A panel segment during Larry Williams Drive discussed a recent High Court action brought by Phillip Smith against the Department of Corrections (Corrections), in which Mr Smith argued that his freedom of expression had been breached by Corrections staff preventing him from wearing his toupee. At the conclusion of the panel discussion, Mr Williams stated: ‘I say Janet, solitary confinement 24/7, dark room, with his toupee, with a little bit of waterboarding just to make it interesting’. The other panellists laughed, with one commenting, ‘You’re a hard man, Larry’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from Mr Smith that this comment suggested he be subjected to an act of torture, which was in poor taste, and that the comment was likely to incite violence against him. The comment was clearly framed as a hyperbolic exaggeration of Mr Williams’ views for effect, and not a deliberate suggestion that Mr Smith actually be waterboarded. In the context of the broadcast, the Authority considered audiences were unlikely to have taken the comment seriously, and it was unlikely to have encouraged or motivated prisoners to act violently towards Mr Smith.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order
An item on Morning Report featured an interview with the manager of teacher practice at the Education Council. The interview discussed the Council’s drug testing of teachers and its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cannabis use, and referred to a recent finding of misconduct against a New Zealand teacher who refused to undergo a drug test. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item ‘pushed’ marijuana use by teachers. The item did not promote the use of illegal drugs or condone the behaviour of the teacher referred to. Rather, it offered a robust examination of the Council’s methods of drug testing teachers and its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cannabis use. In this context the item did not encourage listeners to use illegal drugs or otherwise undermine law and order. The item also did not contain any material which had the potential to adversely affect any child listeners.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Children’s Interests
Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai (Say… You’re in Love), a Bollywood romantic thriller film, was broadcast on free-to-air television channel APNA TV between 3pm and 6pm. The film featured action scenes containing violence. The Authority upheld a complaint that the film breached a number of broadcasting standards. The film was broadcast unclassified and with an incorrect programme description, which meant audiences were unable to make an informed viewing choice and were unable to regulate their own, and their children’s, viewing behaviour. The film’s inclusion of violent imagery such as beatings, shoot-outs, murder and dead bodies, and the visual depiction of these acts occurring onscreen, warranted an AO classification and later time of broadcast on free-to-air television. The film’s content would have been outside audience expectations of the programme, and child viewers, who were likely to be watching at the time of broadcast, were unable to be protected from material that had the potential to adversely affect them. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the law and order standard.
Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Good Taste and Decency, Violence; Not Upheld: Law and Order
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $1,500
An item on Checkpoint reported on the final stages of a court case in Auckland, known as the ‘Dome Valley’ kidnapping, in which a young woman was kidnapped, beaten, sexually violated and left to die by a group of her former friends. The reporter outlined the events of the kidnapping and the item featured segments of the victim giving evidence (with her voice disguised) via audio-visual link from another room in the closed court. The reporter and the victim outlined her assault and injuries in some detail. No audience advisory was broadcast. The Authority found that, while this item had high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression, and was in the public interest, a brief audience advisory should have been broadcast to enable listeners to decide if they wished to listen to the detailed, violent content included in the item. While the Authority supported the broadcast of an item that gave voice to the victim, the segment contained descriptions and details that were disturbing in nature and potentially upsetting for listeners, particularly those who had suffered similarly and any children who may have been listening. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the law and order standard.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence
Not Upheld: Law and Order
An item on 1 News promoted the new single from New Zealand singer-songwriter, Lorde. It featured clips taken from the music video for Lorde’s single, ‘Green Light’. In the clips, the singer could be seen leaning out of a car window and later dancing on the car roof. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was in breach of the law and order standard by encouraging reckless driving. The music video, and the news item’s promotion of it, did not actively encourage audiences to break the law, or otherwise promote criminal or serious antisocial activity, taking into account the context. The Authority found that viewers would have understood the singer’s actions to have taken place in the ‘fantasy’ realm of the music video, which made sense within the fictional narrative of the song.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
An item on Checkpoint discussed the return of a child after she went missing off the coast of New Zealand with her father. Extensive media coverage reported that the pair had sailed to Australia on a catamaran and that the family was involved in a custody dispute, with proceedings pending under the Care of Children Act 2004. The item aired after the child had been located and featured an interview with the child’s mother, who discussed her fears for her daughter’s safety, and their reunion. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item breached the child’s privacy and treated her unfairly. The information discussed during the interview was in the public domain at the time of broadcast, and the topic was treated sensitively and respectfully by the interviewer. There was also an element of public interest in the child’s welfare and her being found safe. A number of other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant were not applicable or not breached in the context of the broadcast.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
