The Authority has upheld a complaint about two broadcasts on Humm FM, finding that the complainant was treated unfairly. The Authority found that comments made by the host during the broadcasts were likely to reflect negatively on the complainant and to impact on his personal and professional reputation. As the complainant was adversely affected, he should have been given an opportunity under the fairness standard to respond to the comments made about him. The Authority emphasised that the right to broadcast carries with it privileges and responsibilities, and in this case the host used his platform to air his personal grievances against the complainant without giving him an opportunity to comment, which was unfair. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the privacy standard, finding that while the complainant may have been identifiable to the Hindi community to which these broadcasts were targeted, no private information or material about him was disclosed.
Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Privacy
Order: Section 16(4) – $750 in costs to the Crown
Warning: This decision contains content that some readers may find distressing.
On 15 March 2019 a special 1 News broadcast covered the terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques. The broadcast featured footage of victims being taken into hospital, many of whom had visibly sustained gunshot injuries and/or were identifiable. The Authority did not uphold two complaints that the coverage breached the privacy standard. The Authority found that media coverage of this event had high public interest in light of the unprecedented nature of extreme violence that occurred. The media had an important role to play in informing the public of events as they unfolded, including the nature and scope of injuries suffered and the action of first responders, including medical personnel. The Authority acknowledged that the repeated use of footage of identifiable victims amounted to a breach of privacy but found that the public interest defence applied. The Authority also did not uphold a complaint that the good taste and decency, children’s interests and violence standards were breached. The Authority found that there was sufficient signposting by the broadcaster of the nature of the event being reported on to enable audiences to make informed choices as to whether they, or children in their care, should watch the coverage. The Authority held that the footage of the victims (which illustrated the gravity of the situation) was justified in the public interest.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence
The Authority has not upheld a privacy complaint about items on Newshub and The AM Show, which reported on a Police raid of a gang house and featured footage of the complainant’s property, with the house number blurred. The Authority found that the privacy standard did not apply in this case, as the complainant was not identifiable in the broadcast and no private information or material was disclosed about them. As the house was only filmed to the extent visible from the street, the broadcaster did not intrude upon the complainant’s interest in solitude or seclusion in a way that was highly offensive. The Authority recognised the public interest in the broadcast and found that the harm alleged to have been caused by the complainant did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a broadcast of Punjabi talkback programme, Dasam Granth Da Sach, in which the hosts identified the complainant and broadcast audio clips of him speaking about various religious topics. While the complainant was clearly identified, the Authority found no private information or material was disclosed during the broadcast over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The information disclosed during the broadcast was available in the public domain, and in these circumstances, the Authority found that its intervention in upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression. The Authority noted, however, that there were steps available to the broadcaster to mitigate the potential for harm, particularly in its use of social media content, and encouraged the broadcaster to consider the Authority’s guidance on these issues before broadcasting such content in the future.
Not Upheld: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld complaints from seven members of the public about an episode of Sunday, which investigated gay conversion therapy and whether this practice was happening in New Zealand. Three individuals were filmed covertly during the programme, appearing to offer gay conversion therapy to an undercover reporter, ‘Jay’, who posed as a young Christian ‘struggling with same sex attraction’. The Authority found that the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera in this case represented a highly offensive intrusion upon the three individuals’ interest in seclusion. All three individuals were discussing a sensitive matter and could not have reasonably expected their one‑on-one conversation to be recorded in its entirety and broadcast. The Authority found that on its face the broadcast breached the privacy of these individuals. However, in this case the Authority recognised the legitimate public interest in the issue of gay conversion therapy in New Zealand, and the role of investigative journalism in disclosing issues such as this to the New Zealand public. The Authority found that the high level of public interest, both in the programme as a whole and in the hidden camera footage, justified the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera and therefore did not uphold the privacy complaints.
