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BSA orders compensation for privacy breach

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has upheld a complaint about footage of a half-naked person as part of Screentime reality TV series Water Patrol broadcast by TVNZ. 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.

Water Patrol

Water Patrol

Some of the 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. The BSA ordered TVNZ to pay compensation of $1,000 to the complainant.

The Authority has received 24 complaints about alleged breaches of privacy this year, six of which have been upheld. The full BSA decision is here.

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