Muldoon and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 1994-112

Members

  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • J R Morris
  • R A Barraclough
  • L M Loates

Complainant

  • Dame Thea Muldoon of Auckland

Dated

17th November 1994

Number

1994-112

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

TV3 Network Services Ltd


Summary

Muldoon: The Grim Face of Power was the title of a two part examination of former

Prime Minister, Sir Robert Muldoon. It was broadcast by TV3 between 8.30–

9.30pm on successive Wednesdays, 13 and 20 April.

Dame Thea and Gavin Muldoon, Sir Robert's widow and son, complained to TV3

Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme's theme – that Sir Robert

was driven by the shame of his father's death from syphilis – breached the family's

privacy, was inaccurate and unfair. They also alleged that the programme's sinister

tone was unfair as were a number of other matters including the deceit used by the

producers to gain the family's co-operation. Furthermore, they complained that some

of the editing distorted the material collected, especially Dame Thea's comments about

her reaction to her husband's death.

Arguing that the programme had involved comprehensive research which had not

found support for the accepted theory that Sir Robert's political behaviour resulted

from being the victim of bullying at school, TV3 maintained that the material gathered

had been presented accurately and sensitively. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Dissatisfied with TV3's response, Dame Thea referred the complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority upheld two parts of the complaint: one

which alleged that an aspect of the broadcast had dealt with Dame Thea unjustly and

unfairly and another which alleged that the broadcast was unbalanced when it dealt

with a possible motivation for Sir Robert's political behaviour.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcasts complained about

and have read the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). In view of the

comprehensive written submissions received, the Authority has followed its usual

practice and determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

Dame Thea Muldoon and her son Gavin, through their solicitors, complained to TV3

about the programme Muldoon: The Grim Face of Power broadcast as part of the

Inside New Zealand series on successive Wednesday evenings between 8.30–9.30pm.

On the family's behalf, Dame Thea later referred TV3's reply to the Authority for

investigation and review.

The programme dealt with the personal and political career of Sir Robert Muldoon

who had been New Zealand's Prime Minister from 1975–1984 and who died in 1992.

The Complaint

The complaint began by describing the programme's approach as:

The theme developed by the documentary was that Sir Robert was driven by

shame because of his father's death from syphilis. This is said to have led Sir

Robert to be consumed, and ultimately destroyed, by power.

It continued by arguing that the programme breached s.4(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act

1989 and (renumbered) standards G1, G4, G6 and G19 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice.

Under s.4(1)(c) broadcasters must maintain standards consistent with the privacy of

the individual and standards G1, G4 and G6 require broadcasters:

G1  To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

G4  To deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to in any

programme.

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political

matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.


Standard G 19 states:


G19 Care must be taken in the editing of programme material to ensure that the

extracts used are a true reflection and not a distortion of the original event

or the overall views expressed.


The complaint then listed the aspects of the programme which it alleged had

contravened the nominated standards.

Disclosure of the cause of the death of Sir Robert's father was described as a breach of

s.4(1)(c). The alleged factual inaccuracy, the complaint continued, was to describe Sir

Robert as being greatly affected by his father's death from syphilis as he was unaware

of the cause of his father's death until after he became Prime Minister.

That matter was also central to standard G4 and the complaint recorded:

In our clients' opinion the programmes were significantly skewed by the

documentary makers' thesis that Sir Robert's father's syphilis made a

fundamental impact on him. Quite apart from the inaccuracy of this thesis, the

documentary developed its theme in such a way as to be wholly unfair to Sir

Robert and his family.


The programme's assertion about the impact of the cause of his father's death, the

complaint observed, was then described as Sir Robert's "dark secret". The theme

moreover had been developed through the use of "sinister" background music, a

sculptor's "ugly depiction" of Sir Robert, and through the use of such phrases as "a

dark flaw in his soul", "demagogue" and "addicted to power". The complaint argued

that the total effect was both unacceptable and unfair.

The complaint also maintained that standard G4 had been breached through the

statement that Sir Robert's new-found power had "unleashed his libido" but the

details about liaisons with women, the complaint recorded, were not substantiated.

Furthermore, Sir Robert Jones had referred to one alleged incident involving his sister

as he had been told by the programme maker, totally incorrectly, that Dame Thea had

consented to the disclosure.

Another aspect of the programme which it was said had involved a breach of standard

G4 was the method by which Dame Thea's and the family's co-operation had been

obtained. They understood that it was to be a follow-up to the Magic Kiwis series

rather than "a concerted attempt to bring him into disrepute".

