In an episode of an American sitcom Dr. Ken, Dr Ken met his wife’s successful former boyfriend, Dr Kevin O’Connell, and was jealous. At the end of the episode, Dr O’Connell was portrayed as being drunk and asking Dr Ken’s staff for a lift home. The three staff all replied in unison, ‘I’ll do it!’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the scene normalised rape and portrayed rape against men as a ‘laughing matter’. In the context of a fictional sitcom, which was intended to be humorous, the scene did not carry any level of invective, and could not be said to have encouraged discrimination against, or the denigration of, men as a section of the community.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
A Seven Sharp item discussed the upcoming flag referendum and featured an interview with an Australian advocate for changing the flag. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that presenter Mike Hosking ‘encouraged the New Zealand public to vote a certain way by reiterating his own prejudices and then using an Australian broadcaster to support his own views’. While Mr Hosking made his view in support of changing the flag known, the alternative view was adequately presented during the item. Given the widespread coverage of the flag referendum, viewers could also reasonably be expected to be aware of significant perspectives on the issue, and would not have been deceived or disadvantaged as a result of this item.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Responsible Programming
ONE News reported on the recent death of a woman in Remuera and said her alleged attacker (who had name suppression) had appeared in the Auckland District Court that day. The reporter described the alleged attacker as a ‘24-year-old Pacific Island man’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the reference to the alleged attacker’s race was offensive and racist. The Authority acknowledged that the reporter’s commentary, which included racial identification, could be seen as unnecessary given that the ethnicity of the alleged attacker was no longer critical following his arrest. However, the reporter’s description of the man was factual, and the comments did not reach the high threshold for finding that the item encouraged discrimination against, or denigration of, Pacific Islanders as a section of the community.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
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
Seven items on Morning Report contained references to greenhouse gas emissions, specifically agricultural emissions and the outcomes of discussions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21). The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging it was inaccurate and unbalanced to state or infer that livestock emissions amount to half of New Zealand’s total emissions. The Authority found that references to the amount of livestock emissions in several of the items were not material points of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. In relation to the other items the Authority was satisfied that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy as it drew on a range of reputable sources and scientific evidence in support of the statements made.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues
Worldwatch broadcast a three-part interview series with Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator, described as ‘one of the most powerful women in the Middle East’ and ‘a forceful advocate for Palestinian self-determination and peace in the Middle East’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the interviews amounted to support for terrorism, ‘[s]olely blame[d] Israel for all the Palestinian suffering’, and contained a number of inaccurate and misleading allegations about the Israel-Palestine conflict. The interviews did not contain several of the statements complained about, but were rather the complainant’s interpretation of what he considered Ms Ashrawi had implied. Other comments complained about were clearly Ms Ashwari’s opinion, to which the accuracy standard did not apply. The interview did not encourage the denigration of or discrimination against Israelis, but was rather a considered discussion about negotiations between Israel and Palestine that was not inaccurate, discriminatory, unfair or irresponsible.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness, Responsible Programming
An item on Sunday exposed the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves by some members of New Zealand’s dairy industry. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item was unfair to the complainant and breached his and his employee’s privacy, and that the item was inaccurate and lacked balance. Neither RZ nor his employee was identifiable during the footage and they were not participants, or referred to, in the item. The item was also sufficiently balanced, as the perspective of the dairy industry was given both within the item and within the period of current interest. Comments in the item that the complainant alleged were inaccurate were clearly opinion and analysis and thus not subject to the accuracy standard, and the item was not otherwise misleading.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Controversial Issues, Accuracy
A Prime News item reported on the Conservative Party Annual General Meeting, which was the subject of a police call-out because a former Board member attempted to attend the meeting and was issued a trespass notice. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item lacked balance, was inaccurate and was unfair to the Conservative Party and its former leader Colin Craig. The item was a straightforward news report that was not unfair to the Conservative Party or Colin Craig, who as a public figure should expect to be subject to some criticism and scrutiny. The item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance that required the presentation of other views and was not inaccurate.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness
An item on ONE News reported on concerns around a government-funded survey of health professionals and their views on voluntary euthanasia. It said that the survey was run by researchers who support assisted dying, and that it was alleged that the research was biased and flawed. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item was unfair to the researchers involved and to the university through which the research was run, as well as inaccurate and unbalanced. Comment was sought from the university and the researchers, whose position was presented in the university’s response and fairly reported in the item. The statements alleged to be inaccurate either had a reasonable basis, were clearly statements of opinion or were matters of editorial discretion.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Accuracy, Controversial Issues
The featured speaker of the 2015 Reeves Memorial Lecture, broadcast by Radio New Zealand, was a prominent former New Zealand politician. The Authority declined to determine a complaint alleging that the choice of speaker was ‘improper’ because she was ‘very corrupt’, on the basis that it was vexatious. The complainant continues to refer complaints of a similar nature to the Authority which do not warrant determination.
