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Broughton and Rikys and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2009-104

Dated

21st December 2009

Number

2009-104

Programme

Breakfast

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaints under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Breakfast – host interviewed Professor of Māori history about 21 hui selecting a ‘Māori’ flag to be flown on Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day – both host and interviewee commented that the process was a waste of time and money – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, law and order, controversial issues, accuracy, fairness, discrimination and denigration, and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints) – item discussed controversial issue of public importance – One News item the previous evening presented alternative viewpoints which provided balance – not upheld

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) – comments reinforced negative stereotypes but did not reach threshold necessary for encouraging denigration – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – comments about Tino Rangatiratanga flag being one of division were clearly the host’s opinion – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – fairness to Māori dealt with under Standard 7 – no unfair inference could be drawn from brief comment about Pita Sharples – not upheld

Standard 1 (good taste and decency) – content acceptable within unclassified current affairs programme – not upheld

Standard 2 (law and order) – programme did not encourage or condone criminal activity – not upheld

Standard 8 (responsible programming) – does not apply to unclassified programmes – programme would not have alarmed or distressed viewers, or deceived or disadvantaged them – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   During Breakfast, broadcast on TV One between 6.30am and 9am on Wednesday 15 July 2009, host Paul Henry interviewed Dr Paul Moon, a Professor of Māori history from the Auckland University of Technology. They discussed the 21 hui being held to select a Māori flag to be flown on the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day.

[2]   The professor commented that he was surprised at the amount of energy being expended to choose a flag that “won’t represent much”, because it would not “represent a country. It won’t even represent an entire people so it’s a bit uncertain what it’s for.” He stated that he believed the Tino Rangatiratanga flag would be chosen, and the host asked whether that flag was “aspirational” and what it represented. The professor said, “It’s been argued that it might just be the wishes of some washed out radicals, that they’ve said, you know, we’ve got nothing left to fight for. Let’s go for a new cause, let’s get a flag,” and said that many people would subscribe to that view.

[3]   The host and the interviewee discussed how the process would consume “a fair bit of money and a fair bit of time” but would “achieve nothing at all” in practice, even though the Minister of Māori Affairs, Dr Pita Sharples, had described it as “a great moment” for New Zealand. The host questioned whether the people involved were “people with plenty of time to spend... and plenty of our money at their disposal.”

[4]   They then looked at the four choices of flag available. Commenting on the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, which both considered was the obvious choice, the host said it was “a flag of division [laughs]. I throw that in myself. That is my own prejudice perhaps creeping through.”

[5]   After briefly canvassing the other options, the host said, “so in summary, if you can summarise, we can be pretty sure that this is a waste of time. This is not going to solve anything other than the immediate issue of what flag you fly alongside the New Zealand flag on the Harbour Bridge.” The interviewee stated that “Pita Sharples is right in the sense that it needn’t be a cause of division, but you’re right, as far as practical things are concerned, it’s not likely to achieve much.” The host reiterated his view that the Tino Rangatiratanga flag was “a cause of division” and asked whether, if it was the flag chosen, it would be given more significance. The interviewee again stated that “it’s very hard to know how it gives any significance to anything because it doesn’t represent... a whole ethnic group. It doesn’t represent a country. We’re not sure what it really does represent.” The host responded, “Alright. So this is a colossal waste of money.”

[6]   At the conclusion of the interview, the host asked his co-host which flag she would choose. They had the following exchange:

Co-host:  I personally like the [Tino Rangatiratanga] flag just as a flag, as a design. I don’t
              see it as – you obviously imbue it with a great depth of meaning. Couldn’t you,
              having chosen that flag – let’s say they do – couldn’t you start to build a new
              meaning around it? A unified meaning?

Host:      Personally I couldn’t because clearly it’s built on division. It’s built on separatism,
              aspirations of separatism. So I couldn’t. I mean if you asked me to talk purely
              about the design of the flag, I can see that some people would look at it and
              say yes that’s a nice design.

[7]   Later in the programme the hosts read out and commented on feedback that had been sent in by viewers. During this segment, the host said:

Host:     “[Host’s name], stop Māori bashing. I am sick of it. Our flag means much more –
              it means as much as you Pakeha.”

     You don’t have a flag and that’s the whole issue... this is what the Māori Party are  
     trying to do, determine a flag under which Māori can fly. At the end of the day we 
     all have one flag. No one can argue with that. We have one flag.

