In June, October and November 2016, Sikh radio station Radio Virsa broadcast four programmes in Punjabi on 107FM. The programmes included host and talkback commentary about a wide range of issues. The Authority received a complaint that these broadcasts contained threatening and coarse language and themes, and offensive statements were made in relation to a number of named individuals in the Sikh community, including the complainant. The Authority found that aspects of these broadcasts were in breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority was particularly concerned that offensive comments were made about named individuals in the local community, which resulted in the individuals’ unfair treatment and, in one instance, a breach of privacy. The Authority also found aspects of the broadcasts, which contained comments about women, were unacceptable in New Zealand society and in breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the remaining broadcasting standards.
Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
An item on Newshub reported on the rescue of an American woman who had been held captive as a sex slave by a serial killer for two months in South Carolina. The item featured newly-released footage of the woman’s rescue, and showed her chained to the wall of a shipping container by her throat. The item also featured footage of the woman’s appearance on the American talk show, Dr Phil, during which she discussed her kidnapping. The item was preceded by the following verbal audience advisory: ‘A warning: some viewers may find our next story disturbing’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this audience advisory was inadequate given the nature of the footage, which was violent, inappropriate for children and further breached the featured woman’s privacy. The Authority found, taking into account contextual factors such as Newshub’s target audience and audience expectations of news programmes generally, that the audience advisory was adequate for the content shown. A level of maturity was required to understand the full implications of the footage, and therefore the item would not have unduly disturbed child viewers. Finally, the broadcast did not result in a breach of the woman’s privacy, given the information was available in the public domain at the time of broadcast and no private information was therefore disclosed.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Violence, Privacy
During Jay-Jay, Dom & Randell, the hosts discussed their conversation with a guest the previous day who was described as a successful voice coach, and who gave tips about putting on a ‘sexy voice’. One of the hosts prank called two phone sex chat lines and spoke to the operators to see whether they used a ‘sexy voice’. One of the operators he spoke with was the complainant, who discussed practical aspects of the service, including how calls were conducted and paid for. A distinctive sound could be heard in the background of the call. The Authority upheld a complaint from the operator that this broadcast breached her privacy and was unfair. The combination of the extended audio of the complainant’s voice and the background sounds meant that she could be identified by people beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about her phone sex chat line business. The complainant was also unaware she was being recorded and did not consent to the broadcast of this information. This resulted in a breach of her privacy and was also unfair. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of BL’s complaint.
Upheld: Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: $2,000 privacy compensation; $1,500 costs to the Crown
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 episode of Shortland Street featured a storyline about the developing relationship of a young same-sex couple, and included several scenes of the two kissing, including shots of them from the waist up in bed together. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that these scenes breached the good taste and decency and children’s interests standards. The Authority acknowledged there is value in programmes such as Shortland Street, which provides entertainment and reflects contemporary society and evolving social issues and attitudes. Shortland Street is a PGR-classified medical drama series that has screened in the 7pm timeband for many years. It is well known for featuring adult themes. In that context the level of sexual content did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency, nor would be likely to adversely affect any child viewers. The depiction of kissing in itself did not go beyond what is expected of the PGR classification, and no further sexual activity was shown. Given the nature of the programme and the PGR classification, any child viewers could reasonably be expected to be under adult supervision, and viewers were given the opportunity to make a different viewing choice for themselves and their children.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy
An item on 1 News reported on a fatal bus crash that occurred south of Gisborne on Christmas Eve in 2016. The bus was carrying students and teachers from a visiting Tongan school band. The item featured photos, sourced from a public Facebook page for the Tongan community, of some of the injured passengers in hospital. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached the injured passengers’ privacy. While the photos were in the public domain, those featured did not consent to their images appearing in the news item. As injured patients receiving medical care, they were in a particularly vulnerable position. While the Authority acknowledged the broadcaster’s submission that the Tongan community may have seen the use of these photos as a sign of support or respect for those involved in the accident, broadcasting the images widened the potential audience beyond the community for whom the photos were initially shared. The Authority noted that where social media content is re-published on another platform, such as broadcast media, privacy considerations should be considered afresh, particularly in sensitive circumstances.
