HILARY OXLEY AGAINST TVNZ 1NEWS
Case Number: 3412
Council Meeting: 26 JUNE 2023
Decision: Not Upheld
Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters
Headlines and Captions
Conflicts of Interest
- TVNZ 1NEWS published an on-line article on March 24, 2023, headlined What are Posie Parker’s views and why are they controversial? Hilary Oxley complained the article breached Media Council principles (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance (4) Comment and Fact (5) Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters (6) Headlines and Captions and (10) Conflicts of Interest. The complaint is not upheld.
- The on-line article, published on the eve of a public appearance in Auckland of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker briefly explained who she was and why her views were so controversial. It described her as an anti-transgender rights speaker and noted she was a British activist and founder of the group Standing for Women. It also said she claimed to be an advocate for women, held the view that “a woman is an adult human female” and that women across New Zealand are scared of trans women.
- The article also included comments by a rainbow community leader who described her as “an insular transphobic bigot who masquerades as a women’s right activist” and reported that Immigration Minister Michael Wood had described her views on these issues as "inflammatory, vile and incorrect". Two videos were embedded in the story. One was a seven-minute video of a breakfast host interview with rainbow community leader Shaneel Lal who said Ms Keen-Minshull was normalising hatred of queer people and emboldening people to act on that. The other was a two-minute news bulletin item showing footage of Ms Keen-Minshull's rally in Melbourne where neo-Nazis turned up to support her. This news item mentioned that Immigration New Zealand was reviewing its decision allowing Ms Keen-Minshull to come to New Zealand and included brief comments from the Prime Minister, a Green Party spokesman, a transgender advocate and Wellington’s Mayor expressing concerns that the visit could incite hatred and violence.
- Hilary Oxley complained that the article had not provided information explaining why Posie Parker’s views were so controversial. The opinions expressed in the article were discriminatory, unbalanced, misleading, unfair and became misinformation by omission.
- The article did not clearly set out why her comments were regarded as anti-transgender rhetoric. There was no explanation as to why saying “a woman is an adult human female” might be an anti-transgender rights issue and why her views were causing such a strong reaction.
- It did not explain why rainbow community leader Shaneel Lal would describe her as an “insular transphobic bigot” or what Immigration Minister Michael Wood was referring to when he described Ms Keen-Minshull's views as inflammatory, vile and incorrect. These were errors of omission.
- “This article by its headline and introduction implied it would let readers know Parker’s views and why they are so controversial – but it has not provided that information. I strongly object to this purportedly helpful article simply being a repeat of slurs against Parker without substantial facts.”
- It was unfair and inaccurate to describe Ms Keen-Minshull as anti-trans rather than pro-women. TVNZ described her as anti-trans but were vague about what her supposed anti-trans views were.
- Ms Oxley also complained of a breach of Media Council Principle (10) Conflicts of Interest. She asked, “Does 1News as an institution believe in trans ideology which compels its journalists and the Complaints Committee to believe that trans identity is more real or valid than someone’s biological sex? Do journalists employed by 1News have vested emotional interests, making them think and behave in a way so that they don’t lose their family or upset their friends. Are they thinking independently?
- Ms Oxley’s complaint referred to other TVNZ broadcasts and articles carried elsewhere touching on the support Ms Keen-Minshull had received from right wing and neo-Nazi supporters and the potential for violence at protests. She also commented at length giving her views on whether transwomen were sexual predators and a risk to women; whether men were using female spaces for nefarious purposes, to intimidate or physically violate women and children; that the definition of women as “adult human female” was not trans-phobic; the need for single sex spaces and services; and that Ms Keen-Minshull was targeted with deliberate misinformation because of her women’s rights views.
- On the complaint under Principle (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, TVNZ said Ms Keen-Minshull was commonly known to be a British anti-transgender rights advocate. She described herself as a woman’s rights activist but her position on trans people included the suggestion that trans women were sexual predators who pose a safety threat to girls in bathrooms and described being a transgender woman as a fetish. These were anti-trans views.