Finally, standard G4 was also contravened when the programme suggested, both at the

beginning of the first broadcast and at the end of the second, that Dame Thea was

relieved that her husband was dead. The complaint explained:

Dame Thea advises that her comments were made as a general comment and 

she would not have wished Sir Robert to be a long term invalid as had happened

to some of her friends. The programmes tend to suggest that it was due to Sir

Robert's character that Dame Thea makes the comments.


The complainants argued that the above points also amounted to a breach of the

standard G6 requirement for balance, fairness and impartiality. Standard G19 had

been contravened because of the misleading impression created through editing Dame

Thea's comments about her attitude to her husband's death.

Pointing out that Dame Thea and the family had been hurt by the approach taken in

the broadcasts, the letter concluded by describing the programme as "highly

unacceptable".

The Broadcaster's Response

TV3 dealt with the points under the standards listed in the complaint.

Beginning by stating that the privacy provision had not been breached as a death

certificate was a public document, it added:

Sir Robert Muldoon was one of the most public figures in New Zealand this

century. What he did and the reasons or motives behind those decisions are now

part of New Zealand history. Factors which, in the film makers view, influenced

these decisions are part of the historical picture regardless of whether they might

cause embarrassment to the family.


Dealing with the standard G1 complaint about accuracy, TV3 said the argument

advanced was that Sir Robert was greatly affected by his father's death. It noted that

the programme had accurately given the cause of his father's death and said, in

addition, that there was evidence that Sir Robert knew of the cause before becoming

Prime Minister.

As for the standard G4 aspects of the complaint, TV3 stated that the phrases used to

describe Sir Robert – to which objection had been made – were quotes from people

who had known Sir Robert for a significant length of time. In not upholding the aspect

of the complaint referring to Sir Robert's libido, TV3 recorded:

Given the amount of detail we had on Sir Robert's liaisons and sexual

proclivities, we considered this aspect of the programme to be relatively

restrained.


TV3 denied that Sir Robert Jones had been told that Dame Thea had consented to the

disclosure about the incident he had discussed in the programme.

It "flatly" rejected the allegation that Dame Thea had been told the item was a follow-

up to the Magic Kiwis series and denied that the broadcasts implied that Dame Thea

was relieved that her husband was dead. Her point about invalid husbands, it noted,

had been specifically left in.

The complaints under G6 and G19 were also rejected and TV3 included the following

general comments:

There was no concerted attempt to bring him into disrepute. The programme

arose from a year's research into Sir Robert and his life and background. It did

not start with any clear preconceived ideas.

...


It is accepted that Dame Thea and her family might have been hurt by certain of

the revelations or views expressed in the programme. In fact we believe the

programme could have been much more hurtful to the family but we were not

prepared to alter facts or views which we considered to be correct.


It should also be noted that a number of very positive things were said about Sir

Robert during much of the documentary.


For these reasons we consider the documentary to have been an important

analysis of one of the most influential figures in New Zealand's history. Sir

Robert was highly controversial, very public and adept at disguising those parts

of his life that he did not wish to be made public. In our view these areas were

as important as the public aspect of Sir Robert, as the man's personality could

not be understood without the full picture.


Further Correspondence

Dame Thea repeated the central elements of her complaint when she referred it to the

Authority. She maintained her argument that the programme contended that Sir

Robert was driven by shame about his father's death from syphilis when, as she had

noted, he had not become aware of the cause of his father's death until after he became

Prime Minister.

She attached letters in support of her complaint about the programme's overall

approach from a number of people who had known Sir Robert over the years.

In its response, TV3 repeated the arguments advanced for declining to uphold the

complaint. With regard to the question about the motive for Sir Robert's pugnacious

style, TV3 said that its research disproved the reason advanced by Sir Robert that it

had resulted from bullying at school. It questioned when precisely Sir Robert learnt of

the cause of his father's death but added the circumstances surrounding the young

Robert Muldoon - "a father progressively deteriorating in a mental asylum" - would

have had a profound effect on him. TV3 added:

One does not need to be an amateur psychologist to see that his father's illness

would have had a profound effect, even if he did not know about the 'syphilis',

and as the shy, sensitive, lonely child of a proper and dominant mother, it is

unlikely he was told.


The letter reiterated the arguments advanced for rejecting the standards G4, G6 and

G14 complaints.


