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Discrimination And Denigration Unlikely To Apply To COVID-19 Vaccination Status, BSA Finds

Comments about people based on their COVID-19 vaccination status are unlikely to be considered discrimination or denigration under broadcasting standards, the BSA has found.

The Authority has declined to determine three complaints alleging broadcast commentary about people that choose to be unvaccinated breached the discrimination and denigration standard.

In decisions released today, it said this standard generally does not apply to people that are unvaccinated or those who oppose vaccines, as neither group amounts to a recognised “section of the community” as required by the standard.*

The Authority also confirmed its previous finding that there is scientific consensus around the safety of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.

The first decision related to a complaint involving discussion about unvaccinated health workers, on Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking Breakfast. During the 23 September 2021 broadcast, Hosking said an estimated 75% of the nation’s DHB workforce was fully vaccinated, adding: “If that’s the best they can do, mandates can’t come fast enough. You either get jabbed or you don’t work, simple as that.”

In the second decision, the Authority declined to determine two complaints under various standards, including discrimination and denigration, about an item on Seven Sharp on 28 September 2021. The item reported on employment issues relating to the COVID-19 vaccine. Following an interview with an employment lawyer, the presenters discussed a hypothetical situation where guests invited to a dinner party turned out to be unvaccinated, commenting they could be set up in “a pup tent out the back”.

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The Authority released another decision today in which it found a panel discussion on APNA Television’s Talanoa Sa’o programme breached broadcasting standards with misleading comments relating to COVID-19 and the application of new abortion laws.

The broadcaster did not provide evidence of reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy, the BSA determined. It ordered APNA to air a statement summarising the decision and to pay costs of $500 to the Crown.

The Authority noted the “important and influential role” of programme hosts and presenters, saying: “This carries a level of responsibility with it, especially with regard to issues like COVID-19 when there are considerable impacts on the public when standards are not observed.”

COVID-related complaints have made up more than half of all complaints to the BSA in recent months, including 15 out of 27 complaints received in October and November.

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