Reality TV shows stung for privacy breaches

Last updated 10:40 28/12/2012

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Reality television shows that sting unsuspecting businesses have been stung themselves for breaching privacy rules.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority upheld two complaints this month from a business owner and electrician who were identified in separate reality shows.

TV3 show Target secretly filmed three electricians from different companies as they installed heated towel racks in a consumer trial.

One of the electricians complained that the consumer affairs show breached his rights to privacy by screening the hidden camera footage of him this year.

Target regularly carries out stings on tradespeople and scrutinises their work.

The authority found the show had breached broadcasting standards of privacy by identifying the electrician without first gaining his permission to screen the episode. "[The] broadcast of hidden camera footage was an offensive intrusion in the nature of prying," the authority said.

In another reality show, TVNZ's The Inspectors, health officers examined a fish-and-chip shop in Dunedin. The episode showed the inspectors downgrading the takeaway shop's food certificate from B to D in 2009. A rerun of the show was screened earlier this year.

The son of the shop owner complained that his father's right to privacy was breached and that it was unfair to screen an episode filmed three years ago.

Although the producers blurred the shop owner's face, the authority found the shop was clearly identifiable.

The complainant and his family "suffered immensely" and were subjected to abuse from the public after the screening on January 12, the authority said.

However, TVNZ argued that the camera crew gained oral permission to film and show the footage.

"The owner knew why we were there and didn't kick us out [amazing!]," a crew member wrote at the time.

TVNZ also argued that the episode was in the public interest due to the high cost of food poisoning in New Zealand.

The authority said the owner would not have given consent if he had known the footage would be used to criticise the health standards of his shop. The footage of the shop inspections was also edited so as not to be in chronological order.

"[The] camera crew's actions amounted to an intrusion in the nature of prying because any consent given was not informed."

In both findings the authority noted that producers failed to gain consent to screen footage of those involved.

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