A dismissed complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority has prompted the media watchdog to issue a warning over Covid-19 misinformation.
The danger comes from selectively quoting reports or data out of context, the BSA says.
It comes after the BSA declined to uphold a complaint alleging a television report was incorrect in stating the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine was safe for people who were pregnant or breastfeeding.
The incident involved an interview on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp where host Jeremy Wells asked Immunisation Advisory Centre medical director Dr Nikki Turner if the vaccine was safe for pregnant or breastfeeding people.
Dr Turner said it was and “definitely recommended highly” for both groups.
“The complainant claimed the segment breached the balance, accuracy and fairness standards as Dr Turner’s comments were incorrect, saying: ‘Pfizer’s own health warning message clearly states … that this vaccine is not safe for women intending to be pregnant, pregnant or breastfeeding’.”
“Having fully reviewed the material cited by the complainant, the Authority determined it “does not support the safety concerns identified”.
“It found no breaches of standards, saying the statements on Seven Sharp were materially accurate and, in any event, it was reasonable for TVNZ to rely on Dr Turner as an authoritative source.”
But in dismissing the complaint, the BSA had a message for the media.
“This situation demonstrates the dangers of drawing definitive conclusions from specific extracts of information or raw data without careful review or an understanding of the relevant context.
“We caution against such behaviour which runs the very real risk of contributing to misinformation on a significant issue of public safety.
“The decision confirms a previous BSA finding that there is scientific consensus around the safety of the vaccine.”