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
A complaint about the use of the alleged mosque attacker’s name during a 1 News report was not upheld. The Authority found that in the context of the item the single use of the name and the broadcast’s limited reference to violence did not breach the violence standard.
Not Upheld: Violence
The Authority did not uphold a complaint that an item on 1 News, which reported on the United States (US) government shutdown, breached the accuracy standard. The Authority found the statement: ‘The crisis began after Democrats refused to sign off on the President’s demands for eight and a half billion dollars to build a border wall with Mexico’, was unlikely to mislead or misinform viewers about the latest events in the US government shutdown, reported on during the item. The Authority noted that in the context of the item as a whole, the presenter’s comment was an acceptable shorthand introduction to the key issues reported on. Finally, in this case the Authority found that the broadcaster was not required, in the interests of accuracy, to specify that the amount sought for the border wall was reported in New Zealand dollars.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on a recent win and the increasing success of the Black Ferns rugby team. The complainant alleged the item was inaccurate and misleading as the number of attendees at the game was incorrectly reported. The Authority found that while the number of attendees was stated incorrectly, this was immaterial to the focus of the item which was the Black Ferns’ win and growing success, and unlikely to affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
A complaint about the use of the term ‘holiday highway’ during a 1 News item, to refer to the road between Puhoi and Warkworth, was not upheld. The complainant submitted the term ‘holiday highway’ was ‘Labour Party propaganda’, and that its use minimises the seriousness of the road toll in that area and denigrates people who live in North Auckland or Northland. The Authority noted the term has been widely used in the media for a number of years to refer to the road, including prior to the recent General Election, and found it was not used with the malice or condemnation required to constitute a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard.
Not Upheld: Discrimination and Denigration
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a 1 News item, reporting on a national hikoi against the use of 1080, was unbalanced. The item focused on claims from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Forest & Bird that the increased protest activity was resulting in a rise in threats to staff. The Authority recognised that the item addressed a controversial issue of public importance and found that it pointed to significant viewpoints on this issue, with comment sought from the hikoi organiser, as well as representatives from DOC, Forest & Bird and the Minister of Conservation. The issue was also widely reported in other news media, during the period of current interest, with viewers therefore likely to be aware of the main perspectives on this narrow issue associated with the 1080 debate. In these circumstances, the Authority found that upholding the complaint would represent an unreasonable and unjustified limit on the broadcasters’ right to editorial discretion and freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News, which reported on the Government’s intention to remove a benefit reduction sanction that can apply to sole beneficiary parents who do not name the remaining parent. The complainant alleged the item was unbalanced and misleading, as the report omitted details about the exemptions that can apply to the sanction, including that a parent will not have to name the other parent where the child or sole parent could be at risk of violence. The Authority found that the focus of this item was the Government’s desire to remove the sanction. The omission of details about the exemptions was therefore not material to the overall focus of the item, and did not mislead viewers. The Authority also found that the balance standard did not apply, as the item was a brief, straightforward news report on the possible legislative change, and did not purport to be an in-depth discussion of the detail and merits of the existing law and proposed change.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about the action taken by a broadcaster in response to a complaint it received about incorrect reporting of casualties in an event in Gaza. Three news bulletins on 1 News and 1 News Midday reported inconsistent numbers of Palestinians killed and injured following protests in Gaza. The broadcaster upheld a complaint that two of the bulletins were inaccurate, however the complainant was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster in response to these breaches and referred the complaint to the Authority on this basis. The Authority found that TVNZ took sufficient action, noting the broadcaster apologised in its decision to the complainant and circulated a reminder to all newsroom staff about the importance of reporting this type of information correctly.
Not Upheld: Accuracy (Action Taken)
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an item on 1 News reporting on the separation of migrant families in the United States. The complaint was that references to President Donald Trump’s ‘immigration crackdown’ and ‘Trump’s policy’ of separating children from their parents were misleading, unbalanced and unfair as the relevant law pre-dated Trump’s presidency. The Authority concluded the broadcast did not breach the accuracy, balance or fairness standards, as the references reasonably reflected the Trump administration’s position regarding the enforcement of criminal prosecutions for illegal immigrants. The Authority emphasised the high level of public and political interest in the story and found that any limitation on the right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, 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
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
The Authority upheld a complaint under the accuracy standard about an item on 1 News, which discussed the Auckland Council’s vote on the draft proposal for the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax (the Tax). The Authority found the segment, through the omission of key information about the ongoing consultation and the presenter’s use of the terms ‘green light’ and ‘done deal’, was likely to mislead viewers into thinking the proposal voted on by the Council was final and that there was no further period of public consultation. The importance of keeping audiences informed on issues of public and political significance was emphasised by the Authority. The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard, finding the item achieved balance through the presentation of a wide range of views from politicians and members of the public who were for and against the implementation of the Tax.