Not Upheld: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld complaints from two complainants, a Christian organisation and its director, about an episode of Sunday which investigated gay conversion therapy and whether this practice was happening in New Zealand. The director, ‘X’, was filmed covertly during the programme, appearing to offer gay conversion therapy to an undercover reporter, ‘Jay’, who posed as a young Christian ‘struggling with same sex attraction’. The Authority found that the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera in this case represented a highly offensive intrusion upon X’s interest in seclusion and that, on its face, this broadcast breached their privacy. However, the Authority found that the high level of public interest, both in the programme as a whole and in the hidden camera footage, justified the broadcaster’s use of a hidden camera. Further, the broadcaster complied with its obligations under the fairness standard, providing the complainants with sufficient information about the nature of the broadcast and X’s participation, and a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment in response to the issues raised by the programme. Finally, the Authority found that the broadcast accurately and fairly portrayed the nature of the conversation between X and Jay, and the support and services being offered to him.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a broadcast of Punjabi talkback programme, Sikh Patshahi, in which a caller to the programme referred to the complainant by name and attempted to speak to the host about them. While the complainant was clearly identified, the Authority found no private information or material was disclosed during the broadcast, by either the caller or the host to the programme, over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The host took proportionate steps during the segment to steer the conversation away from the complainant’s specific circumstances and towards the general topic of discussion, which was Sikh marriage and divorce, and emphasised throughout the segment that the caller could not speak about named individuals without allowing them an opportunity to respond. In these circumstances, the Authority found that the potential harm was mitigated and its intervention in upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Privacy
The Authority has not upheld two complaints about two episodes from the second season of British dating game show, Naked Attraction, broadcast on TVNZ 2 at 9.30pm on Friday 27 July 2018 and Friday 3 August 2018. During each episode, a clothed individual selected a date from six naked individuals, who were gradually revealed in stages from the feet up, with no blurring or pixelation of nudity. The complaints alleged these episodes of Naked Attraction contained a high level of full-frontal nudity and sexual discussion, which was offensive and contrary to standards of good taste and decency. The complainants also submitted that the programme was degrading and breached the privacy of the participants. The Authority found that while the programme may not have been to everybody’s taste, it was preceded by a clear warning, contained many body-positive messages and those involved in the programme spoke positively of their experiences. Given the tone of the programme, there was no element of exploitation or humiliation of participants and it was clear that they had given their consent to appear on the programme. Overall, the Authority did not consider that the alleged harm caused by the broadcast outweighed the important right to freedom of expression, taking into account the above contextual factors and the protections available to viewers, including a detailed warning, to help them make an informed choice about whether to watch the programme.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a RadioLIVE Drive show, which discussed the issue of property managers or landlords asking to see the bank statements of prospective tenants. The Authority found the broadcast did not breach any of the broadcasting standards raised by the complainant, noting the broadcast included a range of viewpoints from the hosts, interviewees and listeners who phoned into the programme. The broadcast discussed a legitimate issue and was in line with audience expectations for the programme and for talkback radio. The Authority therefore found no actual or potential harm that might have outweighed the important right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Privacy, Fairness
On 13 March 2018, an item on Newshub reported on allegations of sexual assault and harassment at a Young Labour camp. The item included photos of the camp attendees, sourced from public social media accounts, with no masking or blurring. The Authority upheld a direct privacy complaint from IY, who was featured in the photos, that this item breached their privacy. The Authority noted the value of the broadcast in reporting on the response of the Labour Party to the allegations, but emphasised the high level of potential harm that could be caused to the individuals involved. The Authority found that, while the photos were available in the public domain at the time of broadcast (they were removed from social media platforms following the allegations being made public), they were shown during a story reporting on alleged sexual assault, which changed the quality of the information and the context in which the photos were made available to the public. The complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy over their image in this context, and the disclosure of their image, in connection with the allegations reported on, caused significant distress and was highly offensive. The Authority commented that care needed to be taken by broadcasters when using social media content, particularly in sensitive circumstances.
Upheld: Privacy. Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $3,000 privacy compensation; Section 16(4) $2,000 costs to the Crown.
