Chapter 8


8.1Our terms of reference asked us to investigate the news media: how the law defines news media these days, and whether changes need to happen to the way the news media are held accountable. Accordingly in this report we have concentrated on the news functions of the media – that is to say on their functions of gathering and disseminating news, and providing news commentary to the public. In other words we have been concerned with the media as the fourth estate in our democracy and with the upholding of proper standards of journalism.

8.2Yet, as we noted in the previous chapter, many of our media, especially the broadcast media, engage in much more than news and commentary on news. They broadcast content in a variety of genres that provide entertainment. Increasingly, the boundaries between news and current affairs programming and the provision of entertainment content are blurring with programmes such as 7 Days (TV3) and Seven Sharp (TVOne).

8.3Entertainment involves different considerations from “news”.547  The standards of proper journalism in relation to news mainly involve such matters as accuracy, correction of error, separation of fact and opinion, fairness to interviewees and subjects, objectivity, and respect for privacy. Taste and decency may sometimes be involved as well. However, entertainment standards are almost entirely concerned with taste and decency. They are about curbing the publication of offensive, disturbing or excessively explicit matter. Most importantly, they are about protecting children and young persons.

8.4In this report we have not dealt with the subject of entertainment standards in depth as it is beyond our terms of reference. Yet this subject is in similar need of examination. The explosion of new media and the phenomenon of convergence that we cover in this report are highly visible in this sector of the media as well.

8.5The growing overlap between news and entertainment content means that we have had to at least consider the current regulatory treatment of entertainment content. We do not make recommendations about it in this report, except to say that it should be the subject of separate review, to touch on some matters which we believe worthy of further investigation, and to give some indication of the challenges ahead in this area.

547How one draws the line between “news” and “entertainment” is discussed in ch 7 at [7.36] – [7.44].