BSA Upholds Samoa’s Complaint Against TVNZ’s Barbara Dreaver; TVNZ To Pay Costs & Public Apology

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=barbara+dreaver&iid=3086921″ src=”f/b/3/3/62.jpg?adImageId=10987513&imageId=3086921″ width=”380″ height=”453″ /]

Archive Photo: New Zealand television journalist Barbara Dreaver is met by ONE News editor Paul Patrick after arriving at Auckland International Airport after being detained in Fiji on December 16, 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)


UPDATE 3: BSA 30-page ruling is now posted on this site. Click on the relevant latest post link.

UPDATE 2: We will be posting the 30-page BSA decision online shortly. More revelations.

UPDATE 1: the latest in this saga. Television New Zealand, a publicly-funded state broadcaster, has reportedly come out swinging against the Samoan Government for releasing this information into the public domain and reportedly breaching an embargo.  Must say, we can’t blame the Samoan Government for that early release considering the damage Dreaver’s beat up did to the islands’ tourism, and further compounded by what Samoa and Tonga islands suffered last year. TVNZ  is considering an appeal. That’s all we’ve got time to write on this for now. Expect to hear more in the coming days. Check update from Samoa Observer

This BSA decision on this story is perhaps a watershed moment for Pacific journalism in New Zealand  and the South Pacific region.  Last April, TVNZ ran a story on One News about gun-running and gangs in Samoa by its Pacific Correspondent  Barbara Dreaver. It was heavily promoted and teased to viewers the week leading up to its debut on the 6th of April 2009.  Tagata Pasifika also ran the story a few days later. What people outside of the Pacific islands may not know  is that One News is broadcast in a delayed feed to the Pacific islands including Samoa.  It is widely viewed around the Pacific islands.  So Samoans in Samoa watched the story, as well as Samoans living in New Zealand. Many here, and in Samoa, were disgusted by Dreaver’s story and the blatant beat up.

It outraged Samoan journalists in Samoa. A local paper, the Samoan Observer published  a scathing response to Dreaver’s story calling it  “Barbara Dreaver: the evil side of journalism”.

The Samoan Government, equally outraged by Dreaver’s unsubstantiated allegations, took legal action against TVNZ and Dreaver. They hired one of the country’s biggest law firms. A formal complaint was lodged with the Broadcasting Standards Authority, NZ’s watchdog on broadcast media.

Almost a year later this week, the BSA has issued its decision.  It has upheld Samoa’s complaint  that the story was unbalanced, inaccurate on one of two points, and unfair on one of two points. It did not uphold Samoa’s complaint on the standard of law and order. The Samoan Government sent out a media release earlier today to Pacific and mainstream media outlets advising of the Authority’s decision.  Bad news, though, for TVNZ and Dreaver’s  public reputation, though few  industry insiders will be surprised by the BSA findings.  Some of us knew it was always going to be a matter of time before Dreaver’s arrogant shortcuts were exposed. And here it is.

Dreaver’s defensive statements, as reported in the report, offers some  disappointing revelations. TVNZ has been ordered to pay costs which  under BSA rules cannot exceed $5000. They have also been ordered to  issue a public statement of the BSA’s findings. In effect, a forced public statement that they got it wrong.  That may be as close as they will get to a decent apology from TVNZ.

This BSA decision restores some confidence in the complaints process for those who have long been distrustful of TVNZ and its ‘mainstream’ coverage of Pacific stories and, at times, its Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver. We all make mistakes. But to her discredit, she insisted throughout that she was right. The assumption being that she had verified and checked her story, and what her contacts told her. TVNZ and Dreaver publicly rejected Samoa’s concerns about bias and accuracy.

TVNZ has strongly defended its Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver, and took the rare step of releasing a signed affidavit from Dreaver, saying it would be “completely unconscionable and unethical to stage manage material for a story, and I would never do such a thing”….

Dreaver said in her affidavit she had reported Pacific issues for 19 years.TVNZ news editor Paul Patrick stood by the story and said the allegations hit directly at TVNZ and Dreaver’s reputation.

Screened on April 5, the story showed young men brandishing machetes, smoking cannabis and discussing what TVNZ said was a growing gun and drug trade.

She might not have stage managed it. Yet by omitting to verify and check the facts,  without regard for the other side of this story, Dreaver’s negligence had the same effect on the final cut. This isn’t the first time Dreaver has done this, that is, fail to verify and get , let alone show, “alternative views”.   But this may be the first time that the BSA has ruled against TVNZ and Barbara Dreaver on a Pacific story. In this case, the BSA has viewed the filming and heard Dreaver’s defence which is particularly disappointing for a journalist with 19 years experience.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority got this decision right: the Samoa story by TVNZ’s Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver was a  beat up.  Samoa is not “awash” (check the definition before you use words like this) with gangs, drugs and the like, although, like any country, it has its pockets of concern. (We note there was no mention made by Dreaver, of course, of the  families of  young, rich delinquent Americans, rather than those of Samoan descent, who bring their problems to the islands to solve).  So this is a victory day for  many in the public(check the PEW surveys on what people think of journalists) who are tired of having their lives and whole communities misrepresented for the sake of a beat up by a journalist with an eye on the prize.

