During an episode of Shortland Street, characters Lincoln and Jack took Nicole out for drinks to take her mind off her attacker. Lincoln, who was previously in a relationship with a man, was shown taking an illegal drug which he gave to Nicole. Later in the episode, Lincoln and Nicole were shown in bed together. In the episode broadcast the following evening, Jack asked Lincoln about being gay and sleeping with Nicole. Lincoln replied that he did not have to ‘put a label on it’, saying, ‘I’m just me’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the programme’s portrayal of Lincoln’s sexuality, by a straight actor, could have damaging effects on young viewers or those struggling with their sexuality. The character explained that he preferred not to use labels and there was no suggestion that Lincoln’s sexual orientation changed under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that his sexual orientation was ‘a phase’. While the Authority acknowledged that ensuring diversity in casting was an important issue, the casting of straight actors to play gay or queer characters was a decision for the broadcaster. The actor’s portrayal of Lincoln was part of the programme’s fictional narrative, which in context was not in breach of standards. The Authority therefore did not identify any grounds which would justify restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression or dramatic license in this case.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Alcohol, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
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
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a newsreader’s use of the term ‘rogue state’ in the introduction to a news item, referring to North Korea. The item reported on the resumption of peace talks between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, and segued into an investigation about the effects of economic sanctions on the people of North Korea. The complaint was that using the term was biased and lacked balance, and the term was better suited to describe the United States. In its decision the Authority noted that the term complained about was used only once, fleetingly, in the newsreader’s introduction and would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the item as a whole. The Authority concluded the use of the term did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard, and neither the programme information standard, nor the fairness standard, was applicable.
Not Upheld: Balance, Programme Information, 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.
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.
During the talkback programme, Overnighter, host Garry McAlpine invited listeners to call in to discuss the issues facing New Zealand in 2018, one of which was the upcoming cannabis referendum. Mr McAlpine strongly expressed his view, throughout the programme, that cannabis should be decriminalised for medicinal and recreational use. A number of callers, including the complainant, expressed their views on the subject, with some supportive of, and others opposed to, Mr McAlpine’s views. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this programme was in breach of broadcasting standards. Talkback radio is known for robust discussion, and broadcasting standards recognise that it is an opinionated environment, with hosts granted some latitude to be provocative and edgy in the interests of generating robust debate. This programme in particular featured genuine discussion on an important issue in New Zealand. As such, the harm alleged to have been caused by the complainant did not outweigh the host’s, or callers’, right to express their opinions as part of a talkback discussion about New Zealand’s future, even if some listeners might have disagreed or found those views distasteful.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration
During a 1 News Coming Up teaser, presenter Simon Dallow referred to an upcoming item on 1 News, saying: ‘Plus a warning for mums to be; research showing C-section babies face long-term health issues.’ The full item reported on research findings from the University of Edinburgh that babies born through caesarean section were ‘far more likely to suffer from obesity and asthma’, but went on to explain that it was not the caesarean section which caused the health problems, as these could be due to the mother’s health, and further research is needed. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the teaser was sensationalist and misleading, in breach of the accuracy standard. Due to the short duration of the teaser, which was designed to pique viewers’ interest and attract viewers to the later news bulletin, it was necessary for Mr Dallow to briefly summarise the main point of the research, and was not reasonable, at this point, to provide a full explanation of the research and its implications. Viewers understand the nature of news teasers, and were able to watch the full item to get the full story, so they were unlikely to be materially misled by the short teaser.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information
An item on Newshub discussed revelations that the pension of New Zealand First Leader, Rt Hon Winston Peters, had been overpaid for up to seven years. The segment featured excerpts of a phone interview with Mr Peters, details about Mr Peters’ press release and subsequent comments made by Mr Peters about the overpayments. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority did not consider that it was necessary to obtain a copy of the full phone interview transcript in order to determine whether the broadcast was inaccurate and unfair (as requested by the complainant). The Authority found Mr Peters’ view in response to the story was adequately presented in the broadcast, and neither the reporter’s comments nor the presentation of the phone interview in the item resulted in Mr Peters being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Programme Information
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
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
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 Newshub reported on renewed efforts by the New Zealand Government to secure a free trade deal with Russia, after negotiations were ‘put on hold when Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea two years ago’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the term ‘invaded’ was inaccurate as no invasion had in fact occurred. The Authority acknowledged that a range of terms were used across national and international media coverage to describe Russia’s actions in Crimea. It emphasised the importance of using precise and correct language when reporting on contentious and complex international conflicts, where the potential to misinform audiences is great. However, taking into account the definition of ‘invade’, the findings of the International Criminal Court and the context of this particular news item, the Authority found overall that the broadcast did not breach the accuracy standard. The item was primarily about current trade developments and did not purport to be a detailed examination of Russia’s actions in Crimea in 2014. A variety of topics were covered during the short item, and some economies of language were necessary to convey the events of the complex Crimea conflict to viewers in a way that could be easily understood.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Programme Information
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 items on Newshub featured stories related to the United Kingdom and/or the British Royal Family. The Authority did not uphold complaints that the Newshub items and the reporters’ comments were biased, unfair and derogatory towards the United Kingdom and/or members of the British Royal Family. The Authority found that the news reports did not contain any material which discriminated against or denigrated any section of the community, or which could be said to be unfair to members of the British Royal Family. The items also did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance which triggered the requirement for balancing perspectives to be given, and did not raise accuracy or programme information issues.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration, Fairness, Balance, Accuracy, Programme Information
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
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
3D reported on the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, and the stories of several girls and their families who believed that they had suffered serious health problems after being vaccinated. It also reported on the as-yet-unexplained sudden deaths of two girls who had recently received the vaccine. The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the maker of Gardasil alleging that the programme misleadingly suggested that Gardasil was unsafe and thus deceived and disadvantaged the public when there was no evidential basis for doing so. The story was well-reported, was measured in its presentation and gave viewers a range of information, which enabled them to make up their own minds about the vaccine. The Authority emphasised the high public interest in the story and in giving a platform for minority voices to be heard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Responsible Programming
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