Questioning either the credibility or the impartiality of the letters supplied by Dame

Thea about Sir Robert and describing the transcript sent of an interview with a

political scientist as "considered", TV3 stated that the programmes were based on

tapes of interviews with 43 people who had known Sir Robert at various times during

his life or who had worked for him. It also attached unsolicited letters from two of Sir

Robert's political colleagues who had praised the programme for its integrity.

In her final comment to the Authority, Dame Thea maintained that there was no basis

for the psychological justification now advanced by TV3 and she repeated her other

specific criticisms. She enclosed a copy of the death certificate which recorded that Sir

Robert's father had died from syphilis and wrote:

There is nothing in anything Sir Robert ever said or wrote which justified use of

the death certificate. I ask the Authority to watch carefully the opening few

minutes of the programme which shows the real purpose for use of the

certificate.


The Authority later received letters from three of Sir Robert's former secretaries who

worked for him while he was Prime Minister. They denied any knowledge of sexual

indiscretions on his part.

The Authority's Ruling

Taking into account the range of favourable and unfavourable comments about Sir

Robert made by the interviewees in the programme, and noting specifically the

extensive praise bestowed on him from a variety of observers with regard to the earlier

part of his political career, the Authority decided that the programme – and the first

broadcast in particular – had presented for the most part, a well-balanced account of

Sir Robert's career.


However, and despite that general finding, the Authority also concluded that Dame

Thea's complaint was justified on two specific points.

Standard G4 requires that people referred to be dealt with justly and fairly and

standard G6 requires balance, fairness and impartiality. In view of the applicability of

standard G6 to "questions of a controversial nature", the Authority decided that the

complaint should also be primarily assessed under that standard. In addition, and

drawing an analogy with the legal principles which apply to defamation, the Authority

questions whether standard G4 applies to the dead. As the Authority considered that

the relevant complaint was, on this occasion, properly addressed under standard G6, it

was not required to reach a final decision on this point.

The initial complaint stated that the broadcast had advanced the thesis that Sir

Robert's father's death from syphilis had had a fundamental effect on him and his

style. That complaint had also maintained that Sir Robert did not become aware of the

cause of his father's death until after he became Prime Minister. In response, TV3 has

suggested that Sir Robert might well have been aware of that information earlier but

argued nevertheless that Sir Robert's father's death after 20 years in a psychiatric

hospital would have had an impact on the young Robert Muldoon.

In dealing with this aspect of the complaint, the Authority decided that the

programme reported that Sir Robert had been influenced by his family circumstances

generally and implied, in addition, that the cause of his father's death had been an

important factor in the development of his personality. That was apparent from the

programme's reference, noted in the complaint, to Sir Robert's "dark secret" which

was "the reason for the anger which was to shock New Zealand".

On this aspect of the complaint, the Authority concluded that the implication that the

cause of his father's death had a fundamental impact on Sir Robert – advanced, as it

was, without substantiation or discussion as to its credibility – meant that the

programme in dealing with this matter was not balanced as required by standard G6.

The Authority decided that although it was acceptable to raise the issue in an attempt

to explain the motivation for Sir Robert's political behaviour, the obligation for balance

meant that it should have been put explicitly to those who could have been expected

to comment on the matter.

The second specific aspect of the complaint considered by the Authority was that the

programme was not balanced in its innuendos about Sir Robert's sexual indiscretions.

Two specific women were referred to. The first, Helen Eisenhofer, was shown

denying the allegations. Because the allegations were put to the person allegedly

involved, the Authority believed that aspect of the programme complied with the

standards. The situation was different with the other event referred to, however,

when Sir Robert Jones talked about an incident involving Sir Robert Muldoon and his

(Sir Robert Jones') sister. The commentary recorded that the sister remembered the

incident differently from Sir Robert Jones.

While it could be argued that standard G6 had been breached by acknowledging, but

not reporting, a different account, the Authority noted that the incident was reported

by a person who had been present and it considered that reporting a first hand account

from a witness to the incident did not involve a breach of standard G6.

One point which the Authority considered under standard G4 – dealing with people

referred to justly and fairly – was Dame Thea's contention that the programme implied

that she was relieved at her husband's death. TV3 replied that it had specifically

retained Dame Thea's remark about the problems of caring for long-term invalid

husbands to which the comment related.

Dame Thea's observation about long-term invalids was included towards the end of

the second broadcast and the Authority did not accept that the broadcast of her

comments at that stage contravened the standards.

However, Sir Robert's funeral was shown at the opening of the first broadcast and

possible mixed reactions to his death were suggested in conjunction with pictures of

well-known mourners. When Dame Thea was shown, the commentary recorded:

Some, including people close to him, are relieved.


