Phone Polls on 'Close up at 7'
"Viewers and the public were clearly misled into believing the poll was an accurate reflection of public feeling.The article quotes Leila Boyle from Auckland University who explains the biases with 0900 telephone polls:
For TVNZ to get away with misleading viewers throughout the country on its flagship current affairs programme sets an unbelievable and disturbing precedent for other media."
- The method is unscientific.
- People are not selected randomly - they only canvass the relative minority of New Zealanders watching the programme at the time, and then only the number that feel strongly enough to vote and pay for the privilege of doing so. No allowance is made for repeat voting.
- The questions may be worded unfairly.
- The results are unlikely to be representative of opinions of New Zealanders in general, yet they are interpreted by the media as if they are.
“A lot of people have called in,” Wood reported, ignoring the probability of multiple calls. She described the number of people against gay relationships “overwhelming”, concluding the programme with the comment, that it “makes you wonder which polls the government is relying on to say that this Bill has support”.GayNZ.com goes on to talk about the ripple effect of this poll, and its incorrect interpretation, into other forms of media.
On TV One’s “Tonight” news programme Lindsay Perigo was suggesting the Close Up At 7 poll may even affect the way politicians voted at the final reading of the Bill:
“I didn’t get that from the Close Up At 7 poll. Now you see that’s interesting because that margin was so decisive against the Bill...that that could actually spook another couple of politicians into the other camp, if I may use that expression, and so then we do have a really tight race. And the politicians are really really sensitive to public opinion on this matter, so that could be a last minute complicating factor.”
In at least two news items posted on TVNZ’s website, the poll was presented as an accurate representation of public feeling, referring to “people” rather than “calls”. One item included: “A recent Close Up at 7 poll found New Zealanders strongly opposed to legally recognising gay relationships.”
GayNZ.com and GayWatch have identified five codes which they believe TVNZ breached (see their article for full reasoning):
- 4a: Programmes which deal with political matters, current affairs, and questions of a controversial nature, must show balance and impartiality.
- 5a: Significant errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest opportunity.
- 5b: Broadcasters should refrain from broadcasting material which is misleading or unnecessarily alarms viewers.
- 5d: Factual reports on the one hand, and opinion, analysis and comment on the other, should be clearly distinguishable.
- 5e: Broadcasters must take all reasonable steps to ensure at all times that the information sources for news, current affairs and documentaries are reliable.