BSA upholds TV3 quake complaint

Last updated 17:20 07/05/2012

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TV3 has been accused of being alarmist with a news story earlier this year about earthquakes in Christchurch.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has upheld a complaint about a TV3 News item about the potential of a magnitude seven quake saying it was "unnecessarily alarmist" and would have caused undue distress for those living in Christchurch.

In findings released this afternoon, it also declined to uphold a complaint about two women kissing on Coronation Street.

A TV3 News item broadcast in January did breach standards, the BSA ruled.

The item included an interview with Canterbury University scientist Mark Quigley who had been looking at a marked increase in seismic activity at a fault off the eastern coastline.

The complainant said Quigley was misquoted about the likelihood of a magnitude seven earthquake because he was very vague about the possibility of any activity at all from the group of faults.

The introduction of the item referred to Quigley saying: "It's just what Christchurch does not want to hear, warnings that a big one, seven on the Richter scale, is probably coming."

The BSA found that the introduction overstated Quigley's position.  

"We consider that viewers would have interpreted the word 'probably' in its colloquial sense to mean that there was a high likelihood of occurrence.  We agree with the complainant that the presenter's use of the 'very loaded' term 'probably' was not supported by any direct quote in the item from Mr Quigley and was inconsistent with Mr Quigley's opinion as presented, which was very vague and used conditional terms such as 'if' and 'potential' suggesting only a possibility of occurrence."

The BSA also upheld a complaint in relation to the standard for responsible programming, saying the broadcast was unnecessarily alarmist and would have caused undue distress for those living in Christchurch.

"We are not making a finding that the item should not have been broadcast.  Rather, TVWorks could have simply reported the views of the geologist accurately and without characterising them in a way that would likely cause alarm."

The BSA did not make orders and noted that the broadcaster took a number of steps throughout the week to mitigate any alarm by presenting alternative views.

The BSA received a complaint saying footage of two women kissing on a Coronation Street clip, which was broadcast at 5.30pm, was offensive.

The complainants said the scene breached standards of good taste and decency, responsible programming, children's interests and standards relating to controversial issues.

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In its decision, the BSA found that the scene consisted of a brief, relatively innocuous kiss between two young women, who were sitting on a couch and fully clothed.   

"The Authority has previously declined to uphold complaints about characters kissing during G programmes.  We also agree with TVNZ that the mere fact that the kiss was between two women does not make it less acceptable."

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