Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Te Kaea – item on 26 May reported that Ngati Porou was preparing to implement Foreshore and Seabed Deed of Agreement – allegedly unbalanced
Te Kaea – follow-up item on 10 July stated that three sub-tribes opposed the agreement – included comment from representatives of tribes – allegedly unbalanced and inaccurate
26 May item
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – brief news item on Ngati Porou signing the Deed and what would happen next – indicated that it would be a challenge to gain support of all relevant parties – not necessary to mention groups that did not consider themselves Ngati Porou – not upheld
10 July item
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – information piece about opposition to foreshore and seabed agreement – not upheld
Standard 5 (accuracy) – item inaccurate in stating complainants were “sub-tribes” – correction broadcast was also inaccurate as referred to Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti as “Te Aitanga a Mahaki” – Māori TV broadcast another correction – action taken sufficient – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
26 May item
 An item on Te Kaea, broadcast on Māori TV at 7.30pm and 11pm on Tuesday 26 May 2009, reported that Ngati Porou had concluded negotiations with the Crown over its foreshore and seabed claim, and a subcommittee would now assist hapu to decide on an appropriate structure for management matters relating to their Foreshore and Seabed Deed of Agreement.
 The reporter said the first task for the subcommittee was to consult with individual coastal communities, because, while the negotiations were completed at the tribal level, the instruments contained in it had to be exercised at the sub-tribal level.
 Dr Apirana Mahuika of Ngati Porou was shown commenting that “Most Ngati Porou objected to the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed legislation because the government shouldn’t have the right to take ownership of their coastal waters.”
10 July item
 In a follow-up item, broadcast on Māori TV at 7.30pm and 11pm on Friday 10 July 2009, it was reported that, while most of the Ngati Porou sub-tribes on the East Coast had agreed to the Foreshore and Seabed agreement with the Crown, three remained in opposition.
 Tamati Reid of Ruawaipu was shown commenting that, “We don’t approve of the agreement between Ngati Porou and the Crown because it disregards the genealogy of Ruawaipu.” The reporter stated, “Ruawaipu does not descend from Porourangi but from an earlier generation. Because of that, Ruawaipu’s descendants will never agree for an outsider to be their ruler.” Mr Reid said that Ruawaipu did not “believe the Runanga o Ngati Porou should have control over Ruawaipu matters”.
 The reporter stated that Ngati Uepohatu felt the same way. Sue Nikora of Ngati Uepohatu was shown saying, “We don’t agree that the Runanga o Ngati Porou should hold the mana of our ancestor”. The reporter noted that “their descent reaches back into Māori mythology, and not from a recent formation like the runanga”.
 After the item, the Te Kaea presenter said, “Te Kaea tried to contact Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti for comment but we were unable to reach their spokesman.”
 Through a lawyer, and on behalf of members of Uepohatu and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Tamati Reid of Ruawaipu made a formal complaint to Māori Television, the broadcaster, alleging that the 26 May item was unbalanced.
 Mr Reid maintained that, because the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 was “possibly the most controversial act of Parliament in recent years”, the implementation of the Deed was an issue of public importance. He considered it would have consequences for present and future generations of East Coast tribes, as well as New Zealand in general.
 Mr Reid argued that the broadcaster had not made reasonable efforts to present significant points of view. He considered that the items were biased in favour of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou, because there had been longstanding opposition to the Crown’s negotiation with Ngati Porou concerning the foreshore and seabed and these opposing views were not presented. Mr Reid noted that Uepohatu, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ruawaipu had lodged urgent applications with the Waitangi Tribunal in 2008 alleging that the substance and procedure of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 and the Ngati Porou Deed breached the Treaty of Waitangi. He also contended that Ngati Porou had no mandate to negotiate on behalf of Uepohatu, Te Aitangi-a-Hauiti and Ruawaipu as they were descended from other ancestors and their hapu were not hapu of Ngati Porou. Despite their objections, there had never been a hapu vote on the ratification of the Deed, and they were unwilling to give up their customary rights as required by the Deed.