Four episodes of The Windsors, a British satirical comedy series, parodied the British Royal Family with reference to topical events. The episodes featured exaggerated characters based on members of the British Royal Family and contained offensive language and sexual material. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the episodes failed general standards of common taste and decency, and denigrated and ridiculed the Queen and her family. The Authority found that the episodes were clearly satirical and intended to be humorous. While this particular brand of humour may not be to everyone’s liking, the right to freedom of expression includes the right to satirise public figures, including heads of state. In the context of an AO-classified satirical comedy series, which was broadcast at 8.30pm and preceded by a warning for coarse language, viewers were sufficiently informed about the episodes’ likely content and were able to make a different viewing choice. The episodes did not contain any material which promoted illegal or antisocial activity, raised privacy issues, or triggered the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy
An item on Newshub reported on the conviction and sentencing of a New Zealand woman, A, for the murder of her 20-year-old severely autistic and intellectually disabled daughter, B. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item ‘sympathised with the murderer over the victim’ and ‘morally absolved [A]’. The broadcast was a factual news item which reported on the outcome of criminal proceedings involving A, and largely reflected the Judge’s statements at sentencing. It was focused on the circumstances of A’s particular case and did not contain a discussion of the wider issues of violence against disabled people or family violence, and therefore did not require balancing perspectives on these issues. While the item could be seen to report A’s sentence with some sympathy, it was based on the Judge’s findings and did not promote or condone harm against disabled people. In the context of a factual news report about the outcome of A’s case, the item also did not reach the threshold for encouraging discrimination against, or the denigration of, people with disabilities. Notwithstanding its findings, the Authority acknowledged the complainant’s concerns about important societal issues, such as the status of disabled people in our community and the proper understanding of disabilities.
Not Upheld: Balance, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration
How to Make Money Selling Drugs, a documentary film about the United States’ drug industry, featured a mock ‘how to’ guide for being a successful drug dealer. The documentary then examined and critiqued the United States’ ‘War on Drugs’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the documentary provided ‘information and tips to… potential drug dealers’ and encouraged crime. How to Make Money Selling Drugs was a satirical documentary which used broadcasting devices to gain viewers’ attention and highlight a significant problem in our society. While the documentary may have initially appeared to present positive aspects of drug dealing, it went on to explore the negative consequences, such as incarceration and death. The documentary did not condone drug dealing, and offered alternative solutions to combatting drug use in society. In this context How to Make Money Selling Drugs could not be interpreted as seriously encouraging or instructing viewers to engage in drug dealing, and did not undermine law and order.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
Various items on Breakfast featured a weather reporter providing weather forecasts from Airbnb accommodation, as part of a competition for viewers to win Airbnb vouchers. During the items, the reporter interviewed three New Zealanders who rented out their accommodation through Airbnb, as well as an Airbnb representative, about the service. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these items failed to cover key information about Airbnb, resulting in inaccurate and unbalanced broadcasts that were also in breach of the law and order standard. The items were in the nature of advertorials, being programme content that was not news, current affairs, or factual programming to which the accuracy and balance standards applied. In any event, the Authority considered that the level of information provided about Airbnb was appropriate to the series of segments as a whole, which encouraged viewers to enter the Airbnb competition by providing a light-hearted look at the type of accommodation available on Airbnb and how New Zealanders got involved. The items did not purport to be in-depth investigations of Airbnb and its repercussions on the economy, and did not promote illegal activity.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order
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
The Rock Morning Rumble included a stunt featuring the Prime Minister, in which he was invited to enter a cage installed in the studio and ‘pick up the soap’. Upon the Prime Minister doing so, the host quoted a recognised rape scene from the film Deliverance, saying, ‘You’ve got a pretty little mouth Prime Minister’. The Authority upheld a complaint that the stunt amounted to a deliberate reference to prison rape that had the effect of trivialising sexual violence and specifically prison rape. While the segment was allegedly intended to be humorous, which is an important aspect of the exercise of free speech, the stunt overstepped the boundaries of legitimate humour and was offensive. The Authority found that listeners and members of the public would likely have found the segment offensive and unacceptable, and that involving the Prime Minister had the potential to attract a wider audience. For the same reasons the Authority found the segment was not socially responsible. The Authority did not, however, uphold the complaint under the law and order standard.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Responsible Programming
Not Upheld: Law and Order
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $1,000
An episode of Criminal Minds featured the murder of three restaurant workers during an armed robbery, prompting the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit to re-open a similar cold case that occurred six years earlier. The episode contained violence and drug use. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the episode breached broadcasting standards relating to responsible programming, children’s interests and law and order. The Authority found that while the episode contained challenging content, it was classified AO and was preceded by an adequate warning. The programme’s classification, pre-broadcast warning and established reputation as a crime drama enabled viewers to make an informed viewing decision. The programme did not contain visual acts of violence, and the drug use was not portrayed in an instructional or encouraging manner and was part of the episode’s narrative context.
