The Authority has upheld a complaint that an item on Fair Go was unfair to the fencing contractor investigated. The Authority found that the fencing contractor was not treated fairly, due to the way he was set-up to be interviewed (under the guise of calling him to a job) and because he was not given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him in the programme. The Authority also found that the inclusion of information about the contractor’s past which had a criminal element was unfair as it was not relevant to the issues being investigated in this item and contributed to an unfairly negative impression of him. The accuracy complaint was not upheld as the item did not mislead or present inaccurate information, and the balance standard did not apply as the item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance.
Order: Section 16(4) - $750 costs to the Crown
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News covering police brutality in the United States of America and comments made by its President Donald Trump about deceased victim of police brutality, George Floyd. The item reported Mr Trump was ‘copping more flack’ for his comments and that, ‘celebrating better than expected employment numbers, he bizarrely called it a great day for George Floyd’. To the extent the broadcast may be considered inaccurate or misleading for suggesting an incorrect interpretation of Mr Trump’s comments, the Authority found it was not material. The Authority also considered Mr Trump is a high profile politician and public figure and could have reasonably expected to be subject to such scrutiny.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
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 of Q+A discussing the lack of diversity among the National Party’s then top-12 Members of Parliament. In the segment, panellist Laila Harre commented, ‘the whole front kind of line-up looks like they’ve had a bit of an accident with the bleach’. The complaint was that this comment was inappropriate, unprofessional and racist. The Authority found the comment did not threaten community standards of taste and decency, or encourage discrimination or denigration of any section of the community, in the context of a political discussion in the public interest. The remaining standards complained about either did not apply or were not breached.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
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 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 has not upheld a complaint about an RNZ News item covering anti-racism protests in Washington and London. The item reported that after ‘a largely peaceful day’, some of the British protesters threw bottles at police, mounted officers charged at the protesters, and an officer ‘required hospital treatment after falling from her horse’. The complaint was that this characterisation of the events breached broadcasting standards as the protest was not ‘peaceful’ and other reports noted the horse bolted after a firework or similar was thrown from the crowd. The Authority found the item was materially accurate, and that the remaining standards raised were not applicable to the complainant’s concerns.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration
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
The Authority has upheld a complaint that an item on Sunday, featuring a family who complained to the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) about allegedly inadequate maternity healthcare following the death of their baby, breached the fairness and privacy standards. The Authority found it was unfair to name the complainant, HV, as the consultant obstetrician on the case prior to the HDC completing its investigation or making any findings. Singling out HV in this way had the effect of predetermining an adverse conclusion about their responsibility (whether or not that was the broadcaster’s intention), and the complainant was not informed about the proposed broadcast or given an opportunity to respond or mitigate any reputational impact. On privacy, the Authority found the fact HV was subject to an HDC complaint was information about which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. This was because, although the woman who had made the HDC complaint could disclose this to others, and the HDC does not have the power to order name suppression, the HDC process is otherwise treated as a confidential process. The complainant could reasonably expect the complaint would not be disclosed to a national audience without any prior warning or a chance to respond. Removing the complainant’s name from the item would not have detracted from the public interest in the story overall.
Upheld: Fairness, Privacy. Order: Section 16(1) - $3,450 legal costs to complainant
The Authority has not upheld a complaint from Māori Television Service (MTS) about an item on 1 News concerning the MTS online COVID-19 programme Tapatahi. MTS argued the piece inaccurately reported it had received nearly $300,000 of Government funding for the programme, and that the Government was calling for a review as Tapatahi was presented by MTS’s Chief Executive. The Authority found the item was materially accurate and MTS was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
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
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
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
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 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 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 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
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