 Mr Reid maintained that the views of opposing tribes such as themselves had not been sought for the items, which created the misleading impression that the Deed was generally accepted and represented all East Coast traditional tribes. He requested that Māori TV produce another item that favourably depicted their positions on the Deed and the Foreshore and Seabed Act.
 Standard 4 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice which was in force until 30 June 2009 is relevant to the determination of the complaint about the 26 May item. Standard 4 of that Code provides:
Standard 4 Balance
In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
 Standards 4 and 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice which came into force on 1 July 2009 are relevant to the determination of the complaint about the 10 July item. They provide:
Standard 4 Controversial Issues – Viewpoints
When discussing controversial issues of public importance in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
Standard 5 Accuracy
Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:
- is accurate in relation to all material points of fact and/or
- does not mislead.
 Māori TV maintained that it had not deliberately breached Standard 4. It noted that the reporter who had run the story had since left Māori TV, so it was unable to ascertain whether he was aware of the opposition to the Deed or whether he tried to contact Mr Reid.
 However, Māori TV stated that it was willing to present the complainant’s views in a similar story on Te Kaea and that it would ask Mr Reid who would be the best people to represent the views of the tribes.
 After the follow-up item on 10 July, Mr Reid lodged another formal complaint with Māori TV. He noted that Māori TV had agreed to broadcast the second item following their complaint about the 26 May item. However, he considered that the 10 July item did not adequately remedy the concerns of Uepohatu, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ruawaipu.
 Mr Reid argued that the item did not present the views of Uepohatu, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ruawaipu that they were traditional tribes and not part of Ngati Porou, or that they had not agreed to the Ngati Porou Deed, and had opposed the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Instead, the item described the tribes as hapu of Ngati Porou, which they considered was “a reiteration of the Ngati Porou claims that deny our... tribal origins”. Mr Reid argued that this did not remedy the 26 May item but “entrenched the harm it caused”. He maintained that the item contained no mention of how their origins affected their views on the Ngati Porou Deed or the foreshore and seabed.
 Mr Reid contended that the images included in the item of the signing of the Deed “further emphasised the asserted supremacy of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou, rather than presenting our... views”. He argued that the tribes were “back-handedly portrayed as an ungrateful minority that are unjustifiably and chronically disgruntled”.
 The complainant argued that the two brief comments included, which were intended to present their views did not expand on the issues involved. He noted that he and the other interviewee were questioned in English, which made it difficult and awkward to respond in te reo Māori, and in turn affected how they were presented in the broadcast.
 Mr Reid concluded that the 10 July item had not rectified the 26 May item and asked whether the broadcaster would be willing to broadcast another item to present their viewpoints.
 Māori TV accepted that it was inaccurate to describe the complainants as hapu in the item rather than iwi, and said that it was due to an administrative error. The broadcaster said it would broadcast a correction stating that the complainants considered themselves independent iwi.
 The broadcaster did not uphold the complaint that the second item was unbalanced. It said the purpose of that item was to present the viewpoints of Uepohatu, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ruawaipu.
 Dissatisfied with Māori TV’s response, Mr Reid referred the complaints about both items on behalf of Uepohatu, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ruawaipu to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He reiterated his concerns that both items were unbalanced in breach of Standard 4.
 Māori TV submitted that Mr Reid’s referral of the original complaint concerning the 26 May item was outside the statutory timeframe of 20 working days, because it had responded to the complaint on 29 June, and the referral was not made until 4 August. The broadcaster therefore considered that it should only address the complaint about the 10 July item.
 With regard to accuracy, Māori TV noted that it had already conceded that the 10 July item was inaccurate in stating that the complainants were hapu, not iwi. It said it was willing to broadcast a correction to address this inaccuracy.
