News bulletins on stations broadcast in the Southland area. Omission of broadcasting local news about Jeff Wilson – omission to broadcast local news items – inadequate coverage of local news – Principle 6, guideline (d) cited
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
Brent Procter complained that local news bulletins on 22 May and 23 May 2000 on stations broadcast in the Southland area by The Radio Network Ltd (TRN) had failed to cover adequately the announcement that Jeff Wilson had decided to stand down from rugby. He considered that the matter was of "overwhelming local importance", and that by "ignoring the most obvious local aspects of the Wilson story", the integrity of news and current affairs had not been maintained.
Mr Procter also complained about the inadequacy of coverage of several local news items on 29 and 30 May 2000, which he believed constituted further failures by TRN to maintain the integrity of news and current affairs. Mr Procter considered that reports about Southland Building Society’s financial results, the Southern Sting netball team and the Riverton Coastguard had been reported inadequately. He also contended that two locally relevant police stories had not been covered.
TRN responded that broadcasting standards were not breached. In relation to the Jeff Wilson story and the other broadcast items complained about, it maintained that the stories had been adequately covered, and did not consider that any broadcasting standards had been breached by the coverage. In relation to the items which Mr Procter maintained were not broadcast, TRN made no comment, as it considered no broadcasting standards issues were raised.
Dissatisfied with TRN’s responses, Mr Procter referred the complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below the Authority declines to determine the complaints.
The members of the Authority have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendices. In relation to each of the items broadcast, with the exception of items relating to Jeff Wilson, the Authority has also read transcripts. On this occasion, the Authority considers the complaints without a formal hearing.
Brent Procter complained that local news bulletins in the Southland area on stations broadcast by TRN had neglected to provide adequate coverage of:
The complaint about the Jeff Wilson story was made in relation to broadcasts on 22 and 23 May 2000. The other complaints were about broadcasts on 29 and 30 May 2000.
Mr Procter also complained that TRN’s Southland stations had neglected to cover two locally relevant police items during the period of 29 and 30 May 2000.
Mr Procter contended that in providing inadequate coverage of local events, TRN had breached Principle 6, Guideline 6d of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which reads:
In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.
6d Broadcasters shall ensure that the editorial independence and integrity of news and current affairs is maintained.
Mr Procter claimed that the Jeff Wilson story was of "overwhelming local importance", and that TRN had ignored "the most obvious local aspects of the Wilson story". In relation to the stories broadcast about other local items which Mr Procter considered inadequate, he contended that:
In its response to the complaint about the Jeff Wilson Story, TRN advised Mr Procter that it had researched its coverage of the story, and set out details of that coverage. It advised that it did not consider that Principle 6, Guideline 6d or any other principle of the Radio Code had been breached.
In its response to the complaint about other local news coverage, TRN provided a summary of the items which had been broadcast, and concluded again that it did not consider that Principle 6, Guideline 6d or any other principle of the Radio Code had been breached. In relation to the police stories, TRN commented that it:
could make no judgment on broadcasting standards for items not broadcast.
When Mr Procter referred his complaints to the Authority, he said that the Jeff Wilson story had been limited to network coverage, and that there had been no separate local news coverage in relation to the story. Mr Procter was also dissatisfied with TRN’s response in relation to his complaint about news coverage on 29 and 30 May 2000. He repeated his contention that Principle 6, Guideline 6d had been breached in relation to the items, which he maintained had been inadequately covered.
In TRN’s responses to the referrals, it stood by its replies to the complaints. It also referred to its response to the referral of Mr Procter’s earlier complaints to the Authority (Decision Nos: 2000-070/071), in which the Authority commented that "[i]n the end, The Radio Network has editorial control over what it chooses to place in its news bulletins."
In Mr Procter’s final comment in relation to the Jeff Wilson story, Mr Procter wrote that he found it:
overwhelmingly significant [that TRN] does not dispute the distinction I draw between local and network news.
No final comment was received from Mr Procter in relation to his complaint about local news coverage on 29 and 30 May.
The Authority considers that this complaint raised no matters of broadcasting standards. Mr Procter’s complaint evidenced neither a lack of truth and accuracy in news, nor a failure by TRN to ensure that the editorial independence and integrity of its news and current affairs was maintained. In relation to the items broadcast, Mr Procter’s complaints raised issues of house-style and content which, in the Authority’s view, are matters for the editorial judgement of TRN. As to the items not broadcast, the Authority refers to its Decisions Nos: 2000-068 and 2000-070, 2000-071, in which it found complaints about items not broadcast raised no issue of broadcasting standards. The Authority records that it considers Mr Procter’s complaints both trivial and vexatious. Accordingly, having considered all the circumstances, it declines to determine the matter under s.11(a) of the Broadcasting Act.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to determine the complaint under s.11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
The Authority may award costs against the complainant under s.16(1) and (2) where, in its opinion, a complaint is frivolous or vexatious or one which ought not to have been made. The Authority observes that the complainant has put both the broadcaster and the Authority to considerable expense in dealing with a complaint which, in the Authority’s view was vexatious and ought not to have been made. The Authority hereby brings the matter of its power to impose costs to the complainant’s attention. It may well use that power should it receive a vexatious complaint from him in future.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
3 August 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined these complaints:
Jeff Wilson Complaint
1. Brent Procter’s Formal Complaint to The Radio Network – 23 May 2000
2. TRN’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 25 May 2000
3. Mr Procter’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 29 May 2000
4. TRN’s Response to the Authority – 14 June 2000
5. Mr Procter’s Final Comment – 19 June 2000
Local news complaint
1. Brent Procter’s Formal Complaint to The Radio Network – 30 May 2000
2. TRN’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 1 June 2000
3. Mr Procter’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 10 June 2000
4. TRN’s Response to the Authority – 14 June 2000