Declined to Determine: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness, Responsible Programming
An item on Story reported that Auckland purchasers of homes near areas of cultural significance for Māori may need to get consent from iwi before undertaking any structural building work, as part of the Auckland Unitary Plan. As an example of one of the areas of cultural significance, the presenter reported from an empty field, saying, ‘So this is what an area of cultural significance looks like. This is called a midden… it’s pretty much a rubbish dump. We looked it up – “midden” is an old Danish word for “domestic rubbish dump”’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item discriminated against and/or denigrated Māori and was unfair. While acknowledging the presenter’s tone could be seen to be culturally insensitive and dismissive, the Authority found this did not reach the high threshold necessary to encourage discrimination or denigration. Additionally, comment was included from the iwi named in the item, so they were not treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness
A promo for Paul Henry, broadcast during 3 News, featured a photo of an alleged terrorist and host Paul Henry joking about the type of dialogue that would occur between members of a terrorist group. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that this promo was highly offensive ‘so soon after the Paris terrorist attacks’ and breached the controversial issues standard. The promo did not explicitly mention the Paris terrorist attacks, was apparently intended to be humorous (as the hosts were all shown laughing) and was consistent with expectations of the host programme. The promo also did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue which triggered the requirement to provide balance.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Controversial Issues
Morning Report featured an interview with assisted dying campaigner Matt Vickers about recent legislative changes to permit physician-assisted dying in California and the desirability of law reform in New Zealand. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced and inaccurate because it allegedly advocated assisted dying and did not include alternative views on the issue. Both the interviewer and interviewee acknowledged different perspectives on assisted dying and listeners could reasonably be expected to be aware of significant viewpoints on the issue.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy
A 3 News item reported on allegations of widespread doping amongst Russian athletes and included a reference to the disqualification of a Belarussian shot-putter at the London Olympics. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging the item was misleading, unbalanced and denigrated Russians by failing to differentiate between Belarus and Russia. The reporter accurately described the Belarussian athlete and the Russian Olympic team, and in the context of the item viewers would not have been misled into thinking Belarus and Russia were the same country. The item portrayed a range of significant viewpoints on the allegations of doping amongst Russian Olympic athletes and did not contain any material which discriminated against, or denigrated, Russians.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues, Discrimination and Denigration
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
The host of Paul Henry said ‘bastards’ when referring to phone scammers and said the word ‘God’ several times as an exclamation when discussing the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this language breached broadcasting standards. It would not have offended a significant number of viewers or adversely affected any children who might have been watching.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration
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
An item on Checkpoint reported on tensions between the Horowhenua Rowing Club and certain local Māori residents over the future of the club’s use of the building next to Lake Horowhenua. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item was inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair. The item carefully conveyed a complex issue, was not factually inaccurate and would not have misled viewers in any material respect. While the conflict surrounding the rowing club’s presence at Lake Horowhenua is a controversial issue of public importance, the item included the viewpoints of both parties and was sufficiently balanced. The item did not treat the nominated individuals unfairly, as they were not criticised and had a reasonable opportunity to give their views.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues, Fairness