As the explanation for the reasons for that relief were not given until near the end of

the second broadcast a week later, the Authority decided that the programme had been

unfair to Dame Thea. By implying without explanation at the outset of the

programme that she was relieved at her husband's death, the broadcast breached

standard G4.

Although the Authority upheld two aspects of the complaint about imbalance and

unfairness, it declined to uphold the following aspects under the nominated standards.

As a death certificate is a document available to any member of the public, the

Authority decided that the use by the broadcast of the death certificate did not breach

s.4(1)(c) of the Act requiring broadcasters not to invade an individual's privacy.

The aspect of the complaint about Dame Thea's reaction to her husband's death also

alleged that the standard G19 provision requiring care with editing had been

contravened. The Authority decided that standard G19 had not been contravened.

The reference in the commentary to Dame Thea's reaction at the beginning of the first

programme did not involve editing of the interview and, therefore, was not in breach.

The interview at the end of the second, where editing could be in issue, accurately

reported Dame Thea's relief that Sir Robert had not been an invalid for a long period.

Accordingly, the Authority did not uphold that aspect of the complaint.

As the dispute about the reasons given to obtain Dame Thea's and the family's

cooperation in the making of the broadcasts, claimed as a breach of standard G4, did

not involve broadcasting standards issues, the Authority decided that it was not able

to determine that aspect of the complaint. Nevertheless, the Authority should

mention that Dame Thea's dignified and sincere comments throughout provided a

most positive contribution to the programme. It reached a similar conclusion (that the

matter did not involve broadcasting standards) on the complaint about the programme

maker's alleged remarks to Sir Robert Jones that Dame Thea had given her permission

for the incident involving his sister to be reported.

Part of the complaint that the programme's thesis was built on Sir Robert's "dark

secret" included the allegation that "sinister" music and an "ugly" sculpture had been

used. These matters, the complainant argued, were part of the broadcaster's attempts

to bring Sir Robert into disrepute. This aspect of the complaint referred to standard

G4 but also could be seen as part of the complaint under standard G6 that the

programme overall was unbalanced.

In reaching its conclusion on these points, the Authority not only took into account

the specific matters upheld but also the item's tone.

In its view, the sculpture, while not flattering and indeed probably unpleasant to

family and friends was unlikely to be considered offensive by most viewers, and the

music, while initially seeming a shade melodramatic, later seemed acceptable in the

context of a sombre and serious story. When those matters were assessed against the

factual tone and manner of the commentary, the Authority concluded that neither the

script nor the music was inappropriate to the broadcasts. As noted, it decided that

despite the findings of specific breaches referred to above, the requirement for balance

overall in standard G6 had not been breached.

Finally, the complaint alleged that the standard requiring factual accuracy (G1) had

been breached by claims that Sir Robert was greatly affected by his father's death

from syphilis.

The Authority has expressed above its opinion that the item made too much of the

syphilis issue and, by doing so, was in breach of standard G6. The programme did not

explicitly draw the distinction (made by the broadcaster in the correspondence)

between the understandable effect on a child and young man of his father spending 20

years in a mental asylum and the effect of the specific cause of the father's illness.

However, the Authority has been unable to decide exactly when Sir Robert learnt of

the cause of his father's death and, accordingly, it considered that the issue was more

appropriately dealt with as a standard G6 matter rather than a standard G1 issue.

Consequently, it has subsumed the standard G1 complaint under standard G6. The

Authority concluded on this matter that the programme was unbalanced as the

argument about the extent of the impact on Sir Robert of the father's illness, 20 years

in a psychiatric hospital, and his possible knowledge about the specific cause of death,

were allowed to go unexplored and unchallenged.

In conclusion, the Authority repeats the point that apart from the breaches noted, it

believed the programme, overall, made a conscientious effort to present a balanced and

thoughtful view about a dominant and controversial figure in New Zealand's political

history.

 

For the reasons given above, the Authority upholds certain aspects of the

complaint that the broadcast of TV3 Networks Services Ltd of Muldoon: The

Grim Face of Power on 13 and 20 April 1994 breached standards G4 and G6 of

the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.


It declines to uphold any other aspect of the complaint


Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose an order under s.13 (1) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989.


