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Decisions
Christoforou and Al Jazeera Media Network - 2020-054 (16 November 2020)
2020-054

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about documentary Western Thrace, Contested Space, which examined the lives of ethnic Turks living in the Western Thrace region of Greece. It found that there were no material inaccuracies in the documentary as alleged by the complainant. The documentary was about discrimination felt by the Turkish community as a whole and was exploring their experiences. Some inaccuracies alleged by the complainant were broadly immaterial to the thrust of the documentary, while others were expressions of opinion, comment and analysis, to which the accuracy standard does not apply. It found the balance standard did not apply as it did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance in New Zealand. The remaining standards raised also did not apply.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration

Decisions
KG and Māori Television Service - 2020-082 (16 November 2020)
2020-082

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item on Te Ao with Moana breached the balance and accuracy standards. It found the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to present significant views which discussed the issue of police conduct in New Zealand in the context of the George Floyd incident in the United States. The Authority found the interviewee’s behavioural history was not a material fact relevant to the audience’s understanding of the programme. The Authority however found Māori Television’s initial response to the complainant unsatisfactory and reminded it of its duties with respect to formal complaints.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy

Decisions
Tinsley and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2020-067 (28 October 2020)
2020-067

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about three RNZ broadcasts regarding political commentator Matthew Hooton. Two items on 21 and 22 May 2020 comprised interviews with Mr Hooton about the National Party leadership contest at that time, following which an item on 24 May 2020 discussed the emergence of Mr Hooton’s conflict of interest in this regard. The complaint was the 21 and 22 May items failed to disclose the conflict and the 24 May item failed to address it adequately. The Authority did not consider the broadcasts breached the accuracy standard, noting Mr Hooton disclosed his friendship with Todd Muller (National Party) in the 21 May item and accepted he had ‘nailed his colours’ to the Muller mast in the 22 May item. The conflict of interest generated by his subsequent engagement by Todd Muller did not arise until after these broadcasts. The nature and disclosure of his conflict was then discussed at length in the 24 May item once the details had emerged. Regarding balance, the Authority was satisfied significant points of view were adequately presented. Overall, the Authority did not find actual or potential harm at a level that justified regulatory intervention or restricting freedom of expression.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness

Decisions
Newton and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-137 (16 October 2020)
2020-137

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an interview on Q+A broadcast on TVNZ 1, with the Rt Hon Winston Peters, which included questions about the Government’s COVID-19 response, leaking of information regarding the ‘Green School’ funding, New Zealand First Party funding, the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation and a tax-payer funded trip of Mr Peters’ two friends to Antarctica. The complainant argued the interview was biased and unfair, and breached the fairness and balance standards. The Authority found the robust questioning was within the scope of what could be expected of a high profile and senior political figure like Mr Peters on matters of significant public interest in the lead up to a general election. Regarding balance, the Authority did not consider controversial issues of public importance were ‘discussed’ for the purposes of this standard, with one exception in respect of which Mr Peters briefly presented his views. The Authority also noted Mr Peters had an opportunity to present his views on the other topics raised during the interview and the issues were otherwise widely covered in other broadcasts and media - meaning a range of viewpoints were publicly available.

Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance

Decisions
Anderson and Māori Television Service - 2020-134 (15 October 2020)
2020-134

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about references to Advance NZ/New Zealand Public Party co-leader Billy Te Kahika spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories, during a panel discussion on Te Ao with Moana. The episode included two online panel discussions about the issue of misinformation on social media and its implications for Māori in particular. Noting that two other episodes of the programme broadcast in the preceding weeks had allowed considerable time to Mr Te Kahika to put forward his position on these issues, the Authority did not find any breach of the balance, accuracy or fairness standards.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness

Decisions
Honour the Maunga and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2020-049 (14 October 2020)
2020-049

The Authority has not upheld a complaint under the fairness, balance, and accuracy standards from environmental protest group Honour the Maunga, about a series of Radio New Zealand broadcasts on 15-19 April 2020. The items concerned the removal of the group’s unoccupied camp from Ōwairaka (Mt Albert) for allegedly breaching lockdown rules. Overall, the Authority found that the series of broadcasts was unlikely to cause undue harm to the reputation of Honour the Maunga, and was unlikely to mislead listeners. This was a series of short news items covering a developing story, which, importantly, included the complainant’s response to the key points in the reports, namely that the group had not breached lockdown rules and was otherwise entitled under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act to occupy the site. In the context of the evolving story, the suggestion the group had breached lockdown rules was distinguishable as opinion, meaning the accuracy standard did not apply, and in any event, the inclusion of Honour the Maunga’s response mitigated any potential harm.

Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance, Accuracy

Decisions
Stopford and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2020-075 (14 October 2020)
2020-075

An episode of The Panel included an interview with a professor from the department of preventive and social medicine, whose focus is respiratory epidemiology, about his research on the effects of smoking cannabis on the lungs. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview breached the accuracy and balance standards. The Authority did not consider the accuracy standard applied as the interview was a short conversation about the findings of the study where the interviewee was clearly giving his own perspective and analysis, having conducted his own research on the topic. The Authority accepted that the wider debate about cannabis legalisation is a controversial issue of public importance, of which the interview was narrowly focussed on one aspect (the alleged health effects). The Authority was satisfied the broadcaster met its obligations to present a reasonable range of other perspectives both within the programme and in other extensive coverage in the period of current interest.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance

Decisions
End-of-Life Choice Society NZ and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2020-095 (1 October 2020)
2020-095

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an interview on RNZ’s Sunday Morning programme with the author of the book, The Final Choice, in the lead-up to the binding referendum on the End of Life Choice Act. The End-of-Life Choice Society complained that the interview was unbalanced and inaccurate, as it presented the book as ‘the truth’, and did not question the author’s independence or her alleged religious affiliations. 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 to determine her personal view on the topic. With respect to balance, the Authority was satisfied that the End of Life Choice Act and related issues were widely covered by RNZ within the period of current interest in those topics, including views in support of the End of Life Choice Act. The interviewer and the author also acknowledged the existence of other views within the item, which was adequate in the context. Considering whether the item was inaccurate or misleading in the manner alleged, the Authority noted the interviewer questioned the author about the weighting of views in the book (17:4 opposed to assisted dying) and whether she approached it with any particular position of her own. Overall, the Authority did not find actual or potential harm at a level that justified regulatory intervention or restricting freedom of expression.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy

Decisions
End-of-Life Choice Society NZ and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2020-094 (1 October 2020)
2020-094

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

Decisions
Beach and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2020-048 (14 September 2020)
2020-048

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the reading of an adaptation of the novel My Name Was Judas by author C.K. Stead was offensive to Christians in breach of the good taste and decency, and discrimination and denigration standards. The Authority did not consider that the broadcast’s content was likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress or undermine widely shared community standards and it did not reach the high threshold necessary for finding that it encouraged the denigration of, or discrimination against, Christians as a section of the community. The Authority also found that the balance standard did not apply as the programme was not a news, current affairs or factual programme.

Not upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance.

Decisions
McGovern and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2020-050 (14 September 2020)
2020-050

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

Decisions
Knight and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2020-020 (4 August 2020)
2020-020

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

Decisions
Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2020-026 (21 July 2020)
2020-026

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an episode of Sunday concerning the increasing population of wallabies in New Zealand was inaccurate and unbalanced. The Authority found that the balance standard did not apply as the segment did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The Authority also found that the reference to wallabies as an ‘Aussie pest’ did not amount to a material inaccuracy as it was unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy

Decisions
Terry and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2020-018 (21 July 2020)
2020-018

The Authority declined to determine two complaints regarding broadcasts by Radio New Zealand. The first complaint related to a segment on the Five O’Clock Report which featured an interview with National Party MP Mark Mitchell. The second complaint related to a segment on the Morning Report featuring an interview with then leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges. Robert Terry complained that the Five O’Clock Report segment contained biased coverage and that the Morning Report segment required balance.  The Authority found that the complaints did not relate to the content of the broadcast and were not capable of being determined by a complaints procedure. The Authority considered that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.

Declined to Determine: Balance

Decisions
Brereton & Riches and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2019-097 (16 June 2020)
2019-097

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

No orders

Decisions
McCullough and NZME Radio Ltd - 2020-008 (9 June 2020)
2020-008

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a discussion on a talkback segment on Newstalk ZB breached broadcasting standards. The Authority found that the complainant, who had called in to the programme, was not treated unfairly as she was given an opportunity to voice her opinion and was treated respectfully. The Authority also found that the broadcast’s criticism of United States President Donald Trump did not exceed what could fairly be expected to be levelled against a highly controversial United States President. The Authority noted that the balance and accuracy standards apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes, and the accuracy standard does not apply to statements clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion. The discrimination and denigration standard also did not apply as it does not apply to individuals or organisations.

Not Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy, Balance, Discrimination and Denigration

Decisions
Richards and MediaWorks Ltd - 2020-006 (9 June 2020)
2020-006

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

Decisions
The University of Otago and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2019-082 (9 June 2020)
2019-082

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

No orders

Decisions
Bidwell and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2020-003 (27 May 2020)
2020-003

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interview with ACT Party leader David Seymour, on the day of the final reading in Parliament of the End of Life Choice Bill, was unbalanced. The complainant submitted that Mr Seymour was given free licence to give his views from his perspective as the sponsor and a strong advocate of the Bill, and it was important that either someone with opposing views was also given an opportunity, or that the interviewer critically questioned him, given the item’s proximity to the final reading of the Bill. The Authority accepted that issues surrounding the Bill and the euthanasia debate more broadly amounted to a controversial issue of public importance that triggered the requirements of the balance standard. However, it noted the balance standard allows for significant viewpoints to be presented over time (within the period of current interest), and the Authority was satisfied the issue was widely covered in the months preceding the second and third (final) reading of the Bill, including presenting opposing views. Additionally, the Authority found both the interviewer and Mr Seymour acknowledged the existence of alternative perspectives within the item.

Not Upheld: Balance

Decisions
Boyce and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2020-005 (27 May 2020)
2020-005

The Authority did not uphold a complaint about comments made separately by two RNZ commentators to the effect that the UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has ‘terrorist connections’. The complainant submitted the comments breached the balance and accuracy standards, on the basis it was wrong and offensive to suggest Mr Corbyn is a Marxist and supports terrorism, and Nine to Noon refuses to interview anyone sympathetic towards the UK Labour Party. The Authority found the comments were clearly distinguishable as comment, analysis and opinion, rather than statements of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. The Authority also found the items, in which the commentators gave their analysis of the likely and eventual outcome of the British election, did not amount to discussions of a controversial issue of public importance in New Zealand.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance

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