What is particularly galling about TVNZ and Barbara Dreaver’s defence of their reporting is this explanation:

“…the reporter’s evidence certainly does not support her unequivocal statements, the entire thrust of the item, or the suggestion that the situation was so clear-cut that no alternative perspective needed to be given in the item.”

On the question of accuracy, the BSA found that the reporter, “under the circumstances should have questioned their (Makoi Boys) reliability and made efforts to corroborate what they said.”

When did journalists not need to get “alternative ” views on a story?  Interesting defence from TVNZ and Dreaver. Perhaps they have forgotten the practice of balance in journalism. That response from a publicly funded broadcaster is arrogant and egotistical to say the least.

The BSA watched the footage of the boys interviewed by Dreaver:

“The transcript of the interview, as well as the footage in the item, suggested that the ‘Makoi Boys’ were joking around and acted for the cameras. The boys were visibly amused by the interview and their own responses.

“The Makoi boys’ also laughed when the reporter commented “you guys look so tough’, and when one of them said ‘the matai hate us’.

‘The Makoi boys also laughed when asking each other how prison was, and the transcript recorded one of them saying, “see if you hadn’t been` so heavy-handed and chopped the hand off someone with an axe which caused you to be locked up [men
all laughing]”.

As noted by the BSA in its decision, Dreaver did not verify their stories and check with others. The Samoa Government, however, provided evidence from the Ministry of Police and Prisons that they had no criminal convictions. No alternative perspective needed, says Barbara Dreaver. It is almost embarrassing to read that defence, particularly from a publicly-funded broadcaster. Sounds like a despot whose ego needs to be reigned in.

Press Release 4th March 2010
Government of Samoa

NZ BSA upholds government complaint over TVNZ ‘gangs, drugs and guns’ news item

…TVNZ ordered to make public statement, pay $5000 to Samoa Govt and $2000 to Crown

The New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority has found TVNZ in breach of standard broadcasting laws in relation to a news item claiming widespread gangs and drugs and gun smuggling in Samoa.

The Samoan government, through the Attorney General’s Office (and the assistance of the law firm Chapman and Tripp), laid a complaint with the Authority following the One News item – aired also by the network’s prime-time Tagata Pasifika programme – in April last year..

The Samoan government’s complaint alleged breach of law and order, balance, accuracy and fairness under the BSA laws of the news item in question.

Asked for comment this afternoon, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi remained circumspective.

“I see it not so much a victory for our (Samoan) government but a victory for responsible and substantive reporting,” said the Prime Minister.

“There have been far too many incidences of unbalanced reporting with reporters and editors alike bent on producing and publishing half-cooked, sensationalized stories with the sole aim of stirring up controversy.

“The ruling by the BSA is an onus for broadcasters and publishers to produce fair, balanced, in-depth and accurate news items.”

He added;

“There are also some very important lessons there for our local editors and budding journalists in how they do their jobs.”

FINDINGS

Regarding balance reporting, the BSA in its 30-page findings concluded that the news item “only presented one perspective…viewers needed information about the gravity of the problem in a wider context and from other perspectives”.

According to the Authority;

“Given that New Zealand is home to a significant PacificIsland community, and that New Zealand has strong historical ties with Samoa, the Authority disagrees with TVNZ that the issue was not of public importance to New Zealand.”

“In the Authority’s view, the cumulative effect of such a dramatic introduction coupled with the information presented in the item was to create an impression for viewers that not only was the situation in Samoa extremely serious, but Government officials were complicit in the guns and drugs trade.”

“While the reporter’s (TVNZ Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver) information does show that there have been isolated incidences involving drugs and guns in Samoa spread over a number of years, it does not support the impression given in the item that Samoa was ‘awash’ with guns and drugs.

“…the reporter’s evidence certainly does not support her unequivocal statements, the entire thrust of the item, or the suggestion that the situation was so clear-cut that no alternative perspective needed to be given in the item.”

On the question of accuracy, the BSA found that the reporter, “under the circumstances should have questioned their (Makoi Boys) reliability and made efforts to corroborate what they said.”

The Authority pointed out,

“The transcript of the interview, as well as the footage in the item, suggested that the ‘Makoi Boys’ were joking around and acted for the cameras. The boys were visibly amused by the interview and their own responses.

“The Makoi boys’ also laughed when the reporter commented “you guys look so tough’, and when one of them said ‘the matai hate us’.

‘The Makoi boys also laughed when asking each other how prison was, and the transcript recorded one of them saying, “see if you hadn’t been` so heavy-handed and chopped the hand off someone with an axe which caused you to be locked up [men
all laughing]”. The complainant has provided evidence from the Ministry of Police and Prisons in Samoa which confirms that none of the ‘Makoi Boys’ had any criminal conviction’

The two other complaints on fairness and the impact on law and order were not upheld by the Authority.