Upheld: Privacy; No Order
A 1 News item reported on an incident involving All Black Aaron Smith. Two witnesses claimed that while on official All Black business, Mr Smith used a disabled toilet in Christchurch Airport for a ‘sexual encounter’ with a woman who was not his partner. The item briefly showed a photo of Mr Smith and his partner. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item breached Mr Smith’s partner’s privacy. Information about her identity and her relationship to Mr Smith was publicly known and had already been the subject of widespread media coverage in relation to the incident prior to the broadcast. This was therefore not information over which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The 1 News item also disclosed less information about Mr Smith’s partner than other media outlets had already disclosed. The Authority however noted that it does not automatically follow that the partners and families of public figures are also public figures, and due consideration ought to be given to their individual privacy interests.
Not Upheld: Privacy
During The Devlin Radio Show, host Martin Devlin was forcefully outspoken about an abusive text message he had received from the complainant, TF. Mr Devlin read out the complainant’s mobile phone number multiple times and phoned the complainant on air while making abusive comments about them. The Authority upheld a complaint that Mr Devlin breached the complainant’s privacy. While the Authority did not condone the strongly-worded text message initially sent to Mr Devlin, Mr Devlin’s response was disproportionate and unprofessional, even in the context of the robust talkback radio environment. The complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to their personal mobile number, and Mr Devlin’s comments amounted to a sustained and personal attack against the complainant, making use of private information to personalise the abuse and implicitly encouraging harassment of TF. This amounted to a highly offensive disclosure and was a breach of TF’s privacy.
Orders: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation $2,000; section 16(4) – costs to the Crown $2,000; section 13(1)(a) – broadcast statement
An item on Story explored the issue of unconscious bias. During the introduction, footage of members of the public walking down the street was shown. Each individual was zoomed in and highlighted with special effects. The Authority upheld a complaint from JW, one of the individuals shown, that she was unfairly ‘showcased’ during the segment. Rather than being a face in the crowd, the edited footage used filming techniques that singled out the complainant and drew her into the issue under discussion without her knowledge or consent. This unduly impacted on her dignity and was unfair. The Authority recognised that bias is a sensitive issue and has the potential to cause hurt and offence. It is also an important social issue. In this context, without undermining the value of the item as a whole, the Authority considered more care should have been taken in the way the footage was edited to avoid the singling out of individuals who were unaware they would be featured. The Authority did not consider that JW had a reasonable expectation of privacy when she was filmed on a busy public street. Nor did the item reach the high threshold necessary to encourage viewers to treat differently, or devalue the reputation of, any section of the community.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Privacy, Discrimination and Denigration; No Order
A documentary series Inconceivable followed the fertility struggles of eight New Zealand couples over the course of two years. During this episode, one of the couples went to the doctor for a blood test. Contact details on the test documentation were briefly shown, including the woman’s full name and her mobile number, and the couple’s home phone number and partial street address. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this breached the couple’s privacy. The broadcaster advised that the couple reviewed the episode prior to screening and gave their full and informed consent for it to be broadcast. The shot in question was very brief, such that many viewers would likely have overlooked the level of detail shown. The Authority also recognised that Inconceivable carried a high level of public interest, providing a platform for the participants to share their stories and to inform and educate the wider community about fertility issues.
Not Upheld: Privacy
An item on Fair Go reported on complaints by two families about the allegedly unsatisfactory supply and installation of their swimming pools, purchased from The Spa and Pool Factory (SPF). During the item, the reporter also noted that the Auckland Council was investigating SPF regarding ‘potentially fraudulent documentation’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the director of SPF that the item was inaccurate, unfair and in breach of his privacy. The broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure that the programme was accurate and did not mislead viewers, going directly to Mr Radisich and to Auckland Council to seek their comments on the issues raised. In relation to the alleged breach of privacy, no information about which Mr Radisich had a reasonable expectation of privacy was disclosed during the item, and the way the information was presented would not be considered highly offensive to an objective reasonable person. Finally, Fair Go appropriately sought comment from Mr Radisich, the sole director of SPF, to ensure his perspective was captured and that he was treated fairly.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Privacy, Fairness
During the Hauraki Breakfast Show Deborah Stokes, mother of New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes, rang the studio to complain about what she considered to be unfair comments made by the hosts regarding her son, and to defend him. Mrs Stokes asked to speak with someone off air. Host Matt Heath assured Mrs Stokes she was off air, when in fact the conversation was being broadcast live on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached Mrs Stokes’ privacy. Mrs Stokes had a reasonable expectation that, in the circumstances, her phone call and the conversation would remain private. The recording and broadcast of her conversation, in circumstances where she had expressly asked for privacy was objectionable and would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person in the complainant’s position.