Upheld: Accuracy. Not Upheld: Balance
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 1 News discussed former MP Steven Joyce’s valedictory speech in Parliament. The item focused on Mr Joyce recounting in his speech an incident where he had a sex toy thrown at him at Waitangi several years earlier. Footage was shown of Mr Joyce recounting this story during his speech, and of the incident at Waitangi. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this broadcast and in particular showing the footage of the sex toy breached the good taste and decency standard. Given the incident was newsworthy and attracted widespread coverage at the time, as well as the light-hearted nature of Mr Joyce’s speech, and the broadcast’s target audience, the Authority found the broadcast was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress. The Authority also found the broadcast was not unfair to Mr Joyce as he personally raised and joked about the incident in his speech. The broadcaster’s choice to highlight this aspect of the speech was an editorial decision open to the broadcaster.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Fairness
During Breakfast, host Hayley Holt had a conversation with the 1 News US Correspondent about recent school protests in America seeking gun reform. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Ms Holt’s statement that ‘[w]e, I – here in New Zealand, we think they should ban all guns of course’ was unbalanced and likely to mislead viewers. The Authority found that Ms Holt’s statement was one of generalised opinion and analysis, not a statement of fact. The Authority also noted that this segment solely focused on gun control issues in the USA, not New Zealand, and in this context Ms Holt’s brief comment did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
An item on 1 News reported on the trial of Colin Mitchell, who was found guilty of the kidnapping and sexually motivated attack of a young woman. During the item, the reporter stated: ‘DNA evidence from [Mr Mitchell’s] toothbrush matched that found on and inside the pair of gloves left at the quarry; 800,000 million times more likely to have come from Mitchell than anyone else’ [our emphasis]. The Authority declined to determine a complaint that the reporter’s statement was inaccurate because it did not take into account the possibility that Mr Mitchell had an identical twin, or that DNA evidence could have been falsified or planted. The Authority found the complaint was frivolous and trivial.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy
Two items on 1 News reported on extreme weather events in New Zealand, with an item on 8 January 2018 focused on the release of NIWA’s 2017 Annual Report and a 12 January 2018 item reporting on clean-up efforts on the West Coast, following torrential rain and flooding. Brief references were made during these items to the impacts of climate change in New Zealand and particularly on extreme weather events. The Authority did not uphold complaints that these items were inaccurate and unbalanced because climate change was not occurring in New Zealand and the number and intensity of extreme weather events was also not increasing. Given the focus of the items, which was not climate change but the release of the NIWA Report and flooding, the Authority found that the brief references to climate change were not material for the purposes of the accuracy standard, and as such would not have affected viewers’ understanding of the items as a whole. The items reported on newsworthy developments in the general area of New Zealand’s weather and climate and did not ‘discuss’ the issue of climate change, so they did not trigger the requirements of the balance standard. The Authority found that the harm alleged to have been caused in this case, namely a misinformed public, therefore did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression and any limitation on that right was unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance
A 1 News item discussed corruption charges being laid against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Brief footage from US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in May 2017 was shown at the end of the item. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of this footage created an unduly negative impression of President Trump and implied he was involved in the corruption, which was unfair. The Authority found the use of the footage in no way implicated President Trump in the alleged corruption. The footage was brief and President Trump was not referred to verbally.
Not Upheld: Fairness
A brief item on 1 News discussed a protest in Christchurch against Vero Insurance (Vero) regarding outstanding insurance claims. The item contained footage of the protestors and the newsreader stated that ‘[One of the protestors] says Vero has kept them locked in a virtual prison for seven years.’ The broadcaster upheld a complaint from Vero under the balance and fairness standards, as Vero ought to have been given an opportunity to comment. Vero referred the complaint to the Authority on the basis it was dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster in response to its original complaint, and it also maintained that the accuracy standard was breached. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding the statement complained about was a statement of opinion and therefore the accuracy standard did not apply. The Authority considered that a broadcast statement on this occasion would have been disproportionate to the breach, and therefore it did not uphold the complaint that the action taken by the broadcaster was insufficient.
Not Upheld: Balance (Action Taken), Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy
An item on 1 News reported on the Government’s response to protests about seismic surveying, or ‘blasting’, in New Zealand waters. The item featured an interview with a representative of Greenpeace, who said that the Government could act now to stop seismic blasting, as the practice was harmful and could ‘interfere with [whales’ and dolphins’] communication and breeding… deafen them… and separate calves from their mothers’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item was inaccurate and unbalanced because it presented Greenpeace’s views as fact. The item was focused on the Government’s response to the practice of seismic surveying, and not on the alleged harm to marine life, and it was clear throughout where the reporter was referring to Greenpeace’s views (which, as the expression of comment or opinion, were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard). The item was therefore unlikely to mislead viewers, or significantly affect their understanding of the item as a whole. Balancing comment on this issue was therefore not required to be presented in the interests of ensuring viewers were fully informed, and views contrary to Greenpeace were available in surrounding media coverage.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance