Case Number: 3504

Council Meeting: April 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Newshub TV3

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Headlines and Captions

Ruling Categories: Data

  1. Newshub published an article on March 2, 2024, headlined What the climate-change collapse of critical Atlantic Ocean system could mean for New Zealand.
  2. The story reported a scientific paper warning that the catastrophic collapse of a critical Atlantic Ocean current was on the cards if human-caused climate change continues. The story also referenced  an earlier, 2021 study which found that "the system was weaker than at any other time in the past 1600 years". Scientists believe it last shut down 12,000 years ago following rapid glacier melt and it could soon tip into a shutdown again, resulting in a rapid cooling of the European climate and would also affect the Southern Hemisphere.
  3. Sean Rush complained that the story was alarmist, extreme and misleading. The scientific model and paper on which this story was based forecast that the ocean system collapse would not happen for another 1750 years, whereas the story said it could happen “soon.”
  4. He also complained that the word “mind-blowing” had been used in a pointer to the article on the Newshub website.
  5. Warner Bros Discovery defended the story saying the overall finding of the research was that a slow decline in the ocean current could lead to a collapse over less than 100 years, with calamitous consequences. It did not put a timeframe when this shift may occur. The word “soon” was not a specific timeframe and was preceded by the word “could.” It did not categorically state the event would occur.
  6. Warner Bros Discovery said the word “mind blowing” was used in the article’s” vanity” on Newshub, so was only visible on the website homepage before readers clicked into the article. It was included in quotation marks as it related directly to a quote in the article.
  7. The Media Council notes that the scientific study refers to events happening in geological time with processes taking place over centuries and millennia. The word “soon” must be read in that context. It is a relative term, and while the complainant has a point, nothing really turns on it.
  8. The Council also notes the article reported the study did not give specific timeframes for when the potential collapse could happen and that more research was needed.
  9. The word “mind blowing” on the homepage was supported by reference to what was said in the story and was therefore not a breach of Principle (6) Headlines.
  10. Decision:  No grounds to proceed.


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