     “These hui are a waste of time but it is a way of getting these people another free
     feed on the taxpayer. Wonder what they’d say if New Zealand Europeans decided
     they wanted a flag.”

Host:  “Come on New Zealand we are one country,”

    – a lot of people –

    “Māori need to stop segregating themselves,”

    – which is interesting –

    “I think [Prime Minister John Key] would think $50,000 was a good investment to 
    keep the Māori Party occupied for two weeks” [laughs].

    “When I see the Tino Rangatiratanga flag to me it represents a Māori swastika”

    – that’s what [viewer’s name] thinks.

Complaints

[8]   Boyd Broughton and Pita Rikys made formal complaints to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached broadcasting standards.

Boyd Broughton’s complaint

[9]   Mr Broughton argued that the programme breached standards relating to controversial issues, accuracy and discrimination and denigration. He considered that no opposing viewpoints were offered in the same programme, and there was no mention that they would be presented in an upcoming programme.

[10]   Mr Broughton considered that the host’s “demeanour was bordering on blatant racism, and clearly [discriminatory against] and denigrating to Māori – he openly admits offering his own prejudice”. The complainant noted that the host and the interviewee had used terms such as “washed up radicals” to describe Māori who contributed to the establishment of such institutions as “kohanga reo, kura kaupapa, wharekura and te w?nanga o Aotearoa”.

[11]   Further, Mr Broughton argued that the host had “laughingly” referred to the Tino Rangatiratanga flag as a flag of division, which was inaccurate as the flag was “established to recognise Māori sovereignty, not division or apartheid”. He accepted that the host was entitled to his opinion that “this is a waste of time”, but noted that the programme did not present an opposing viewpoint or offer a right of reply so the viewer was left with the host’s perspective only.

[12]   The complainant stated that it was “emotionally disturbing” to see a host in prime time viewing “being allowed to belittle” the Māori people of New Zealand so openly. He considered that TVNZ and the host should publicly apologise to him and to Māori people.

Pita Rikys’ complaint

[13]   Mr Rikys alleged that the programme breached standards relating to good taste and decency, law and order, controversial issues, accuracy, fairness and responsible programming, and particularly Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration).

Standards

[12]   The complainants nominated Standards 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in their complaints. These provide:

Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency

Broadcasters should observe standards of good taste and decency.

Standard 2 Law and Order

Broadcasters should observe standards consistent with the maintenance of law and order.

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.
Standard 6 Fairness

Broadcasters should deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Standard 7 Discrimination and Denigration

Broadcasters should not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.

Standard 8 Responsible Programming

Broadcasters should ensure programmes:

  • are appropriately classified;
  • display programme classification information;
  • adhere to timebands in accordance with Appendix 1;
  • are not presented in such a way as to cause panic, or unwarranted alarm or undue distress; and
  • do not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainants

Mr Broughton’s complaint

[15]   Looking at Standard 4, TVNZ acknowledged that the issue of which Māori flag should be flown on Waitangi Day was controversial, but it argued that it did not reach the threshold of being considered a matter of public importance as envisaged by the standard. It contrasted this with the issue of whether folic acid should be mandatory in New Zealand bread, which it considered was a controversial issue of public importance because it dealt with serious issues about the content of New Zealand’s food, and the potential health risks for the population associated with adding the supplement.

[16]   TVNZ acknowledged that the issue raised in the programme was important to some sections of society, but it disagreed that it was a controversial issue of public importance. It also noted that the other Breakfast host had offered a different perspective at the end of the interview. TVNZ therefore declined to uphold the Standard 4 complaint.

[17]   Turning to Standard 5 (accuracy), the broadcaster argued that the host’s references to the Tino Rangatiratanga flag as one of division were clearly his opinion and not presented as fact. It noted that the host acknowledged throughout the discussion that his comments were his “personal prejudice”. TVNZ maintained that viewers would have understood that they were his opinion, particularly given that the host was renowned for being opinionated.

[18]   TVNZ noted that the host’s reference to “washed out radicals” was to ask a question of the professor who had initially introduced the phrase. The professor said, “it’s been argued that it might just be the wishes of some washed out radicals,” which was followed up by the host asking, “Do you subscribe to that view? Washed out radicals?” TVNZ argued that it was a common interviewing technique to use phrases used by the interviewees, and that in this instance it was not the host’s view, “he was simply echoing to better understand [the professor’s] position”.

