Media Blasted For Bias In Euthanasia Debate

Media Release 16 November 2015
Family First NZ is welcoming a ruling by the Broadcasting Standards Authority that TVNZ’s Seven Sharp breached broadcasting standards in its recent coverage of the euthanasia issue. Seven Sharp featured the story of a terminally ill woman who was a long-standing voluntary euthanasia campaigner.  

“This is not the first time that the state broadcaster has been scolded for bias in its coverage of controversial social issues, but it is a timely reminder that the media must report the facts and broadcast both points of view rather than pushing their own ideology. Unfortunately we had similar issues during the recent same-sex marriage debate,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.  

The BSA decision said that coverage of controversial issues should “present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest” and that this particular programme was “heavily weighted in support of voluntary euthanasia”.  

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The BSA also highlighted that they had received numerous balance complaints in recent years about programmes “which promulgated the pro-euthanasia position” (including examples from Campbell Live), and they had “rarely, if at all, been pointed to evidence of the other view being put forward”.  

“The public should be able to trust the media to give fair and balanced coverage of important social issues and to give an even playing field to the robust debating of differing views. The BSA is right to reprimand TVNZ, but it is also a timely reminder to other media outlets,” says Mr McCoskrie.  

“As we hold an important debate over assisted suicide, it is vital that NZ’ers are treated with respect and are allowed to make an informed decision based on all the facts and ideas rather than a viewpoint or ideology pushed by the media.”  

Previous examples:
A 2013 Broadcasting Standards Authority decision upheld a complaint from Pompallier Catholic College about a Close Up item based on a school newsletter objecting to the redefinition of marriage.    

In 2011, Broadcasting Standards Authority slammed TVNZ’s Sunday programme for misleading viewers on the success of abstinence programmes, and said ‘the broadcaster misinterpreted the research’. In a hard-hitting statement, the members said ‘We emphasise the importance of accuracy in news and current affairs programming and we consider that viewers were entitled to expect that Sunday, as a reputable current affairs programme, would impart reliable and accurate information’.”
ENDS

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