Close Up unfair over suspension case

By Sophie Ryan

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Nigel Studdart from Pompallier Catholic College
Nigel Studdart from Pompallier Catholic College

TVNZ's Close Up has been found to be unfair and inaccurate with its coverage of the suspension of teacher Nigel Studdart from Pompallier Catholic College in the wake of principal Richard Stanton making comments against gay marriage.

Pompallier Catholic College brought a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) in September 2012 saying the item on Close Up did not fairly present the reasons for Mr Studdart's dismissal, and that it made unqualified statements students were threatened.

Principal Richard Stanton said he was pleased the BSA upheld the college's complaint.

"I think the programme had distinct bias and was disadvantageous to myself and the school."

He said the school was not in a position at the time the story aired to be commenting on the suspension because of legal parameters around the dismissal.

The school has moved on, Mr Stanton said, and he believes the BSA findings are another step in the right direction.

The BSA said in its report that the item, which aired on August 29, 2012, created the impression that the principal had acted unfairly in suspending Mr Studdart.

The BSA found that although Mr Studdart's suspension was directly related to his support for students who opposed the principal's comments, the seriousness of his actions went further than what was shown in the Close Up item.

It found the item could have been damaging to the reputation and professional standing of Mr Stanton and the college.

The item stated that students were threatened in relation to setting up a Facebook page that opposed Mr Stanton's comments.

The BSA found that this was misleading, and TVNZ did not make reasonable efforts to provide context for this statement.

The BSA said the comment was made in relation to what was likely to have been a reasonable exercise of his authority and discipline.

Close Up is no longer on the air and the BSA did not think an apology or a fine was necessary in this case.

TVNZ said it accepts the BSA's decision.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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