Complaint: 18/022

NZ Transport Agency, Television


D. Adams
New Zealand Transport Agency
No Grounds to Proceed
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Decision Document


D Adams and J Woodward
NZ Transport Agency
NZ Transport Agency, Television
18 January 2018
No Grounds to Proceed

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) television advertisement
showed a Traffic Officer attending various stages of traffic accidents including the crash
scene, the mortuary and breaking the news to family members. While addressing the issues
of speed and drivers over familiarity of roads, the voice-over states..."Everyone thinks they
drive well, but I've never seen anyone crash well...I know these roads pretty well too and I'm
doing everything in my power to stop you seeing what I've seen on them."

The Chair ruled there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.

D Adams, said: The ad shows a car crash and it shows the coroner, the
crash, and the wife crying for her husband. As a relative of a person who died in a car crash
only 2 years ago I think it is too real and raw and is very upsetting for my family and I, and
other families who have lost loved ones to a car accident. It is very inappropriate and
insensitive and I will complain and complain until it is taken down.

Complainant, J Woodward, said: I believe the current advert run by the NZ police is
appalling and disrespectful to [ex police], affected families and other emergency staff. The
advert depicts an actor playing a police officer, he attends mortuary procedures, notifying
next of kin etc....

I don't believe this should be shown this way and it is affecting me badly.
It is appalling and disrespectful to me and affected families.
I am taking advice on this as I feel it is a breach of my human rights.

The relevant provisions were Code of Ethics - Basic Principle 4, Rule 11, Rule 5.

The Chair noted the Complainants' concerns the advertisement was upsetting and
insensitive to those who had been affected by traffic fatalities and acknowledged the
personal experiences of the Complainants.

The Chair turned first to consider the advertisement under Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics.
Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics provided for robust expression of belief or opinion being as
expressed by the Advertiser and, therefore, such opinions may be robust. However, opinion
should be clearly distinguishable from factual information.

Also applicable were the Advocacy Principles, developed by the Complaints Board in
previous Decisions for the application of Rule 11. These said:

That section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, in granting the right of freedom of
expression, allows advertisers to impart information and opinions but that in
exercising that right what was factual information and what was opinion, should be
clearly distinguishable.

That the right of freedom of expression as stated in section 14 is not absolute as
there could be an infringement of other people's rights. Care should be taken to
ensure that this does not occur.

That the Codes fetter the right granted by section 14 to ensure there is fair play
between all parties on controversial issues. Therefore in advocacy advertising and
particularly on political matters the spirit of the Code is more important than technical
breaches. People have the right to express their views and this right should not be
unduly or unreasonably restricted by Rules.

That robust debate in a democratic society is to be encouraged by the media and
advertisers and that the Codes should be interpreted liberally to ensure fair play by
the contestants.

That it is essential in all advocacy advertisements that the identity of the advertiser is

The Chair confirmed the advertisement for the New Zealand Transport Agency was an
advocacy advertisement intended to raise awareness about the causes of traffic accidents..
The Chair noted that the Agency had used confronting advertisements over the years to
highlight to the public the risks associated with irresponsible driving.

The Chair found that the identity of the advertiser was made clear at the end of the
advertisement with logos appearing on screen.

While acknowledging the distress the advertisement had caused the Complainants, the
Chair said the hard-hitting images were intrinsic to the advertisement's credibility. The Chair
acknowledged the importance of the advertisement having realistic imagery if the safety
message was to be an effective one.

Therefore, taking in to account generally prevailing community standards and the importance
of the road safety messaging, the Chair said the advertisement did not reach the threshold to
cause serious or widespread offence. The Chair said the advertisement was not in breach
of Rule 5 or 11 of the Code of Ethics and had been prepared with a due sense of social
responsibility required of it under Basic Principle 4 of the Code of Ethics.

Accordingly, the Chair ruled there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.

Chair's Ruling: Complaint No Grounds to Proceed