In view of the its decision that only two aspects of the broadcasts breached the

standards in a programme which achieved balance overall, the Authority declined to

impose an order.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Iain Gallaway
Chairperson
17 November 1994


Appendix

Dame Thea and Gavin Muldoon's Complaint to TV3 Network Services Limited

- 11 May 1994

The solicitors for Dame Thea and Gavin Muldoon (Rudd Watts and Stone)

complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd about the Inside New Zealand programme,

Muldoon: The Grim Face of Power, broadcast in two parts from 8.30 - 9.30pm on

Wednesday 13 and 20 April 1994.

The letter began by describing the programme's theme:

The theme developed by the documentary was that Sir Robert was driven by

shame because of his father's death from syphilis. This is said to have led Sir

Robert to be consumed, and ultimately destroyed by power.

It stated that the broadcasts had breached s.4(1)(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 and

(renumbered) standards G1, G4, G6 and G19 of the Television Code of Broadcasting

Practice and listed the aspects of programme which had contravened the nominated

standards.

Section 4(1)(c) requires broadcasters to maintain standards consistent with the privacy

of the individual and, the solicitors wrote, had been breached by the disclosure that Sir

Robert Muldoon's father had had syphilis. That information had been private to Sir

Robert and his family.

Standard G1 requires that programmes be truthful and accurate on points of fact and,

the letter said, it had been transgressed when the programme asserted inaccurately that

Sir Robert had been greatly affected by his father's death from syphilis as he was

unaware of the cause of his father's death until' after he became prime minister.

Broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with people referred to under the

provisions of standard G4. The programme had not dealt with Sir Robert and his

family fairly when it alleged that his father's syphilis had a fundamental effect on him.

The complaint continued:

The programmes seem to have set out to disparage Sir Robert and link the

syphilis to what is depicted as an all-consuming need for power in later life.

The fundamental assertion is made early in the first programme that his

father's syphilis was Sir Robert's "dark secret" and "this was the reason for

the anger which was to shock New Zealand".

In addition, "sinister background music" and a "sculptor's ugly depiction of Sir

Robert" were used by the programme makers to develop their unsubstantiated theme.

Eight voice-over excerpts were listed as illustrations of the unjust and unfair treatment

and, the solicitors argued:

We consider that the total effect created by the programmes was quite

unacceptable and unfair, and hence in breach of Standard 4.

The complaint maintained that standard G4 had also been breached by the innuendos

about Sir Robert's infidelity while only two possible examples were specified and one

of the women with whom he was alleged to have had a liaison, Helen Eisenhofer, was

seen to deny any impropriety. As for the alleged incident involving Sir Robert Jones'

sister, while it was described by Sir Robert Jones, the programme suggested that his

sister did not remember the story in the same way. The programme neither included

an interview with Sir Robert Jones' sister nor explained why she did not appear but

left the viewers with an innuendo only.

Further, we understand that the documentary makers advised Sir Robert Jones

that Dame Thea had consented to disclosure of this supposed pool caper.

This was certainly not the case.

Another breach of standard G4 occurred when the programme makers obtained Dame

Thea's and the family's consent to the programmes on the basis that they would be

similar to the Magic Kiwis items rather than a concerted attempt to bring Sir Robert

into disrepute. The letter of complaint reported:

The documentary makers' behaviour is simply unacceptable. Had Dame Thea

been told the true story, she would never have consented to the interview.

In addition, Dame Thea had been treated unjustly and unfairly as the interview with

her had been heavily edited to create the impression that she was relieved that her

husband was dead. The comment had been intended to record her wish that Sir Robert

not be a long-term invalid.

Standard G6 requires impartiality and fairness and had been breached, the solicitors

stated, in the way the programme had dealt unfairly with the incident described by Sir

Robert Jones, with Sir Robert's Muldoon's alleged infidelity generally and "the

programme's flawed development of the theme that Sir Robert was affected by his

father's syphilis".

The requirement in standard G19 that editing does not distort the views expressed had

been breached, as noted, by the editing of Dame Thea's interview and by the editing of

the interviews given by some of her friends.

In conclusion, the letter described the programme as highly unacceptable and hurtful to

Dame Thea and her family.

TV3's Response to the Formal Complaint - 26 July 1944

TV3 advised the Muldoon family's solicitors of its Complaints Committee's decision

and explained that the delay in replying had been caused by the time it had taken to

discuss the complaint with the programme's producers.

In response to the complaint under s.4(1)(c) that the programme breached an

individual's privacy, TV3 advised that Sir Robert Muldoon's father's death certificate

was a public document. It continued:

Sir Robert Muldoon was one of the most public figures in New Zealand this

century. What he did and the reasons or motives behind those decisions are

now part of New Zealand history. Factors which, in the film-maker's view,

influenced these decisions are part of the historical picture regardless of

whether they might cause embarrassment to the family.