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an item on 1 News, about claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) that staff had been abused and attacked by anti-1080 protestors, breached broadcasting standards. The Authority found the item was unlikely to mislead or misinform audiences, as it contained comments from various parties including a DOC representative, an anti-1080 campaigner and a National Party MP. The Authority highlighted the importance of the reporting on issues of public importance in an accurate and balanced manner, finding that the broadcaster did so on this occasion.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy, Fairness
An item on 1 News reported on an alleged ‘mistake’ by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which the reporter, Andrea Vance, said ‘cost the taxpayer a quarter of a million dollars’. The item referred to MFAT’s action in waiving the diplomatic immunity of an MFAT employee – the complainant – to allow child custody and matrimonial proceedings to be heard in an overseas court. According to Ms Vance, MFAT’s actions were disputed by the complainant’s ex-partner, resulting in MFAT issuing an apology and payment of ‘legal bills’ to both the complainant and the complainant’s ex-partner. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from the MFAT employee that the item was inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair. It was important, in the interests of ensuring viewers were properly informed and were not misled, for the broadcaster to have provided alternative perspectives on the issue of legal costs, namely that MFAT denied payment of the complainant’s costs. Further, it should have been made clear to viewers that a legal expert featured in the item did not have specific knowledge of the complainant’s case and was commenting only generally on the applicable law. The Authority noted the public interest in this item and the efforts made by the broadcaster to protect the identities of those involved, and did not uphold the complaint under the remaining standards.
Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Children’s Interests, Programme Information.
An item on Newshub reported on ‘cash for job’ work scams in New Zealand. The reporter described the experiences of one worker, who alleged he had been exploited by his employer and told to pay $30,000 for his job as a technician at an internet café. GL, who was named and whose photo was shown during the item, was said to have ‘demanded’ $15,000 from the worker as part of the scam. GL complained that the item was inaccurate and unfair, because he did not demand or receive any payment from the worker and he was not given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him. The majority of the Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast and that the complainant was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations. The majority recognised the high public interest in the item, which reported on an important issue to New Zealanders, and the essential role of investigative journalism in exposing this type of conduct to the public. The minority view was that, while the issue of cash for job work scams was an important story to be told, there was insufficient evidence available to the reporter to identify GL as an example of a cash for job scam. These were serious allegations that had the potential to significantly damage the complainant’s reputation, and the story’s important message about the rise of such scams could have been conveyed without identifying him. The Authority was unanimous in its decision to not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint.
Not Upheld by Majority: Fairness, Accuracy.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Law and Order.
The Authority has not upheld complaints from 20 complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme, Bhakhde Masley. During the programme, the host questioned the teachings of a deceased Sikh religious figure by posing hypothetical questions about how he and his widow, now also deceased, had children. The host implied that, given the leader’s teachings about celibacy, his widow and other family members must have had sex with animals. The complainants alleged that this discussion breached the privacy of the individuals referred to, and was degrading and humiliating. The Authority acknowledged that the segment was in poor taste, but found that the broadcast was not in breach of the standards raised by the complainants. The individuals referred to were either deceased (so the privacy standard could not apply) or lived overseas, making it difficult to assess the harm that could have been caused. The discussion was ultimately hypothetical and was not intended to be taken literally. The Authority noted that the right to freedom of expression comes with responsibilities by those who exercise it, and it is clear that this broadcast caused offence and significant division within the Sikh community in New Zealand. On this occasion, however, the Authority could not uphold the complaints based on the particular standards raised.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has upheld one aspect of a complaint from three complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Panthic Vichar, broadcast on community radio station, Planet FM. During the programme, host Kuldip Singh made a number of allegations against the complainants, regarding use of grant money and cheating or ‘unjust’ behaviour at a kabaddi tournament. The Authority found that the host’s comments reflected negatively on the complainants and as such, they should have been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint. The Authority acknowledged the limited resources available to the broadcaster, but reminded it of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, including where the broadcast subject to complaint is in a language other than English. The Authority did not make any orders.
Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy. No Order.
