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Trident Systems treated unreasonably in RNZ broadcast

31 October 2017

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has found that Trident Systems, which ran a fishing camera monitoring trial for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), was treated unfairly during a broadcast in March about the quota management system and fish dumping on the Insight programme, broadcast on RNZ National.

Trident complained that the item featured an interview with the Executive Director of Greenpeace New Zealand, Russell Norman, who described a camera monitoring trial run by MPI and said that, during the trial, Trident Systems ‘found nothing’, while a rival research company found ‘lots of illegal behaviour’. Dr Norman then implied that MPI awarded a contract to Trident for filming of a commercial fishery because of these results.

The Authority found that, while Dr Norman was entitled to express his view, this implication reflected negatively on Trident and the company ought to have been given a fair and reasonable opportunity by RNZ to provide a comment in response:

“While Trident did provide comment on other aspects of the broadcast, it was not given the opportunity to refute this particular allegation or provide further, more informed, context to [the interviewee’s] comments.”

The Authority recognised that the Executive Director’s comments carried a high level of public interest and was a valuable exercise of the right to freedom of expression. However, there was a risk of reputational harm for Trident and more care was needed to be taken by RNZ to ensure its obligations under the fairness standard were met.

The Authority ordered the broadcaster to pay the complainant a reasonable portion of its external legal costs incurred in pursuing the complaint.

The Authority did not uphold the complaint under the accuracy and balance standards.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019