Block NZ: Villa Wars, the complainant was portrayed as a ‘temperamental European tiler’ who allegedly wanted to be paid in advance and went ‘AWOL’ when he was not paid. The Authority upheld a complaint that the complainant was treated unfairly and that key facts about his professional conduct were misrepresented. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the broadcast also breached a number of additional standards.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy
Not Upheld: Privacy, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Controversial Issues, Responsible Programming
Order: Section 16(4) costs to the Crown $1,500
An episode of Neighbours at War featured a dispute between a group of neighbours over a right of way. Two sets of neighbours alleged that their neighbours, a couple (Mr and Mrs X), had been threatening and harassing them. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from Mr and Mrs X that the episode was unfair and breached their privacy. The Authority also determined that the broadcaster did not take sufficient action having upheld one aspect of the complainants’ original fairness complaint. The programme contained potentially damaging allegations against the complainants and did not present their side of the story. The programme also broadcast footage of incidents between Mr and Mrs X and their neighbours on the right of way obtained by one neighbour’s friend and a security camera belonging to another neighbour, which was a highly offensive intrusion into their interest in solitude and seclusion. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the fairness and privacy complaints, and did not find that the item was inaccurate or misleading.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Fairness, Privacy; Not Upheld: Accuracy
Order: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation to the complainants $500
The Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust has a regular broadcasting programme on Te Arawa FM, which is paid for by the Trust and enables the Trust to ‘share its views on issues affecting the Trust with its beneficiaries’. The programme featured an interview with the Trust’s deputy chairman, in which he made a number of negative comments about Te Komiti Nui o Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Whakaue Tribal Lands Incorporation and its former chairman. The Authority upheld a complaint that the programme was unbalanced, as it contained a discussion of issues that were controversial and of public importance to Te Arawa’s audience, but did not present any significant countering viewpoints to those expressed by the interviewee. The Authority also upheld the complaint that the former chairman of NWTLI, the complainant, was treated unfairly. While the former chairman was not expressly named, listeners would have realised who was being spoken about, and he ought to have been given a fair opportunity to comment in response to the criticism of him. The comments which were also alleged to be inaccurate were clearly statements of analysis, comment or opinion. Accordingly, the accuracy standard did not apply.
Upheld: Controversial Issues, Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Story investigated an alleged issue within the Auckland property market. It was introduced: ‘Some real estate agents are helping investors and traders… get the houses first [before auction]’. An actor approached different real estate agencies and asked agents to sell him properties for investment prior to auction and at a lower price, which the presenter claimed would be in breach of the industry code. Amy Wildman, one of the agents approached, was filmed with a hidden camera apparently agreeing to sell a property prior to auction. The Authority upheld a complaint from Ms Wildman that she was treated unfairly. The broadcast was damaging to Ms Wildman and did not fairly represent her position, and the use of the hidden camera footage was, on balance, not justified by public interest considerations. The Authority did not uphold aspects of the complaint that the item was also in breach of Ms Wildman’s privacy and inaccurate.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) – statement published online; section 16(1) – legal costs to the complainant $1,000
Two hosts on George FM Breakfast asked listeners to send in the names and profiles of female users of Instagram described as ‘do-nothing bitches’. The names of two women, A and B, were submitted. The hosts went on to comment extensively on A’s profile, making inappropriate and disparaging comments about her, and also contacted A and interviewed her on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by MediaWorks having found breaches of the fairness and good taste and decency standards was insufficient, and also found that the broadcast breached the privacy of both women.
Upheld: Fairness (Action taken), Good Taste and Decency (Action taken), Privacy
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Law and Order, Responsible Programming, Controversial Issues, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation to A for breach of privacy; section 13(1)(d) $2,000 compensation to B for breach of privacy; section 16(4) $2,000 costs to the Crown
During Paakiwaha, host Willie Jackson interviewed the Head of News and Current Affairs at Māori Television about the recent resignation of senior staff, among other things. Mihingarangi Forbes and Annabelle Lee, two of the individuals referred to, complained that the interview was unfair, inaccurate and unbalanced. The Authority upheld aspects of the accuracy complaint, as Mr Jackson claimed Ms Forbes leaked information to media (which was also unfair) and declined an invitation to appear on the programme, which was inaccurate. The Authority also found the item was unfair to Ms Forbes, Ms Lee and another former staff member as the discussion reflected negatively on their professional ability and they were not given a timely and relevant opportunity to respond or give comment. The Authority did not uphold the balance complaint as the interview did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues
An item on ONE News covered the quarrying of a Dunedin landmark, Saddle Hill, and featured interviews with three people opposed to the quarrying. The reporter stated that quarry owner Calvin Fisher did not respond to his request for an interview, although an offer had been made to ‘replace the hill once the rock has been taken away’. TVNZ upheld Mr Fisher’s complaint, finding that insufficient attempts were made to contact Mr Fisher and the reporter unfairly represented that he was not willing to comment. TVNZ apologised in writing to Mr Fisher, removed the story from its website and discussed the upheld complaint with the reporter and management. However the Authority upheld Mr Fisher’s complaint that this action was insufficient to remedy the breach. The nature of the breach required further action from the broadcaster, such as a public acknowledgement or apology or a follow-up broadcast that included comment from Mr Fisher and/or an alternative perspective in support of the quarry.
Upheld: Action Taken (Fairness, Accuracy, Controversial Issues)
Order: Section 16(4) $750 costs to the Crown
Morning Report covered a story on kauri swamp logs that were allegedly being illegally exported to China. It reported that the company Oravida was one of the ‘kauri wholesalers’ involved. RNZ upheld a complaint from Oravida’s director that the broadcast was unfair as comment was not sought from Oravida. RNZ had removed the audio and written pieces that referred to Oravida and its director from its website, and two days later in a subsequent broadcast briefly reported Oravida’s position that it had never been involved in illegal trading. The Authority upheld the complaint that the action taken by RNZ in upholding the fairness complaint was insufficient and that the broadcast was also inaccurate. The Authority did not make any order noting that a full correction and apology was broadcast after the referral of the matter to this Authority.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy
At the end of an episode of Seven Sharp, host Mike Hosking offered his views on the incident of Prime Minister John Key’s repeated pulling of a café waitress’ ponytail. He described the waitress’ motivations for speaking out as ‘selfish’ and ‘a puffed up self-involved pile of political bollocks’. The Authority upheld complaints that this was unfair to the waitress. While public figures can expect criticism and robust scrutiny, in the Authority’s view the waitress was not a public figure. The format of the ‘final word’ segment did not allow for a response from the waitress so she was unable to defend herself in this context. The Authority did not uphold the remainder of the complaints.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration
Campbell Live covered a story about an eader (a pit for raw milk waste) in the town of Eltham in Taranaki that was allegedly making local residents ill. The South Taranaki District Council complained that the item was inaccurate and unfair. The Authority found that this was an important story which carried high public interest and that much of it was accurate and well-reported. Nevertheless, a number of statements conveying the gravity of the problem with the eader did not have a sufficient basis and were overblown, which was misleading and unfair. Accordingly the Authority upheld some aspects of the complaint.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
Coast FM News reported that Zero Commission ‘has been making low ball offers’ to shareholders of various companies. A majority of the Authority upheld the complaint that Zero Commission and its shareholders were treated unfairly as no opportunity was given to respond to the claims or the negative impression created. The minority did not consider the item was unfair as Zero Commission could reasonably expect some commentary from time to time that it would not like or agree with. The Authority unanimously declined to uphold the complaint that the use of the term ‘low ball’ was inaccurate as this was a subjective term, not a point of fact. The controversial issues standard was not applicable because the item focused squarely on one company, not a controversial issue of public importance.
Upheld (by majority): Fairness
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues
Five Campbell Live items featured the complainant, Margaret Harkema, a former director of the Valley Animal Research Centre, and investigated concerns that she was using TradeMe to rehome beagles that were bred or used for testing. The Authority upheld her complaints that the programmes were unfair, misleading and breached her privacy.
Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy, Privacy
Not Upheld: Law and Order
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $2,000 compensation to the complainant for breach of privacy; Section 16(1) $12,000 legal costs to the complainant
Neighbours at War reported on a dispute between the complainant and his neighbour over who was entitled to the letterbox number ‘1’ on their street. The complainant did not take part in the programme, and his neighbour made a number of allegations against him, including that he had sex on his deck, mowed the lawn in his underwear, watched his neighbours in their spa bath, and disturbed them with loud music and security lights. The broadcaster upheld two aspects of his fairness and privacy complaints, but the Authority found that the action taken by the broadcaster to remedy the breaches was insufficient. The programme overall painted the complainant in a very unfavourable light and without his side of the story, which was unfair. The Authority considered publication of this decision was sufficient and did not make any order.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Privacy (Action Taken), Fairness
Not Upheld: Privacy, Accuracy, Controversial Issues, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming, Good Taste and Decency
The George FM Breakfast show contained a discussion about the complainant’s use of the dating application Tinder, during which derogatory comments were made about him. The broadcaster upheld the complaint this was unfair. However, the Authority found that the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient, as the apology broadcast by the show’s hosts was insufficiently specific or formal to effectively remedy the breach. The Authority ordered a broadcast statement including an apology to the complainant.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken)
Not Upheld: Privacy, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming
Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement including apology to the complainant
Campbell Live broadcast two items that were critical of Ranfurly Veterans Home and Hospital, relating to an incident in which a resident, Q, was found lying on the driveway after falling from his power chair. The Authority upheld one aspect of the accuracy complaint in relation to another incident involving a resident, F, and upheld the complaint that the items were unfair to Q, and to Ranfurly. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the residents’ privacy was breached. The Authority did not make any order as only limited aspects were upheld.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Privacy