[19]   TVNZ concluded that the host’s comments were clearly presented as his opinion and were therefore acceptable under guideline 5a to the accuracy standard, which states:

The accuracy standard does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion.

[20]   With regard to Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration), TVNZ maintained that the host’s comments did not reach the threshold required to be discriminatory. It said that the comments were not intended to cause offence and were clearly the opinion of the presenter, to which he was entitled under this standard. TVNZ said:

...[the host] “did not belittle or demean Māori people. While [the host’s] personal perspective on the issue of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag was evident in the broadcast, this extended only to the issue of the flag, not to Māori people as a whole. As [the professor] recognises the Tino Rangatiratanga flag is not a flag that represents the entire Māori people. [TVNZ] does not consider that [the host’s] opinion on the specific issue of the flag would lead to widespread discrimination of the Māori people.

[21]   TVNZ concluded that the programme did not breach Standard 7.

Mr Rikys’ complaint

[22]   The broadcaster maintained that Standard 1 was primarily aimed at broadcasts containing sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language, none of which was present in the programme complained about. It argued that the segment was typical of the kind of “light-hearted banter” the host was renowned for and that was expected by the audience. Further, TVNZ considered it was clear that the host was giving his opinion, prefacing his comments by saying they were his “personal prejudice”, and his comments related to the Tino Rangatiratanga flag and not the Māori people. TVNZ concluded that the programme did not breach Standard 1 (good taste and decency).

[23]   Looking at Standard 2 (law and order), the broadcaster submitted that, to breach the standard, a broadcast had not only to implicitly condemn a particular law, but also promote disrespect for it. TVNZ was of the view that the programme did not glamorise crime or condone the actions of criminals, and declined to uphold the Standard 2 complaint.

[24]   For the reasons outlined in TVNZ’s response to Mr Broughton’s complaint (see paragraphs [15] to [19] above), the broadcaster declined to uphold Mr Rikys’ complaint under Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints) and Standard 5 (accuracy).

[25]   With regard to Standard 6 (fairness), the broadcaster argued that no person or organisation taking part in the broadcast was exploited, humiliated or unfairly identified. It considered that the complainant’s concerns in this regard were more appropriately dealt with under Standard 7, and declined to uphold the fairness complaint.

[26]   For the reasons outlined in TVNZ’s response to Mr Broughton (see paragraph [20]), TVNZ considered that the programme did not breach Standard 7.

[27]   Turning to Standard 8 (responsible programming), the broadcaster noted that Breakfast was an unclassified live news and entertainment programme. It considered that the content of the programme on 15 July 2009 was consistent with the expectations of both the timeband and the programme. TVNZ also maintained there was nothing in the programme that would have alarmed or distressed viewers such that it required a warning prior to broadcast. It declined to uphold the Standard 8 complaint.

Referrals to the Authority

[28]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Rikys and Mr Broughton referred their complaints to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Mr Broughton’s referral

[29]   Mr Broughton said he was “saddened and at a loss to understand” that TVNZ felt no obligation to apologise for “the poor light in which they broadcast nationally an ill-informed and biased opinion about Māori”. He maintained that the issue of the Māori flag was one of national importance. Mr Broughton argued that TVNZ had shown “no remorse or care for the potential to upset an entire ethnicity”.

Mr Rikys’ referral

[30]   Mr Rikys maintained that, even though the programme did not contain sexual material, nudity, violence or coarse language “it is nevertheless a question of ‘taste’ and ‘decency’” and therefore Standard 1 applied. He argued that the segment was not balanced or informed, that it mocked and belittled Māori, the flag selection and the outcome, and that therefore the segment consisted of “a form of cultural violence”. Mr Rikys considered that the majority of Māori viewers and a significant proportion of non-Māori viewers would have found it to be offensive and unacceptable. He noted that one viewer had provided feedback describing the segment as “Māori bashing”, and stated that likening the Tino Rangatiratanga flag to the swastika was “a deeply offensive comparison” and the comment should not have been aired. Mr Rikys maintained that the programme breached Standard 1.