Dealing with the complaint about inaccuracy under standard G1, TV3 explained that it

had investigated Sir Robert's claim that his political style arose from his stature and

from being bullied at school. However,

In the investigation that took place we came to the view that there was no

evidence of bullying or that his size played any significant part in his

subsequent development. On the other hand, the circumstances in which his

father returned from the war including his gradual insanity would have had a

profound impact on the man.

The programme had not stated that Sir Robert had been greatly affected by his father's

death from syphilis but had dealt with the influence on the young Sir Robert which

included his father's illness caused by syphilis. The programme, TV3 continued, had

involved dismantling the legend that Sir Robert had created about his childhood and

had involved discarding a number of myths. Denying that the broadcasts breached

standard G1, TV3 recorded:

Nor is it accepted that Sir Robert was unaware of his father's syphilis until

after he became Prime Minister. There is some evidence that he knew prior to

that time.

TV3 also rejected the complaint that the programmes had been unfair or unjust in

contravention of standard G4. The voice-over excerpts listed, TV3 maintained, were

legitimate comments based on the film maker's research. Its archives contained

considerable research to justify the comments and the programme had included

"quotes at significant length" from people who had worked closely with Sir Robert

during the period covered.

With regard to the broadcast comment about Sir Robert's libido, TV3 argued:

In fact, the programme could have gone into much greater detail on this aspect

of Sir Robert's personality. Two examples of many possible examples were

given. Mrs Eisenhofer denied the allegations and it was left to the audience to

draw its own conclusions. Given the amount of detail we had on Sir Robert's

liaisons and sexual proclivities, we considered this aspect of the programme to

be relatively restrained.

It also rejected the complaint that Sir Robert Jones was advised that Dame Thea had

consented to the disclosure involving his sister.

Having checked with the people who worked for the programme maker, TV3 denied

that Dame Thea was advised that the programme would be a follow-up of the Magic

Kiwis series. One possible explanation of Dame Thea's confusion advanced, although

considered unlikely, was the point that the same presenter was involved in the earlier

series and the current programme.

On the basis that the reference to long-term invalid husbands was retained in the

broadcast, TV3 denied that the programme suggested that Dame Thea was relieved

that Sir Robert was dead. It added:

There was no concerted attempt to bring him into disrepute. The programme

arose from a year's research into Sir Robert and his life and background. It did

not start with any clear pre-conceived ideas.

Stating that the standard G6 aspect of the complaint had been dealt with, TV3

considered, and rejected, the complaint under standard G19. It began:

We simply note that no persons we interviewed, including Dame Thea's

friends, have expressed any concern to us over the editing process. Indeed we

have received no criticism of fact or of the stance taken by us from any person

in a position to know the truth about Sir Robert. On the other hand, there has

been a good deal of praise by politicians, political reporters and others for a

very impressive documentary dealing with very important issues.

TV3 acknowledged that Dame Thea and the family could have been hurt by some of

the material in the programmes but maintained it was correct. Furthermore, there had

been a number of positive statements about Sir Robert and, TV3 concluded:

For these reasons we consider the documentary to have been an important

analysis of one of the most influential figures in New Zealand's history. Sir

Robert was highly controversial, very public and adept at disguising those

parts of his life that he did not wish to be made public. In our view these areas

were as important as the public aspect of Sir Robert, as the man's personality

could not be understood without the full picture.

Dame Thea's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 16 August

1994

Dissatisfied with TV3's reply, Dame Thea Muldoon referred her complaint to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. In

the Complaint Referral Form, she wrote:

This complaint is of great personal importance to me, and I have personal

knowledge of many of the matters to which I have referred.

Referring first to the privacy complaint and the disclosure of the private fact about the

cause of Sir Robert's father's death, she accepted that the death certificate was a

public fact but argued:

... the details contained in it have now become private again, due to the lapse of

time since Sir Robert's father's death.

In its approach to the inaccuracy complaint, ie that the programme involved peeling

away the myth Sir Robert had created, TV3 had argued that the complaint should be

seen in context. However, Dame Thea pointed out, that was difficult for the viewer as

the programme had not explained that this was the basis of its approach.

Dame Thea maintained, with reference to the programmes, that it was claimed that Sir

Robert was greatly affected by his father's death from syphilis. However, despite

TV3's assertion without evidence to the contrary, she was quite satisfied that Sir

Robert did not know of the cause of his father's death until after he became prime

minister.

