Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2012-109

Dated

29th January 2013

Number

2012-109

Programme

Checkpoint

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Checkpoint – host conducted interview with Dick Pound, founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency – host made three references to Jamaica – allegedly in breach of standards relating to good taste and decency, controversial issues, accuracy, fairness, discrimination and denigration and responsible programming

Findings
Standard 1 (good taste and decency), Standard 4 (controversial issues), Standard 5 (accuracy), Standard 6 (fairness), Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration), Standard 8 (responsible programming) – complainant’s concerns are matters of personal preference and editorial discretion – decline to determine under section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]   Checkpoint contained an interview with Dick Pound, the founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The interview was introduced by the host as follows:

The man who trail-blazed dope policing in elite sport says Jamaica must bring in tougher testing before the world will accept its sprint stars as fair competitors. Dick Pound says Jamaica and Belarus – the home of disgraced Olympic shot-putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk who has to surrender her gold medal to New Zealand’s Valerie Adams – are among the countries where tests aren’t rigorous enough. Pound, the Canadian lawyer who founded the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, said such countries could be told that they can’t compete in the Olympics.

[2]  During the interview, the host asked Mr Pound, “Where else, which other high profile countries do you think have this organised cheating?”, and, “Is Jamaica one of those countries?” The interview was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National on 17 August 2012.

[3]  Allan Golden made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd (RNZ), the broadcaster, alleging that “it was quite improper to quiz [Mr Pound] about Jamaica when New Zealand’s record [is] equally suspicious”. He argued that RNZ had a “duty not to cast suspicion on other countries without fully examining how our country rates with respect to the matter concerned”.

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached any broadcasting standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[5]  The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the interview breach broadcasting standards?

[6]  Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 states that the Authority may decline to determine a complaint if it considers that in all the circumstances, it should not be determined.

[7]  We recently determined a complaint from Mr Golden about a news item reporting on Olympic shot-putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk.1 He argued that the item was unfair because “New Zealand in recent times… has a far worse government-led Olympic cheating record than has Belarus”. In that decision, the Authority found that Mr Golden’s claim that New Zealand had a history of cheating in the Olympics was not something it could make a finding on, and was not an issue of broadcasting standards.

[8]  In the present case, Mr Golden has again objected to the way the broadcaster has chosen to convey information on a particular topic. Specifically, he is concerned with the omission of information relating to New Zealand (that is, his assertion that New Zealand has been involved in Olympic cheating), and in his view, local programming should not criticise other countries without reference to, and comparison with, our own country.

[9]  In our view, these concerns are matters of personal preference, not broadcasting standards, and are therefore not capable of being resolved through this complaints procedure.2 We understand that the host’s references to Jamaica were in response to comments made by Mr Pound about Jamaica’s performance at the 2012 Olympics, during an interview with Reuters Television, which attracted considerable media coverage. Broadcasters are entitled to exercise editorial discretion when conducting interviews or preparing stories; it is legitimate to choose an angle or a particular aspect of an issue for discussion, and particularly where the issue is topical or has attracted attention.

[10]  We therefore consider that in all the circumstances it is appropriate to decline to determine the complaint in accordance with section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
29 January 2013

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1           Allan Golden’s formal complaint – 18 August 2012

2          RNZ’s response to the complaint – 12 September 2012

3          Mr Golden’s referral to the Authority – 16 September 2012

4          RNZ’s response to the Authority – 12 October 2012

5          Mr Golden’s final comment – 27 October 2012

2See section 5(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989