 Māori TV argued that the complainants were not referred to in the first item of 26 May; the item only stated that hapu were the subject of negotiations to take part between Ngati Porou and its sub-tribes. It said that, since the complainants considered themselves iwi, the classification of hapu automatically excluded them and therefore there should be no issue with the accuracy of the first item.
 Turning to balance, Māori TV stated that it considered that the item had discussed a controversial issue of public importance, and that its willingness to produce the second item was evidence that it took the complainant’s concerns about balance seriously. The second item was intended to present the complainant’s viewpoint, it said. A reasonable opportunity was given to the relevant individuals to present their views. Although one was unable to be interviewed, Māori TV noted that the Te Kaea news reader acknowledged this after the second item. Māori TV concluded that it had satisfied its obligations under the balance standard by screening the second item one-and-a-half months after the first, within the period of current interest.
 Mr Reid considered that he should not be penalised for waiting until after the 10 July item – which was intended to remedy the 26 May item – until he referred the complaints to the Authority.
 On the issue of balance, the complainant maintained that both items discussed a “continuing and profound controversy over the Ngati Porou settlement”. He said the controversy stemmed from the controversial confiscation of the foreshore and seabed and the limitation of Māori customary rights under the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, and the fact that Te Runanga o Ngati Porou had “wrongfully negotiated and manipulated the ratification of the Agreement”.
 The complainant argued that the follow-up item did not address the controversy or present the views of those opposed to the Ngati Porou settlement. He noted that the item again referred to the traditional tribes as “sub-tribes” or hapu of Ngati Porou, which he found “deeply offensive”. Mr Reid considered that Māori TV had not taken any steps to correct its reference to the traditional tribes as hapu.
 Further, Mr Reid argued that the 10 July item created the impression that the resistance to the settlement was “merely based on superficial issues of tribal identity”. This was not the case, he said, and if the item had been properly produced it would have presented the view that hapu were giving up customary rights in exchange for statutory rights that already existed. He also considered that by showing archival footage of Ngati Porou the second item exacerbated the initial breach rather than presenting the opposing point of view.
 Mr Reid maintained that the controversy surrounding the Ngati Porou Agreement continued because a Ministerial Foreshore and Seabed Review Panel had ruled that the Foreshore and Seabed Act should be repealed.
 Māori TV stated that it had broadcast a correction on Friday 18 September 2009. It supplied a DVD copy of the item to the Authority. The item said:
On 26 May 2009, Māori Television broadcast a story about the controversy between the tribes of Ruawaipu, Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Uepohatu on one side, and Ngati Porou on the other. Māori Television wishes to make it clear that Ruawaipu, Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Uepohatu see themselves as standalone tribes and not as sub-tribes of Ngati Porou. Māori Television apologises for this error.
 The complainant considered that the correction did not resolve the matter, because it referred to Te Aitanga a Mahaki instead of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. Further, it addressed only the issue of the improper statement of identity and not other aspects of the objection to the Ngati Porou foreshore and seabed settlement agreement as outlined in the complaint and subsequent comments from the complainant.
 Mr Reid also considered that the “retraction” was relatively ineffective four months after the original broadcast.
 Māori TV reiterated its view that the complaint about the 26 May item was outside the statutory time limit and should not be accepted.
 The broadcaster maintained that the 10 July item presented viewpoints to balance the 26 May item, noting that it had always considered issues related to the Foreshore and Seabed Act to be controversial. It considered that, even though Ruawaipu, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Uepohatu were misdescribed, the item still conveyed that there was controversy surrounding the signing of the Deed.
 With regard to accuracy, Māori TV contended that in some cases hapu could mean stand alone tribe, though it was more commonly translated as sub-tribe. It also noted that in a court case involving Mr Reid, the judge had said that “the plaintiffs claim to be members of various Ngati Porou hapu”.
 The broadcaster acknowledged that the 10 July item was inaccurate in its reference to hapu instead of iwi, and emphasised that its genuine intention was to remedy that error. It noted that a correction and apology had been broadcast on 18 September.
