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Violation of privacy by TVNZ

Friday 25th Jun 1999

Richard Prebble

Media Release -- Governance & Constitution

Hon Richard Prebble CBE

Leader ACT New Zealand

MP Wellington Central

25 June 1999

The Speaker

Parliament Buildings


Dear Mr Speaker

Violation of privacy by TVNZ

I am writing to you in your capacity as landlord of Parliament. Last night on
TV1's late news there was footage of the PM working in an office in the
Beehive. The footage was shot through the window, from outside. As you well
know the curtains of the offices of Ministers are never drawn because it is
not possible for anyone on the street to look in. This footage were obviously
taken with some kind of telephoto lens, possibly from Bowen House or Petrocorp
House where TVNZ has an office.

This raises serious privacy issues. The technology for distance filming has
been around for over 20 years, as has the Beehive. In that time to my
knowledge no news organisation has ever violated the privacy of Ministers
working in their offices in such a way.

I am writing to you as our landlord to ask what the privacy issues are here. I
would like you to enquire whether this film was shot from outside or within
the precincts of Parliament. If it was within Parliament, this would seem to
be a violation of TVNZ's permission to be in Parliament.

I am writing to TVNZ as well. We should at least have a public debate on this
matter. If this incident passes without comment it could well set a precedent
for media to continue to violate the privacy of public or private individuals.

In this country we have a convention of more that 100 years that Prime
Ministers are entitled to privacy. It is disturbing that state TV has decided
to break the convention. It shows a lack of judgement by TVNZ that it should
choose the occasion of a dispute over credibility to violate the Prime
Minister's privacy.

It also raises credibility questions because the footage was accompanied by a
voice-over which implied that Mrs Shipley and those working with her were, on
the footage, conferring over the Crossfire incident: "their faces say it all".
Unless TVNZ was also using hidden microphones there is no way this could be
established. Given that the Justice Minister was also clearly visible on the
footage, it is at least as likely that they were discussing the terrible
stabbing of the ACC staff member which had just happened.

I would like this matter to be referred to the next meeting of the
Parliamentary Service Commission.

Yours faithfully

Hon Richard Prebble CBE



cc: Chief executive TVNZ

Privacy Commissioner

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