Not Upheld: Responsible Programming, Children’s Interests, Law and Order
During Leighton Smith the host discussed Wicked Campers with a caller and commented, ‘Now I’m interested to know what your reaction is to my suggestion that if you see one of these, you know, if you’re offended by one of these vans, run a screwdriver down through the so-called artwork’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments were irresponsible and encouraged listeners to break the law. It did not consider Mr Smith was seriously advocating damaging the campervans or that listeners would have been incited to commit unlawful acts, taking into account the target audience and the nature of the programme.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
The Five on Fox News featured a panel discussion about the closing of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. One of the panellists twice commented that a solution for the remaining Guantánamo Bay inmates would be to ‘kill them all’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the comment incited mass murder. The comment did not amount to promotion of serious illegal activity to a New Zealand audience, and in the context of the discussion and the nature of the programme and channel it was unlikely to be taken literally by reasonable viewers.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
An item on Story showed presenter Heather du Plessis-Allan purportedly exposing a loophole in New Zealand’s gun laws by falsifying a mail-order form and obtaining a firearm from a gun dealer without verifying that she held a gun licence. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the broadcast encouraged viewers to break the law. The item carried public interest, it was clearly meant to discourage flouting of gun laws rather than encourage illegal activity and the Police Association commended Story for exposing the issue.
Not Upheld: Law and Order
Two episodes of Story featured items about self-described ‘professional political campaigner’ Simon Lusk. In the first item, presenter Duncan Garner was shown hunting with Mr Lusk, and Mr Lusk apparently shot two deer. Excerpts of political figures being interviewed about their involvement with Mr Lusk, and of Mr Lusk discussing such involvement, were shown throughout the items. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the items were in breach of multiple broadcasting standards for the way Mr Lusk’s involvement in politics was reported and for featuring footage of deer hunting. The footage of the deer hunting was not so graphic or gratuitous that it would have offended a significant number of viewers, including child viewers. Additionally, nothing in the items was unfair to any individuals, encouraged criminal activity, discussed a controversial issue of public importance, was inaccurate or discriminated against or denigrated any section of the community.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Fairness, Law and Order, Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration
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
An item on ONE News reported that an increasing number of beneficiaries were being banned from Work and Income offices due to heightened security as a result of the fatal shootings at a WINZ office in 2014. The reporter interviewed a beneficiary who said that this was ‘no surprise’ because dealing with WINZ is ‘frustrating’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments from the beneficiary were irresponsible and encouraged violence. The focus of the item was on security at WINZ offices and the beneficiary was relating his personal experience; the item did not advocate violence.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Violence, Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Responsible Programming
An item on 3 News discussed New Zealand’s efforts to remove the veto power held by permanent member states on the United Nations Security Council. Both the presenter and reporter referred to a recent example of Russia exercising its veto in relation to a proposed tribunal to investigate the crash of flight MH17. The Authority declined to uphold a complaint that the item was misleading and unbalanced because Russia in fact was supportive of investigating the MH17 tragedy and holding those responsible to account, but was not in favour of setting up a tribunal on the matter. The item was materially accurate and the reference to Russia’s exercise of the veto power did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance which triggered the need to present alternative views.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues, Law and Order, Fairness