BSA rejects complaint from PM's office

By Hayden Donnell

One of the Crowns new BMW's outside the SkyCity Grand. A complaint from the PM's office to the BSA over a TVNZ piece on the new cars has been thrown out. Photo / Greg Bowker
One of the Crowns new BMW's outside the SkyCity Grand. A complaint from the PM's office to the BSA over a TVNZ piece on the new cars has been thrown out. Photo / Greg Bowker

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has thrown out a complaint from the Prime Minister's office over a TVNZ story questioning political donations from a top BMW dealership.

A One News story broadcast at 6pm on May 11 reported a Labour Party claim that New Zealand's biggest BMW dealership donated $50,000 to the National Party soon after a contract was signed for the manufacturer to provide a new fleet of cars for Government ministers.

A promotion said the report raised "new questions" and a journalist was shown questioning Mr Key on the decision to accept the donation.

The Prime Minister's chief press secretary, Kevin Taylor, made a formal complaint to TVNZ after the article aired, alleging it was inaccurate and misleading.

The item misled viewers by "attacking the integrity of the Prime Minister in an utterly unfounded way", he said.

He argued that "taken together, the promo and the item paint a picture of a dodgy deal which is not backed up by any facts presented by [the reporter]."

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's response to the complaint, Mr Taylor referred it to the BSA.

In a decision released this afternoon, the BSA rejected his allegation and said viewers would not have been left with an impression a "dodgy deal" had taken place.

The item made it clear there was no link between the donation and the decision to roll over the contract for a new fleet of cars, the decision said.

It said reporting on the the questions raised by Labour Party MP Chris Hipkins a "vital" part of the freedom of the press.

"In our view, there was a high level of public interest in the story. Reporting on allegations of this nature which are raised in the House is an important role of the media, and a vital component of freedom of expression."

In another decision released this afternoon, the BSA found TVNZ breached privacy and fairness standards when it aired decade-old footage of a man's arrest for solvent abuse.

It fined the broadcaster $1000 and ordered it to pay costs of $1000.

Footage of the man being arrested was broadcast in 2007 or 2008 without his consent and again in December 2010 on Police 10-7.

The complainant said the filming had taken place in the mid to late 1990s and that he had since "gotten on with my life".

Television New Zealand maintained that the complainant was not identifiable and said he no longer lives in the house where the filming took place.

However, the BSA found that although part of the man's face was blurred, the complainant's first name was used throughout the programme, and the footage of him included numerous full-length shots of his body shape and clothing, shots of his property and street, and recordings of his voice.

"In these circumstances, we consider that the complainant would have been identifiable beyond close family and friends who could reasonably be expected to know about the matters disclosed in the broadcast."

The complainant's solvent abuse was private and people who were not aware of his solvent abuse more than a decade ago could have identified him, the BSA found.

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