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BSA takes active approach towards prevention of harm

Media Release

12 November 2019

BSA takes active approach towards prevention of harm in broadcasting in 2018/19

The BSA has today released its 2018/19 Annual Report which highlights its active approach to maintaining freedom of expression in broadcasting without harm.

With the diversification of media content across a wide range of platforms, standards that guide the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and promote the protection of audiences from harm are critically important. BSA Chief Executive Belinda Moffat says, “we are committed to delivering on our new vision of Freedom in Broadcasting without Harm and this means taking an active approach, beyond dealing with complaints, to work with both broadcasters and the public to support a broadcasting regime that all New Zealanders can safely engage with. Our 2018/19 Annual Report released today demonstrates the active role the BSA has played in promoting and supporting broadcasting standards in New Zealand over the last year. ”

In 2018/19 BSA responded to 131 complaints about broadcast content, issued 90 decisions and dealt with 867 enquiries from members of the public. Complaints raised important and complex issues such as about the use of hidden camera in investigative journalism, discrimination and denigration on talk back radio, accurate use of tweets in news reporting, and protecting children’s interests in range of contexts. The most complained about standard was accuracy, and the most complained about genre of programme was news and current affairs. The number of decisions upholding complaints fell from 14% to 10%.

The BSA commissioned research by The Collaborative Trust exploring whether nudity and sexual media on screen harms children and young people. In the published findings the BSA highlighted the steps that broadcasters, parents and caregivers can all take to minimise harm to children and the importance of creating safe and supportive environments as they navigate the complex content environment: Nudity on Screen Research.

The BSA worked with broadcasters to complete its review of free-to-air television classifications and timebands to achieve consistency across platforms and reflect changes in the way we now watch content on television. The changes are soon to be announced and highlight the importance of programme information which broadcasters provide to enable audiences to make good viewing and listening choices for themselves and children in their care.

Following the 15 March 2019 mosque attacks, the BSA engaged with broadcasters promoting the standards as a guide to the challenging task of reporting on terrorism and crisis events. The BSA dealt with a 4 complaints about media coverage of the attacks. Decisions were issued in August and highlight the critical role that media play in reporting during a crisis event and the care and discretion that must be exercised when reporting on terrorism: New Zealand Broadcast Coverage of 15 March Mosque Attacks

With a view to ensuring that the exercise of political speech in election programmes does not cause harm in the pending 2020 General Election, the BSA also commenced its review of the Election Programmes Code. The Code is currently out for public consultation.

BSA’s decisions continue to reflect contemporary social attitudes and community sentiment. In the 2018/19 litmus testing of BSA decisions, which also focussed on nudity on screen, 85% of the participants agreed with the BSA’s decisions.

BSA Chair, Judge Bill Hastings says “Understanding and responding to harm means that we need to be connected with our community and aware of changing views and attitudes. The complaints we received in the past year reflect the issues that concern our community and demonstrate that it is important that the public continues to bring important issues to our attention. We have had an active year at a time when the focus on freedom of expression and how content should be regulated has been heightened across our country. We are a small agency which tackles big issues that are important to our democracy. I am proud of what we have delivered for New Zealanders in this past year.”

Key highlights this financial year include:

• 90 decisions issued, addressing 131 complaints

• Only 10% of complaints upheld

• 121 new complaints received

• 867 enquiries addressed

• 14 press releases and 9 editions of the BSA Pānui issued

• 89% of New Zealanders aware of the BSA

• Most complained about programme genre: News & Current Affairs (68 complaints determined)

• Most complained about standard: Accuracy (56 complaints determined)

• 33 meetings, seminars and workshops held with broadcasters on standards issues

• 83% of complainants satisfied with their interactions with the BSA

• 85% of litmus testing participants agreed with BSA decisions on average

• Research conducted into the harm to children and young persons of nudity and sexual media on screen

• Research undertaken into principles for reporting on terrorism and violence

• Free-to-air Television Classification and Timebands review progressed

• Election Programmes Code review commenced


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