PETER WAKEMAN AGAINST TVNZ 1NEWS
Case Number: 3386
Council Meeting: MARCH 2023
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Balance, Lack Of
Obligation to Publish
Local Body Elections
1News published a story on 9 December 2022 headed Voter turnout essential for Hamilton West by-election – candidates. The story interviewed the two front-runners in the election, asking what they were doing to engage voters. It included interviews with voters, background to the election and a poll listing the four leading candidates. Three videos were included with the story, featuring the Labour, National and Act candidates, as well as the former MP Gaurav Sharma, who was standing again, and a range of voters were interviewed.
Peter Wakeman complained that the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party’s (ALCP) candidate for the by-election and other candidates were not asked for an interview or mentioned. He said some other publications covered all candidates – for example the Press covered all candidates for the Christchurch mayoralty. Mr Wakeman also included links to a YouTube video that featured more of the by-election candidates and stories about Russia and Ukraine, saying TVNZ did not want to cover his views on Ukraine.
TVNZ considered the complaint under Principle (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, and said the topic of the story was the need for voters to turn out in the by-election. This did not require all the candidates to be interviewed. Because the pool of voters was small, the public interest in hearing from all the candidates was low and realistically extended only to candidates who could possibly win the seat. Issues identified as important by voters were poverty, homelessness, crime and the cost of living and the ALCP did not appear to have policies on these, focusing instead on legalising cannabis. TVNZ quoted from a 2020 High Court decision on the need to include minor parties in coverage, saying that, in line with this decision, their criteria for choosing candidates to feature was not arbitrary or unreasonable. They did not agree all 12 candidates should have been featured.
The Media Council agrees with TVNZ that in this by-election story it was acceptable to focus on the candidates who had a reasonable chance of success. It would have been impossible to include all 12 candidates in a short news item and given the scope of the story complained about – the need to improve voter turnout and the issues of importance to voters – it seemed reasonable to include the leading parties who were expressing views on these issues. No principles have been breached.
Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.