- TVNZ also defended its description of Ms Keen-Minshull as an anti-trans activist/campaigner citing a previous Media Council Ruling (3402) which comments:
Yet it is also true that Ms Keen-Minshull has repeatedly asserted that she does not recognise trans women as women. While Ms Hamilton-Hart
sees this as a statement of biological fact, others see it as a denial of gender and identity. And Ms Keen-Minshull has gone further. She has
said, for example, “transgender ideology is an existential threat to women”. She told RNZ’s Morning Report in an interview ahead of
her Auckland event that “We are male and female. Non-binary is something I’m pretty sure nobody can actually, properly describe”. So describing
Ms Keen-Minshull as “anti-trans” is literally accurate and not, as the complainant claims, “inconsistent with the substantive meaning of these words”.
While the Let Women Speak movement may well cover a range of views, it is not a “misleading distortion” to report Ms Keen-Minshull’s views
as hostile to trans people. Thousands of trans people worldwide have made it clear how anti/hostile they feel Ms Keen-Minshull is towards them.
- TVNZ says the article was not unbalanced as it included comment by Ms Keen-Minshull that she was campaigning for women’s rights so that women did not suffer because of the potential actions of any and all men.
- On the issue of fairness, the broadcaster disputed Ms Oxley’s statement that Ms Keen-Minshull was not supported by the far right/neo-Nazis. For evidence, it cited other media appearances by Ms Keen-Minshull as well as Media Council Ruling 3402 which stated it was undeniable the neo-Nazis were at her rally in Melbourne to support her.
- TVNZ said the views of Shaneel Lal and others were clearly presented as their views. These comments had not unfairly represented Ms Keen-Minshull's position and they were not discriminatory.
- Referring to the complaints under Principle (4) Comment and Fact and (5) Columns, Blogs, Opinions and Letters, TVNZ said that when a person was giving their viewpoint or opinion this was clearly signalled and no breach of these principles had been identified.
- TVNZ said the headline was not inaccurate or unfair as the story, including the embedded videos, contained many different viewpoints, including Ms Keen-Minshull's own statements.
- TVNZ said the accusation suggesting that 1News and its journalists had a conflict of interest were unfounded.
- It is apparent that Ms Keen-Minshull is a prominent and polarising figure in debates around trans-genderism and whether those who are transitioning or have transitioned are a threat to women and their rights.
- The issues are complex, contentious and have become a focus of debate touching on issues of human rights, personal safety, and deeply held cultural, religious and personal beliefs relating to sexuality and gender.
- Freedom of expression gives people the right to express their differing opinions on issues and it is an important role for the media to report and reflect that. That was highlighted at the time of Ms Keen-Minshull's aborted New Zealand speaking tour.
- It is important to note here that the Media Council is only able to consider Ms Oxley’s complaint about TVNZ’s on-line coverage of the story. Her complaints about its broadcast content are a matter for the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Media Council does not intend to impinge on its deliberations.
- However, where TVNZ’s on-line content included video clips from its broadcasts, as it did with this story, it would be impractical, unfair and unreasonable to not view them as part of an on-line story package. It is notable that the two video clips are an important part of the package as they show a lot of what the story is about – particularly the protests in Melbourne and the fears of those who were concerned that she might stir up similar trouble here. A lot of this information was not reproduced in the text published on-line.
- The Media Council notes the written text in this on-line story was fairly brief and lacking in detail. Anybody just reading the text, and not clicking on the embedded clips, might feel that the story lacked some balance and did not convey the information promised in a headline saying it would explain Ms Keen-Minshull's views and why they were so controversial.
- However, when viewed as a package in its entirety, it is clear. The story may not have addressed all the points Ms Oxley might have wanted but picking out and summarising issues is what the news media does. More information is always available elsewhere for those needing more detail and depth.
- Media Council Principle (1) states in part “Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission.
- The Council does not believe the article was in breach of this principle. It was neither inaccurate nor unfair to describe Ms Keen-Minshull as anti-transgender although she may prefer to be referred to as pro-women. The article gives readers a taste of some of Ms Keen-Minshull views and explains why they could stir up hatred. The Council does not agree with the complainant that it misleads readers by omission.
- The Media Council concludes this article did not breach Principles (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, (4) Comment and Fact, or (5) Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters.
- The complaint under Principle (6) Headlines and Captions is also not upheld. The headline fairly conveys the substance of the story.
- As for Principle (10) Conflicts of Interest, Ms Oxley has not made any case to show how TVNZ or its journalists might be conflicted.
- The complaint is not upheld.
Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher (Chair), Hank Schouten, Rosemary Barraclough, Tim Watkin, Jonathan Mackenzie, Jo Cribb, Marie Shroff, Alison Thom, Reina Vaai, Richard Pamatatau.