Dame Thea introduced her remarks about the standard G4 requirement that people be

treated justly and fairly with the following comment:

TV3 has suggested that the excerpts quoted at paragraph 9 of the complaint

letter are legitimate comments based on the research carried out by the film-

maker. However, I believe those excerpts are far from legitimate, nor are they

substantiated, and, combined with music and the bust of Sir Robert, created a

highly emotive, over-dramatic and unjustly skewed effect. I note that TV3 has

not referred to specific research that does justify those quoted comments and

the overall impact of the programmes.

Pointing out that she was quite satisfied that Sir Robert had no sexual indiscretions,

Dame Thea added:

TV3 suggests that the audience was left to draw its own conclusions, but I

believe that the programme left the viewer with the impression that Sir Robert

did have sexual liaisons outside our marriage.

She said that Sir Robert Jones had stated publicly that he had been tricked into taking

part in the programme and attached a newspaper report of his statement to that effect.

She also persisted with her comment that her co-operation had been sought on the

basis that the programme would be similar to the Magic Kiwis series. She also

maintained that the broadcasts suggested that she was relieved Sir Robert was dead.

For further evidence of the lack of fairness to Sir Robert, she referred to letters of

support she had received from various quarters. She said she had also received calls

from people interviewed who were distressed at the editing of their interviews and

referred to three specific letters she attached to the referral.

Attached to the Complaint Referral Form were letters in support of Dame Thea from

Hon Merv Wellington, Harry L Julian, Helen Eisenhofer, Sir Robert Jones and John

Tremewan. Also attached was a transcript of an interview on RNZ's Good Morning

New Zealand with Professor Margaret Clark in which she emphasised Sir Robert's

courtesy and kindness.

TV3's Response to the Authority - 26 August 1994

The Authority sought the broadcaster's response to the complaint and TV3, dealing

with the matters raised in the Complaint Referral Form, referred to Dame Thea's

argument that it was offensive to disclose the "now private fact" as to the cause of Sir

Robert's father's death. However, given Sir Robert's significant role in New Zealand,

TV3 argued it was important to appraise his career accurately.

With regard to the standard G1 requirement for accuracy, TV3 explained that one of

the principal matters explored in the documentary were the influences which had made

Sir Robert the man and politician that he was. Questions to his teachers and school

friends had shown that, contrary to Sir Robert's comments, he had not been bullied at

school and, as a result, it had been necessary for the programme makers to consider

other explanations about the origins of his political style. Maintaining that Dame

Thea's public comment differed as to whether or when she knew of the cause of Sir

Robert's father's death, TV3 insisted that Sir Robert must have been affected by the

circumstances surrounding his father's death because:

It is impossible for any child not to be affected by circumstances such as these.

One does not need to be an amateur psychologist to see that his father's illness

would have had a profound effect, even if he did not know about the

'syphilis', and as the shy, sensitive, lonely child of a proper and dominant

mother, it is unlikely he was told.

Instead, for the first eight years of his life, the young Muldoon grows up with

his father an invalid in his home. He is aware of unpredictable mood swings

and bouts of depression. Not knowing why his father was mentally and

physically degenerating would be just as disturbing, possibly more so, than

knowing the reason.

TV3 then discussed the references to standard G4. Arguing that nearly everyone who

was interviewed - with the exception of family and a few friends - agreed on the issues

of power, control and demagoguery, TV3 said it reported those views. It added:

Once again his family appears to be sadly ignorant of his political career.

Every one of the assertions made is borne out by massive and scrupulous

research. The people who make and support these observations are people

who were there at the time and they are for the most part people from his own

party. Particularly damning are the views of the party hierarchy, such as Sue

Wood and Barrie Leay. These people were there, and they knew.

Not one error of fact, TV3 observed, had been drawn to its attention.

Dealing next with "sexual indiscretions", TV3 contended that it had been "extremely

discrete", as it had been sensitive to Dame Thea's feelings, and had discussed only one

or two of a wider number of documented claims.

TV3 stated that neither Sir Robert Jones nor his sister had denied the story attributed

to him. It also continued to argue that Sir Robert had not been "tricked" into giving

the information.

TV3 continued to be unable to explain how Dame Thea had gained the impression that

the programmes would be another series of Magic Kiwis. It pointed out that any

mistaken impressions should have been cleared in the months during which the

production team had had considerable dealings with Dame Thea and her friends. TV3

denied that the broadcasts were slanted, adding that it had been accused of being both

too hard and too lenient on Sir Robert.

