BSA finds against Firstline over unbalanced interview

Firstline host Rachel Smalley. Photo/Robert Trathen
Firstline host Rachel Smalley. Photo/Robert Trathen

An interview on TV3's Firstline has been found to have breached broadcasting standards.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) found that 3 News: Firstline's interview with Ruth Money from the Sensible Sentencing Trust about a proposed amendment to the Parole Act breached the standard relating to controversial issues.

TV3 accepted that the item was not balanced an did not sufficiently present alternative viewpoints.

The complaint, from Roger Brooking of the Howard League for Penal Reform, came in response to Ms Money's comments that the amendment didn't go far enough and that parole hearings should be abolished.

Mr Brooking said the interview addressed an issue of public importance but that only the "right wing" views of the Trust were sought and presented.

That the effectiveness of the parole process was not explored, but that the interview chose to focus solely on the victims was an example of this, Mr Brooking argued.

Despite parole hearing attendance being optional, the item also suggested that it was compulsory for victims to attend parole hearings. Mr Brooking said victims and offenders did not attend the same hearings so they would not come face to face.

In its findings, the BSA agreed with TV3 about the complaint, saying: "Given the nature of the issue, and the impression created by the item, we agree the broadcaster did not go far enough in its effort to present alternative views."

A further complaint of a breach of accuracy and fairness was not upheld by the BSA, saying Ms Money's comments were clearly distinguishable as comment or opinion.

The broadcast did not contain anything that would have created an unfairly negative impression of parole board members, prisoners or victims, it found.


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