Morning Report – British newspaper reviews – left wing bias – unbalanced
No issues of broadcasting standards raised – decline to determine under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
During Morning Report broadcast daily on weekdays between 6.00–9.00am on National Radio, some selected overseas newspapers are reviewed. During the period 4 to 28 July 2000, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Times were reviewed.
Mr G C C Meikle complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that its coverage of the British dailies lacked balance. He noted that considerably more reference had been given to The Guardian than to either The Daily Telegraph or The Times. In his view there was no justification for the bias he believed was demonstrated in favour of The Guardian.
RNZ failed to respond to Mr Meikle’s letter, so he referred the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. In its response to the Authority, RNZ noted that Mr Meikle had not specified which broadcasts his complaint related to, and it therefore did not provide tapes as requested by the Authority. It explained that the complaint had not been assessed as invoking any broadcasting standards and therefore no further action was taken.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
The members of the Authority have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority adjudicates on the complaint without holding a formal hearing.
Overseas newspapers, including some British dailies, are reviewed in a segment of Morning Report broadcast on National Radio between 6.00–9.00am on weekdays.
Mr G C C Meikle complained to RNZ that its selection of dailies was unbalanced. He noted that in the period between 4 and 28 July 2000, considerably more reference had been made to The Guardian than either The Daily Telegraph or The Times. He suggested that as there were at least five quality national dailies in the UK, there was no justification for the "bias" in favour of The Guardian.
As he did not receive a response from RNZ within the statutory time limit, Mr Meikle referred the complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
The Authority sought a response from RNZ. First, RNZ noted, the complainant had not nominated specific dates to which his complaint referred. Secondly, it advised that it was its understanding from previous decisions of the Authority that broadcasting standards cannot be applied to material which is not broadcast. Third, it argued, the choice of what was broadcast was a matter of editorial policy rather than the application of standards. RNZ explained that the reason the complainant had not received a response to his original letter was that it had been assessed as not invoking the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
Mr Meikle responded to RNZ’s letter by noting that he had nominated specific dates relating to broadcasts on Morning Report. He said he did not understand RNZ’s reference to material not broadcast, noting that he had complained about particular broadcasts. To RNZ’s argument that its choice of what was broadcast was a matter of editorial policy, Mr Meikle argued that RNZ was required to maintain balance in its programmes. Over the period in question, he argued, left wing dailies had been favoured. In his view, his original letter met the requirements of the Radio Code and he noted that not only would he have appreciated a reply, but he considered he was entitled to one.
It is the Authority’s view that RNZ’s decision as to which overseas newspapers are reviewed is a matter for its editorial discretion. As the complainant has not identified any examples of matters reported which demonstrated bias or lack of balance, the Authority is satisfied that the complaint raises no broadcasting standards issues.
Accordingly, under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority declines to determine the complaint in all the circumstances.
For the reasons given, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
6 November 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. G C C Meikle’s Complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd – 28 July 2000
2. Mr Meikle’s Referral of the Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority –
30 August 2000
3. RNZ’s Response to the Authority – 11 September 2000
4. Mr Meikle’s Final Comment – 25 September 2000