Interview with teenage climate activist was unfair, BSA finds
NZME was correct to uphold a complaint about an interview on Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive with a teenage climate activist about the Schools Strike for Climate movement, the Broadcasting Standards Authority has found, and required no further action.
The decision relates to a segment on Newstalk ZB on 23 September 2022, in which a 16-year-old climate activist and Schools Strike for Climate (SS4C) organiser was interviewed by Heather du Plessis-Allan.
During the interview, the interviewee admitted she had recently travelled to Fiji, despite one of her group’s demands being a ban on “unnecessary air travel”. This resulted in the host “hysterically laughing at, and teasing the interviewee for over a minute”, the BSA decision said.
The complainants alleged the broadcast breached the fairness, offensive and disturbing content, children’s interests, and discrimination and denigration standards.
The broadcaster conceded in light of the interviewee’s age and potential vulnerability, the segment breached the fairness standard. The complainants then referred their complaints to the BSA on the basis they believed subsequent actions by the broadcaster were insufficient.
The Authority determined it too would have found a breach of the fairness standard, but considered the action taken by the broadcaster – including apologies to the teen activist by du Plessis-Allan and NZME – was sufficient to address the breach.
The BSA found the segment was not sufficiently offensive to breach the offensive and disturbing content standard; the complainant’s concerns under the children’s interests standard were better dealt with under fairness; and the discrimination and denigration standard did not apply.
“Overall, we found the interview went further than simply critiquing and questioning SS4C’s policies and the interviewee’s alleged hypocrisy, and instead amounted to ridicule, which was unfair,” the BSA said.
“We acknowledge there was foreseeable harm in the form of embarrassment in the moment for the activist, and further ridiculing/bullying online. The apology on-air did not appear genuine and was used as an opportunity to further mock and criticise the interviewee.”
NZME had acknowledged and recognised the breach in the first instance, upheld the complaints under the fairness standard, apologised to the interviewee in its decisions, and advised du Plessis-Allan also apologised to them privately.
In the circumstances, the BSA concluded no further action was needed to address the fairness breach.
The decision can be seen on the BSA website here.
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The BSA is an independent Crown entity that oversees the broadcasting standards regime in New Zealand. It determines complaints that broadcasts have breached standards, undertakes research and oversees the development of broadcasting standards in consultation with broadcasters.
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