 Māori TV provided a statement from its head of news and current affairs, explaining the administrative error that led to the complainants being misdescribed in the 10 July item. He maintained that it was not the reporter’s fault but an error by the presenter or a producer.
 The Authority alerted Māori TV to the reference in the correction to Te Aitanga a Mahaki instead of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. Māori TV responded that it was a typographical error, that its intent was still to correct the original error, and that it would broadcast another statement and apology.
 Māori TV broadcast another correction on Te Kaea on Saturday 3 October 2009. It said:
On 26 May 2009, Māori Television broadcast a story about the controversy between the tribes of Ruawaipu, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Uepohatu on the one side, and Ngati Porou on the other. Māori Television wishes to make it clear that Ruawaipu, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Uepohatu see themselves as standalone tribes and not as sub-tribes of Ngati Porou. Māori Television also wishes to convey its apologies for this error.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcasts complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 Māori TV argued that the complaint to the Authority regarding the 26 May item was outside the statutory time limit and therefore should not be accepted. In the Authority’s view, the email that the complainant received from Māori TV on 29 June was not a formal decision on Mr Reid’s complaint of 12 June. Māori TV did not make a decision on the complaint, and it did not inform Mr Reid of his right to refer the complaint to the Authority.
 In these circumstances, the Authority considers that Mr Reid’s referral in relation to the 26 May item was valid, because he did not receive a formal response to his complaint.
 Māori TV accepted that the 10 July item was inaccurate as it referred to Ruawaipu, Uepohatu and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti as “sub-tribes” and hapu rather than iwi. The Authority accepts Māori TV’s decision. It notes that Māori TV broadcast a correction and apology on 18 September 2009. However, the statement broadcast referred to Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti as “Te Aitanga a Mahaki”, which was incorrect. Māori TV broadcast a further statement and apology on Saturday 3 October correcting the original item, and this correctly referred to Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti.
 In these circumstances, the Authority finds that the action now taken by Māori TV was sufficient and appropriate and it does not uphold the Standard 5 complaint.
26 May item
 Standard 4 requires broadcasters to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
 In the Authority’s view, the 26 May item simply reported the fact that Ngati Porou had signed the Deed, and the steps that would now be taken. Although the reporter indicated that it may be a challenge to gain the support of all the relevant parties, the item did not purport to be a discussion about the views of those groups, or about whether Ngati Porou should have signed the Deed without their agreement. Because the item was a short news update rather than a “discussion” which required the presentation of alternative views on a controversial issue, the Authority finds that Standard 4 did not apply.
 The Authority therefore declines to uphold the complaint that the 26 May item was unbalanced.
10 July item
 The Authority is of the view that the 10 July item was an information piece explaining that there was opposition to Ngati Porou signing the Foreshore and Seabed Deed of Agreement. Even if this did amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance, the Authority considers that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to present the views of Ruawaipu, Uepohatu and Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. The item included comments from Mr Reid of Ruawaipu and from Sue Nikora of Ngati Uepohatu, and Māori TV had also attempted to contact a representative from Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. The item clearly explained that those groups opposed the signing of the Deed, and that they considered themselves to be separate from Ngati Porou.
 In these circumstances, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the 10 July item breached Standard 4.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
20 October 2009
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Tamati Reid’s formal complaint about 26 May item – 12 June 2009
2. Māori TV’s response re: 26 May item – 29 June 2009
3. Further correspondence between Māori TV and complainants – 3 July and 6 July 2009
4. Mr Reid’s formal complaint about 10 July item – 16 July 2009
5. Māori TV’s response re: 10 July item – 31 July 2009
6. Mr Reid’s referral to the Authority – 4 August 2009
7. Māori TV’s response to the Authority – 31 August 2009
8. Complainant’s final comment – 15 September 2009
9. Māori TV’s response – 21 September 2009
10. Complainant’s response – 22 September 2009
11. Māori TV’s final comment – 22 September 2009
12. Further comments from Māori TV – 24 September 2009
13. Further comments from Māori TV – 5 October 2009