New Zealand Law Society - Seven Sharp ruled to have misled viewers regarding bomb threat

Seven Sharp ruled to have misled viewers regarding bomb threat

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has found that an item on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp was misleading and breached the accuracy broadcasting standard.

In the item, broadcast on 3 July 2019 on Three, the Seven Sharp host interviewed a former customer of ANZ who had had a dispute with the bank and in December 2018 entered an ANZ branch and pretended he had a bomb.

The item gave the impression that the dispute was subsequently resolved with a payment to the customer, which was not the case. The customer’s dispute with the bank had been resolved prior to the incident, and this was not reflected in the item

The Authority found that the item created a misleading impression and said “[t]he potential harm caused by misleading viewers about ANZ’s conduct and creating an impression that the customer’s actions led to the resolution of the dispute, which was not the case, outweighed the value of the programme in this case.”

The BSA considered that the light and comedic tone and light-hearted treatment of a very serious matter risked encouraging others to take similar illegal action in order to resolve their own bank disputes.

“In our view it was misguided to make a human interest story out of a serious event, which effectively allowed an unchallenged opportunity to the offender to present his perspective and justify his actions,” it said.

However, the BSA did not uphold the law and order complaint as the programme’s presenters made comments which sent a message that the customer’s actions were unacceptable and should not be repeated.

“While the presenters could have condemned the customer’s actions more, their comments were adequate to acknowledge the customer’s actions were unacceptable and saved the item from breaching the [law and order] standard.”

While the BSA did not find any breach of the fairness standard it acknowledged the distressing impact the item may have had on the employees involved in the incident at the ANZ branch.

“We recognise that the customer’s actions at the ANZ bank branch were traumatic and upsetting for those involved, and we understand the complainant’s concerns that this broadcast may have caused them further distress.”

Jokes and puns about deceased did not breach standards

In another decision, the BSA ruled that a complaint that a segment on The Breakfast Club, on More FM, where the hosts made jokes and puns about a woman who died after being pecked by a rooster, did not breached the good taste and decency standard.

The BSA found that, while the comments were insensitive and had the potential to cause offence to the family of the deceased, the programme as a whole did not reach the threshold required to justify a restriction on the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

The Authority found that, considering the context of the item (including the target audience of More FM and the audience expectations surrounding The Breakfast Club and its hosts) and the tone of the item, the item did not undermine widely shared community standards and was unlikely to cause widespread undue offence or distress.

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