Order: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement
During the Hauraki Breakfast Show, Deborah Stokes, mother of New Zealand-born English cricketer Ben Stokes, rang the studio to complain about what she considered to be unfair comments made by the hosts regarding her son, and to defend him. Mrs Stokes asked to speak with someone off air. Host Matt Heath assured Mrs Stokes she was off air, when in fact the conversation was being broadcast live on air. The Authority upheld a complaint that the action taken by NZME, having upheld Mrs Stokes’ complaint under the fairness and privacy standards, was insufficient. The broadcast, and particularly the hosts’ deceptive conduct, represented a significant breach of broadcasting standards and a lack of understanding of an individual’s fundamental right to fair treatment and to privacy. While NZME offered Mrs Stokes a substantial remedy following her complaint, it took limited action, which did not adequately rectify the harm caused to Mrs Stokes. Furthermore, events subsequent to the broadcast and prior to NZME’s response to the complaint, such as the hosts’ behaviour, undermined the genuineness of the proposed offer.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Privacy (Action Taken)
Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement; section 13(1)(d) $4,000 compensation for breach of privacy; section 16(4) costs to the Crown $4,000
During The Edge’s Smash! 20 countdown show, a caller successfully answered a series of questions based on the songs in the countdown and won a prize. While taking the caller’s personal details, the announcer left the phone channel in ‘on-air’ mode and inadvertently broadcast the caller’s full name, address, school, date of birth and mobile number. The Authority upheld a complaint that the broadcast breached the caller’s privacy. The caller was clearly identifiable and disclosed a high level of personal detail on air, over which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Authority acknowledged the caller’s disclosure was the result of an unfortunate technical error on the announcer’s part, and that the broadcaster took immediate actions to respond to the breach. The Authority did not make any order in these circumstances.
An item on ONE News discussed the difficulties first-home buyers face in attaining a Government HomeStart financial grant. At the end of the item, the reporter discussed the increase in the number of overseas buyers in Auckland. During this segment, footage of three people walking into an open home from the road was shown. At the end of the item, this group and one other individual were shown getting into a car parked in the street, with the number plate clearly visible. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this footage breached the group’s privacy. While the individuals walking to the car were identifiable, none of their personal details were disclosed, and they had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the circumstances. Nothing was shown during the item which would not have also been visible to the public generally, as the individuals were in a public place.
Not Upheld: Privacy
A ONE News item reported on a local murder trial and included footage of a witness giving evidence in court. The witness was named but his face was not shown and his voice was disguised. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from a member of the public that the item breached the witness’s privacy. While he was identifiable in the item, no private information was disclosed about him. The footage of the witness was taken during open court and there was no name suppression order in place. The evidence the witness gave at trial had already been widely reported by other media outlets at the time of broadcast. Therefore, the witness had no reasonable expectation of privacy over the information disclosed about him, and his privacy was not breached.
Not Upheld: Privacy
An episode of Dog Squad featured footage taken at a named international airport in New Zealand, during which a Ministry for Primary Industries detector dog found an apple in a couple’s bag. PN, a Quarantine Officer, was shown questioning the couple about the apple and issuing them with a fine. The faces of PN and the couple, and PN’s identity tag, were blurred and PN was not named. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the segment breached PN’s privacy. While it found that, despite the blurring, PN was identifiable in the broadcast, it did not consider that any private information was disclosed during the segment. The segment was filmed in a busy airport, in view of passengers and staff, and the Authority therefore did not consider PN had a reasonable expectation of privacy over information concerning his role or his infringement of the couple. The Authority however recorded its concern that PN did not consent to the broadcast of the footage and had made a number of attempts to make his objection to being included in the programme known to the production company. It urged the broadcaster and the production company to collectively ensure PN’s wishes are given due consideration in the event of any repeat broadcast or similar filming circumstances in future.
Not Upheld: Privacy
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 Breeze ran a competition in which listeners were invited to nominate an individual they felt to be deserving of a shopping spree. The programme hosts spoke to a woman (G) on air about her nomination of her friend (N), whom she described as just having left a ‘potentially abusive relationship’. The Authority upheld a complaint from N’s husband, LN, that the broadcast breached his privacy. The Authority found that LN was identifiable due to a combination of identifying features disclosed within the broadcast and readily accessible information outside of the broadcast. It considered the allegations of a potentially abusive relationship and other intimate details of the relationship were highly sensitive and personal, and clearly carried the quality of private information. The disclosure of such information would be highly offensive to an objective reasonable person.
Order: Section 13(1)(d) – privacy compensation to the complainant $1,000