But the BSA has ordered TVNZ to make a public statement summarizing the Authority’s findings, pay the Samoa government costs of $5000 and the Crown another $2000 in costs.

Government Press Secretariat

Dreaver Sought Backing From Pacific Islands Media Association(PIMA)

At the height of the controversy over this story, Dreaver approached the largely defunct Pacific Islands Media Association(PIMA), which is mostly made up of  a handful of TVNZ former and current staff  for their support over Samoa’s BSA complaint. Although a few tout PIMA as an organisation that represents Pacific media, the numbers and attendance suggest otherwise. If you actually look at PIMA’s membership numbers, they have struggled to gain members, let alone decent numbers to attend AGMs for the past few years. It has barely attracted more than a handful of Pacific people who actually work in media.

Mostly PIMA is largely invisible and a gathering for past and present TVNZ journos, particularly those associated with the weekly magazine show, Tagata Pasifika, with AUT students and  the  AUT journalism faculty. It has been mired in its own controversy often accused, if only behind closed doors, of being irrelevant to those working within  Pacific media, sidetracked and hjacked by special interests, or captured by those using its  forum and contacts to promote ulterior agendas. Despite AUT’s faculty assertions in the past, PIMA does not represent  Pacific media in New Zealand at all. It would be misleading to suggest it does, when you look at membership, who is in touch with PIMA  these days, very few. When you ask Pacific people working in Pacific media about PIMA, no one seems to know. PIMA was originally formed by TVNZ’s Sandra Kailahi and Iulia Leilua. Their intentions were spot on.  (Leilua is now working as a reporter for Maori Television’s Native Affairs.  Kailahi works as a casual news producer in the same newsroom as Dreaver.)  Since  PIMA’s inception, though it did enjoy at least two years of active support, that has dramatically declined over the last few years.  It largely exists within TVNZ where it originally began. But it would be inaccurate to say that PIMA is New Zealand’s Pacific voice for media. It is not.

Need for Consumer Reps on the BSA?

It’s not often the BSA err on the side of common sense. On the matter of the BSA, they need fewer broadcasters, industry people or lawyers, on that panel. The BSA should have at least two consumer representatives on that board. Most of their decisions, aside from this one miracle of miracles, reveals, what appears to be, a heavy leaning towards supporting broadcasters, at the expense of consumer concerns about decency, balance and fairness. That’s the feedback we hear on the air from the usual suspects like Family First . It’s hard to escape that impression when you read some of the BSA decisions.

Also the BSA do not record the name of the reporter being complained about, in their publicly released decisions. They name the broadcasting outlet such as TVNZ and they name the complainant. But they protect the journalist’s anonymity but not the complainant. Something skewed about that we think.  Surely both should either be given anonymity or else name both of them on the record, not just the complainant. That makes it woefully protective of one party, and not the other. In the case of Dreaver, unless people recall who the reporter was, you will not know reading through the decisions on the BSA website who the reporter was. Their names are protected.

Who’s On the BSA Board?

Source: BSA

The Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Minister of Broadcasting, appoints four members of the Authority. Its chairperson is required to be a barrister or solicitor. One member is appointed after consultation with broadcasters, and another after consultation with public interest groups.

Joanne Morris

Joanne Morris OBE LLM (Hons) was appointed Chair in October 2003. She is a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and was a foundation member of the Broadcasting Standards Authority, closely involved in its early development from 1989 and stepping down in 1995. She has held key policy development and reform roles, including membership of the Law Commission (1994-1999), the Police Appointment Review Committee and was a member of the establishment board of the Legal Services Agency.

Tapu Misa

Tapu Misa is an Auckland journalist with an extensive career across a variety of media. She has been a feature writer for the New Zealand Herald, and a staff writer for MORE and North & South magazines. Before joining the Authority in December 2002, Tapu was part of the Mana team which produces Mana Magazine and the Mana News Report broadcast on National Radio. She currently writes a weekly column for the Herald.

Mary Anne Shanahan

Mary Anne obtained an LLB from Auckland University in 1980. She subsequently completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1989 and a Diploma of Business (Finance) at the University of Auckland 1995.

Mary Anne has practiced in New Lynn in West Auckland for 28 years and was appointed a Notary Public in 1993. She has also served on the Auckland Law Society Disciplinary committee for the past 10 years which deals with complaints about legal professional and ethical standards. Mary Anne has been involved in a number of community groups over the years and is currently a trustee of the Odyssey House Trust in Auckland which is concerned with the rehabilitation of drug and alcohol dependants. Mary Anne is married with two school aged children. Her husband is an airline pilot with Ngati Toa affiliations.

Paul France

Paul France was appointed to the Authority in December 2003. He has thirty years experience in television journalism and management. Paul was editor of TVNZ’s news and current affairs programme Eye Witness News in the 1980s and had subsequent senior management roles in television production with TVNZ. From 1993-2000 Paul was chief executive of Singapore-based Asia Business News and then president of CNBC Asia after its merger with ABN. During that period he was also a member of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority. Paul now lives in the Bay of Islands.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s