Prime-time current affairs show Seven Sharp has been issued with a complaint from the Broadcasting Standards Authority, after airing an “imbalanced” story about voluntary euthanasia in March of this year.
In light of the widely-publicised Lecretia Seales case which followed, the story proved extremely topical, timely and relevant however, according to the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA), also “lacked balance”.
The item was broadcast in March this year and featured the story of a terminally ill woman who is a long-standing voluntary euthanasia campaigner,” the BSA said in a statement on Monday.
“It also discussed the history of attempts to legalise voluntary euthanasia in New Zealand and overseas.
“The BSA found the item did not solely approach the issue of voluntary euthanasia from the personal perspective of the interviewee. It included a wider discussion of the voluntary euthanasia debate and law reform. This meant the broadcaster should have presented more than one side of the issue.”
The story was followed up in June, with a similar item that focused on the moral euthanasia debate. The current affairs show interviewed a palliative care nurse about the difficulties faced with “opening up the door and allowing doctors to kill.”
“The media should be warning our community of the dire consequences which would follow for the aged, the disabled and seriously ill, if the law was changed to allow doctors to kill their patients or assist in their suicide,” Ken Orr – a spokesperson for Right For Life, who issued the original complaint – said.
In an impassioned statement published to the organisation’s website Monday afternoon, Right For Life said the Authority “has determined numerous balance complaints in recent years about programmes which promulgated the pro-euthanasia position, and we have rarely, if at all, been pointed to evidence of the other view being put forward”.
The BSA claim they took into consideration the follow up story aired by TVNZ and acknowledged the oppositional viewpoint on the issue was later expressed.
“If we were to accept without question that the concept of ‘balance over time’ applied here and that TVNZ’s coverage of a different story some months afterwards saved the 17 March item, it may have the consequence that no broadcast which discusses voluntary euthanasia (or any other long-standing moral issue) could ever be found to be unbalanced,” they said.
“No matter how one-sided – on the basis that the other side of the issue may be presented at some point in the future.”
A spokesperson for TVNZ said it “is taking time to review the decision and has no further comment at this time”.
Full story: Published 17/11/15