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BSA orders compensation for privacy breach

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has released two new privacy decisions.

The Authority upheld a complaint about footage broadcast of a half-naked person as part of a police reality TV series. In the programme, a police boat approached ‘boaties’ about optional breath-testing, including the complainant, who was on a private boat in a public but remote waterway. Privacy compensation of $1,000 was awarded to the complainant.

Some of the unique factors that contributed to the Authority’s decision were:

- while the waterway the complainant was on may be considered public, the complainant had made efforts to be in a secluded area and was caught off-guard by the approach of the police boat;

- the Authority has warned broadcasters before that they will be more vulnerable to breaching broadcasting standards where camera crews essentially ‘piggy-back’ on the power of authority figures, which the Authority considered had happened in this instance;

- the complainant’s state of undress was portrayed in a way that injected humour into the segment at the complainant’s expense; and

- the police officer who engaged on camera with the complainant was not forthcoming about the purpose of the filming, even after being asked by the complainant.

In these circumstances the Authority found the broadcast amounted to a ‘highly offensive intrusion’. This breached the complainant’s privacy in a way that was not justified by any overriding public interest factors.

In another privacy decision, the Authority did not uphold a complaint about images broadcast of the Christchurch ‘office sex couple’. In this case, the images, which were broadcast on Seven Sharp as part of a light-hearted segment, were already in the public domain and did not disclose any private facts. By the time of the Seven Sharp broadcast, the images of the couple had already been widely shown by multiple media outlets. However, the Authority did note that broadcasters should take care when re-broadcasting material that may be distressing to individuals involved.

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