An item on 1 News, broadcast on Christmas Eve in 2017, reported on fatal road crashes that had occurred during the holiday road toll period, including a crash involving the complainant’s husband. The item featured footage of the crashed vehicle, emergency services working, and a shot (from a considerable distance) of people as they watched. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that the standard could not apply to the complainant’s deceased husband, and in addition, he and the complainant’s whanau were not identifiable in the footage, which is required under the privacy standard. While the Authority found that this item was framed in a respectful way and carried an important public safety message, it expressed its sympathy for the complainant and reiterated the need for sensitivity and care to be taken in reporting of this kind, to avoid any unintended harm being caused to those bereaved or grieving.
Not Upheld: Privacy
An item on Checkpoint reported that the Sky World building, a multi-storey entertainment complex in central Auckland, had not been issued with a warrant of fitness in 435 days, and that the building remained open throughout that time, with the knowledge of Auckland Council, despite critical fire safety compliance issues. The item (which was broadcast on free-to-air television as well as on radio) included footage of the reporter attempting to contact the owner of the complex, ‘A’, visiting his home and offices, where he spoke to two employees, ‘X’ and ‘Y’. JNJ Management made a direct privacy complaint to the Authority, submitting that these segments breached the privacy of A and his employees. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that A’s home was filmed only to the extent visible to the public and he was filmed in a public place at Sky World so he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. No private information or material was disclosed about the employees during the programme, and they did not have an interest in solitude or seclusion, given the workplace was accessible to members of the public to seek an appointment. Further, the employees were informed of the reporter’s identity and the purpose of the reporter’s interview, and therefore had an opportunity to object to filming at that time.
Not Upheld: Privacy
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
An episode of I Am Innocent focused on the story of Y, a science teacher, who was accused and charged with indecently assaulting a female student (‘X’) in 2012. The charges against Y were withdrawn around August-September 2013. The episode featured interviews with Y and others, all of whom spoke supportively about him. Ms Johnson complained that the broadcast breached broadcasting standards, including that comments made during the programme about X and her mother resulted in their unfair treatment. The Authority upheld this aspect of Ms Johnson’s complaint, finding that the programme created a negative impression of X and her mother. While the Authority acknowledged the broadcaster’s attempts to contact X and her mother, in order for them to be treated fairly, they needed to be given the opportunity to respond specifically to the negative comments made about their character and personal lives, and if they elected not to respond, consideration ought to have been given to whether the comments should be removed or edited. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of Ms Johnson’s complaint, finding that the programme did not mislead viewers and was accurate in relation to all material points of fact. As X was not identified, no breach of privacy occurred, and the programme did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance which required balancing views.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy, Privacy, Balance. No Order.
During a Gospel Hour programme on Radio Voqa Kei Viti Aotearoa, a Fijian language station, the announcer used the term ‘iTaukei’ in her greetings to listeners, which the broadcaster submitted referred to the indigenous Fijian population in New Zealand and elsewhere overseas. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the term ‘iTaukei’ meant ‘owner’ in English (and therefore referred to New Zealand Māori), and that use of this term caused division and unrest amongst the station’s Fijian listeners. The Authority found that, while the announcer’s use of the term may be seen by some as divisive and politically-charged, it was not offensive, incorrect or discriminatory to an extent that would justify the Authority intervening and finding a breach of broadcasting standards, and as a result limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. The Authority however reminded the broadcaster of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, which did not occur in this case.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy, Fairness
A segment on Thane & Dunc included an interview with a man, X, who had a relationship with a couple (the complainant and Z). During the interview, X described the nature of the relationship. He did not name the couple, referring to them as ‘A’ and ‘B’. A second interview with X was broadcast the following day, during which the hosts told X they had spoken with the couple, who alleged the relationship was abusive. The hosts interrogated X about his behaviour, then demanded X apologise and agree to make no further contact with the couple involved. The Authority upheld a complaint that these broadcasts breached the privacy of the complainant and Z. The Authority found that little, if any, sensitivity or respect was shown for the dignity, safety, reputation and mental wellbeing of the parties involved, and this represented a serious breach of broadcasting standards and a serious lack of understanding of the parties’ right to privacy.
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) $3,000 compensation to JN and $3,000 compensation to Z for the breaches of privacy; Section 16(4) $2,500 costs to the Crown