Maintaining that the broadcast did not suggest that Dame Thea was happy at Sir

Robert's death, TV3 questioned the impartiality of some of the supporters who wrote

the letters provided by Dame Thea. It acknowledged that lengthy interviews had been

conducted with two of those people and insisted that quotes reporting their strongly

positive comments had been carried. Indeed:

John Tremewan had the moving and revealing closing quote of the second and

final programme.

TV3 said that 43 people had been interviewed for about one hour each and background

interviews had been done with a further 12 and material from some had not been

included. TV3 recorded:

We talked to people who had known him at all stages of his life, from when he

was a small boy, as a young man, a young husband with a young family,

backbench MP to Prime Minister and then in his declining years. We talked to

and let talk on the programme his friends and admirers, his family (who were

asked some hard questions and their answers used), his political colleagues on

both sides of the House, civil servants and political and philosophical

opponents.

We found people whose opinions of him changed over time as the man himself

and the times around him changed - people like Hugh Templeton, Barrie Leay,

Gerry Symmans, Sue Wood, who recognised and gave him credit for talents

and strengths in his early career but watched with alarm and dismay as they

were negated and destroyed by the negative factors of his character and

personality.

In the end, we put all that we knew and had been told together and took from it

the predominant facts and themes. In the question of balance, four people who

claim something is right must carry less weight than 20 who say it is wrong.

All that can be done in the interests of fairness is for their opinion to be noted.

The programme makers were at pains to ensure that this was so. Everyone

had their say.

Balance had been achieved and, TV3 argued:

We simply set out to discover more about Robert Muldoon than anyone had

before, and took a year to do so. We were as surprised as anyone at how grim

the picture looked when we put it all together.

In regard to the alleged editing breaches, TV3 said the question about the alleged affair

was put to Helen Eisenhofer and her husband and their responses reported. TV3

disputed Sir Robert Jones' comment in his letter to Dame Thea that 95% of his

interview which had been positive about Sir Robert had not been used as was apparent

from the programmes' transcripts. The extracts broadcast from the many interviews

had not been used haphazardly but were shown to provide contrast and to produce a

programme which "we believe, was the most accurate and balanced portrait of the man

to date".

TV3 concluded:

We note, in closing that Dame Thea has requested to appear before the

Authority to give oral evidence. If this request is allowed, then we would of

course wish to be similarly present and given the right of reply.

Attached to TV3's comments were letters praising the programme as fair and balanced

from Barry Leay, Hugh Templeton, John Thorpe together with a positive review by

Tony Verdon printed in the NZ Herald.

Dame Thea's Final Comment to the Authority - 7 September 1994

When asked to comment on TV3's response, in a letter dated 7 September 1994 Dame

Thea dealt with a number of points. She began with two general comments.

First, she described TV3's reply as "very offensive" and listed a number of comments

which, she said, reflected its prejudice against Sir Robert and which had been evident

in the broadcast.

Secondly, she challenged TV3's use of assumptions - which were not disclosed in the

programme - which would have allowed the viewer to assess the accuracy of the

broadcasts.

Dealing with the specific matters included in the programme, Dame Thea maintained

that nothing justified the use of the death certificate. As for TV3's claim that Sir

Robert explained that his pugnacity arose from being bullied at school, Dame Thea

said that there was no evidence that Sir Robert had advanced that thesis. There was

no "myth", she wrote, for TV3 to disprove.

She recalled how she heard about the cause of Sir Robert's father's death and

consequently, disputed TV3's argument that the family had expressed varying degrees

of knowledge at different times.

She also questioned the accuracy of TV3's "psychological justification" for his style.

In addition, she reiterated her complaint that the broadcasts had focussed on those

who would denigrate Sir Robert and overlooked the many who would have taken the

opposing position. In response to the allegation about Sir Robert's sexual discretions,

she reported that three of his secretaries had denied to her that that had occurred.

Taking the entire broadcasts into account, she concluded, she maintained her complaint

that she had been reported inaccurately to the effect that she had been pleased with

her husband's death. She also said the programme was unbalanced, pointing to the

many thousands who supported her late husband. She noted that she did not wish to

appear before the Authority unless requested and she enclosed a copy of Sir Robert's

father's death certificate.

The Authority has also received letters in support of Dame Thea from Mr D.S.S.

Kerr, Mrs Margaret Mouat and Mrs Jenny Officer. The three had worked with Sir

Robert as secretaries and each denied any awareness of sexual liaisons on his part.