[31]   Looking at the law and order standard, the complainant asserted that the programme had reinforced negative racial stereotypes held by groups such as white supremacists that had in the past been involved in criminal activity such as burning down marae. He argued that due to a “lack of informed balance in the programme it could be likely to reinforce extremist views and as a consequence criminal activity”.

[32]   With regard to Standard 4, Mr Rikys disagreed with TVNZ that the programme’s subject matter was limited to the issue of which Māori flag should fly on Waitangi Day. He considered the programme extended to discussions about whether the process was a waste of taxpayer funding, whether Māori had plenty of time and taxes to spend considering the matter, and whether the Tino Rangatiratanga flag was “divisive” or “aspirational”. No informative viewpoints were presented on these issues, he said, and Dr Pita Sharples’ views were touched on but not explained.

[33]   Mr Rikys considered that the overarching matter was the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi, which was “arguably the single most important and controversial issue facing New Zealand society”. He maintained that the programme raised “layers of controversial material” of great public importance which clearly triggered and breached Standard 4.

[35]   Turning to accuracy, the complainant argued that the coverage of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag was “biased, misleading, misinformed and inaccurate”, and in particular was not discussed from the Māori perspective. He said that for most Māori, the flag represented the Māori half of the Treaty of Waitangi and held great cultural, spiritual and symbolic importance. Mr Rikys maintained that the programme breached Standard 5.
The complainant considered that TVNZ had not dealt fairly with the position of Māori people particularly in relation to the Treaty and its constitutional context. Rather, he said, it reinforced negative racial stereotypes and denigrated the cultural and spiritual significance of the events discussed. Mr Rikys argued that it was also unfair to Dr Sharples to the extent that it did not provide an explanation of his quoted comments. He therefore maintained that Standard 6 (fairness) had been breached.

[36]   Mr Rikys contended that the broadcast denigrated Māori and actively encouraged discrimination against Māori by presenting the issue as a “waste of time” and a “colossal waste of money”, and a process that would achieve nothing of practical significance, “in fact, ‘nothing at all’”. He argued that the programme inferred that Māori were “lazy and dole bludgers (‘people with plenty of time and plenty of our taxes’) reinforcing a commonly held racial stereotype”, and failed to provide any informed Māori perspectives. Mr Rikys considered that the manner of presentation was “snide, sneering, mocking, belittling, deprecatory and totally offensive”, made worse by the host’s “obvious prejudice and ignorance of Māori issues and the Treaty”. Further, he argued that the references to “washed out radicals” belittled the role of Māori activism as an agent of social change. Mr Rikys concluded that TVNZ had flagrantly breached Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration).

[37]   Finally, in relation to Standard 8 (responsible programming), the complainant maintained that the broadcast “caused deep offence and distress” and that “tied to the lack of balance and provision of informed Māori and Treaty perspectives it can only be seen as a whole as dangerously irresponsible”. He accepted that the comments by the co-host and one by the professor “did go some way toward ameliorating some aspects of the impact of the broadcast but were on their own insufficient to change the predominant flavour, significant flaws and shortcomings and negative biases in the broadcast as a whole”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[38]   TVNZ provided no further comments in response to Mr Rikys’ submissions.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[39]   Mr Rikys submitted that an understanding of Tino Rangatiratanga was crucial to the determination of the complaint, particularly Māori thinking around the concept ranging from “absolute Māori Sovereignty at one extreme to Māori management of things Māori at the other”. This was reflected in the flag selection process, he said, and the increased acceptance of Māori participation in constitutional decision-making. He said the evolution of these issues towards a “power sharing constitution” in New Zealand had not received any media coverage, but might have come out of a more balanced and informed approach to the subject matter in the programme complained about.

Broadcaster’s Final Comment

[40]   TVNZ emphasised that the broadcast was a short item on the choice of flag for the Harbour Bridge and that the host was giving his opinion. It said it did not believe that the item insulted anyone. TVNZ argued that the points raised by Mr Rikys in his referral and final comment were either outside the scope of the original complaint, or did not raise issues of broadcasting standards.

Authority’s Request for Further Information from the Broadcaster

[41]   The Authority reached a preliminary determination that Breakfast discussed the controversial issue of whether the process of choosing a Māori flag to fly on the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day was a waste of time and money because, first, it was a foregone conclusion which flag would be chosen and, second, the chosen flag would not have any meaning. It also considered that the programme only presented one perspective on that issue – that the process was a waste of time and money for those reasons.

[42]   The Authority asked the broadcaster to provide copies of any other programmes that were broadcast within the period of current interest which presented the other perspective on that issue – that the process was worthwhile and that the chosen flag would be meaningful to Māori.

[43]   TVNZ provided the Authority with a list of programmes including Te Karere, One News and Marae, which it said dealt with the issue during the period of current interest, including a short description of each. It said it was confident that those programmes demonstrated that balance was achieved across TVNZ’s reporting on the issue, and that the programmes presented a wide range of viewpoints and perspectives during the period of current interest.

[44]   The Authority then asked TVNZ to provide copies of the programmes it thought best presented the perspective missing from the episode of Breakfast subject to complaint. TVNZ provided a selection of items, including a story that was broadcast on One News the night before Breakfast, on Tuesday 14 July 2009. That item included the following comments:

  • “Māori have flown hundreds of flags. Foreshore hikoi to Parliament shot one to prominence. Now they’re trying to work out if it’s the one that will unite them for good.” (reporter)
  • “And no, the people driving it don’t think it’s divisive.” (reporter)
  • “This is the trouble. People think when you’re pro something you’re anti something else. No way, we’re New Zealanders.” (Dr Pita Sharples)
  • “What is important is the opportunity’s now been given to Māori to make a decision themselves, collectively.” (Eru Thompson, Tainui Kaumatua)
  • “Before you say, it’s all cobblers and why should we care, some Pakeha do, and they feel strongly enough to hoist one of the flags...” (reporter).

Response from Complainant

[45]   Mr Broughton said that, while it appeared there was a host of opportunities to present opposing viewpoints, the scheduling and timing meant that they did not reach the same audience as Breakfast. He said, “Te Karere reaches a predominantly Māori audience as does Marae; there was no opposing viewpoint scheduled for the same timeslot on the same show to reach the same audience about which my complaint was made”.

Authority's Determination

[46]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about, as well as the other items provided by TVNZ, and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints)

[47]   Standard 4 requires broadcasters to make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in a programme.

[48]   On this occasion, the Authority considers that the programme discussed the issue of whether the process of choosing a Māori flag to fly on the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day was a waste of time and money because, first, it was a foregone conclusion which flag would be chosen and, second, the chosen flag would not have any meaning. The topic was clearly controversial and of public importance, and the host and the interviewee discussed it at some length. In these circumstances, the Authority is of the view that the item constituted a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance.

[49]   Further, the Authority finds that only one perspective was offered on that issue. Both the host and the interviewee offered the opinion that the flag chosen would not represent anything, and therefore the flag selection process was a waste of time and money. No opposing viewpoint, outlining why the process was worthwhile and meaningful to Māori, was presented to viewers.

[50]   However, Standard 4 allows for opposing viewpoints to be presented “within the period of current interest”. In the Authority’s view, the One News item provided by TVNZ which was broadcast the previous evening presented the flag selection as a positive process, and one which meant something to Māori as well as Pakeha. In particular, the Authority notes that one interviewee offered the opinion that, “What is important is the opportunity’s now been given to Māori to make a decision themselves, collectively” and the reporter said that the people driving the process did not think it was divisive.

[51]   Given that the One News item was broadcast in close proximity to Breakfast which screened the following morning, the Authority is satisfied that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts, within the period of current interest, to present significant perspectives on the issue discussed during Breakfast.

[52]   Accordingly, the Authority does not uphold the complaint that Breakfast breached Standard 4.

Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration)

[53]   Standard 7 protects against broadcasts which encourage denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. The term "denigration" has consistently been defined by the Authority as blackening the reputation of a class of people (see for example Mental Health Commission and CanWest RadioWorks1).

[54]   The Authority notes that during the interview, the host commented several times that the flag selection process was a waste of time and money, and said, “It will consume a fair bit of money and a fair bit of time but are we just talking about people with plenty of time to spend... and plenty of our money at their disposal?”. The interviewee responded to this, saying, “Yes well of course everyone pays taxes”.

[55]   In the Authority’s view, while some viewers may have found the host’s comments to be racist and reinforcing of negative stereotypes, the statements could not be said to have encouraged denigration of Māori. It is well-established that in light of the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, a high level of invective is necessary for the Authority to conclude that a broadcast encourages denigration or discrimination in contravention of the standard (see for example McCartain and Angus and The Radio Network2). The comments on this occasion did not reach that threshold.

[56]   In these circumstances, the Authority considers that, taking into account the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights Act, the interview did not breach Standard 7.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[57]   Standard 5 requires that broadcasters make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to material points of fact, and does not mislead.

[58]   The complainants argued that it was inaccurate to state that the Tino Rangatiratanga flag was a flag of division because it was established to recognise Māori sovereignty. The Authority notes that it was the Breakfast presenter who referred to the flag as one of division, saying during the interview:

...their aim is to have the [Tino Rangatiratanga] flag adopted, which of course is this one which we all know as a flag of division [laughs]. I throw that in myself. That is my own prejudice perhaps creeping through.

I am not the only person though that would see the [Tino Rangatiratanga] flag as a cause of division...

Personally I couldn’t because clearly [the flag is] built on division. It’s built on separatism, aspirations of separatism.

[59]   In the Authority’s view, the idea that the Tino Rangatiratanga flag represented division was clearly presented as the host’s opinion rather than a statement of fact, and viewers would have interpreted it as such. Accordingly, the accuracy standard does not apply. The Authority declines to uphold the complaints that the programme was inaccurate or misleading in this respect.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[60]   Standard 6 requires broadcasters to deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.

[61]   Mr Rikys did not identify in his original complaint who he thought had been treated unfairly, though he later argued that Māori people were treated unfairly and that the programme reinforced negative stereotypes. He also suggested that Pita Sharples was treated unfairly as the comments quoted were not explained.

[62]   The Authority notes that the interviewee mentioned that Dr Sharples had offered the opinion that the flag selection process signified “a great moment” in New Zealand, and that he would like to ask him why. In the Authority’s view, the interviewee’s comment was only a passing reference and it did not leave any negative impression about Dr Sharples’ character or reputation. It therefore finds that the broadcaster did not treat Dr Sharples unfairly.

[63]   The Authority considers that Mr Rikys’ concerns with regard to the treatment of Māori have been appropriately dealt with under Standard 7 (discrimination and denigration) in relation to “a section of the community”, rather than under the fairness standard which applies to individuals and organisations.

[64]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the fairness complaint.

Standard 1 (good taste and decency)

[65]   Standard 1 is designed to protect against the broadcast of sexual content, violent material, and language that exceeds current norms of good taste and decency in the context in which it was shown.

[66]   In the Authority’s view, nothing in the interview could be said to have strayed beyond the bounds of good taste and decency in the context of an unclassified current affairs programme. It declines to uphold the Standard 1 complaint.

Standard 2 (law and order)

[67]   The Authority has previously stated that the intent behind the law and order standard is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity (see, for example, Gregory and TVNZ3). Mr Rikys argued that the programme could have encouraged criminal activity by groups such as white supremacists.

[68]   On this occasion, the host of a current affairs programme interviewed a Professor of Māori history about the flag selection process. The Authority considers that nothing in the programme would have encouraged viewers to break the law, and it did not promote or glamorise criminal activity. It declines to uphold the Standard 2 complaint.

Standard 8 (responsible programming)

[69]   Standard 8 requires that programmes are correctly classified, display programme classification information, and adhere to the time-bands set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code. It also states that programmes should not cause viewers unwarranted alarm or distress, or deceive or disadvantage them.

[70]   As Breakfast was an unclassified current affairs programme, the Authority finds that the standard does not apply with regard to the programme’s classification. Further, it finds that viewers would not have been unnecessarily alarmed or distressed by the interview, or deceived or disadvantaged in the manner envisaged by the standard. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint under Standard 8.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaints.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
21 December 2009

Appendix

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

Boyd Broughton’s complaint
1.           Boyd Broughton’s formal complaint – 15 July 2009
2.          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 13 August 2009
3.          Mr Broughton’s referral to the Authority – 8 September 2009
4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 October 2009
5.          TVNZ’s response to Authority’s request for further information – 11 and 23 November 2009
6.          Mr Broughton’s response – 12 November 2009

Pita Rikys’ complaint
1.           Pita Rikys’ formal complaint – 15 July 2009
2.          TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 17 August 2009
3.          Mr Rikys’ referral to the Authority – 20 August 2009
4.          Further submissions from Mr Rikys – 9 September 2009
5.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 October 2009
6.          Mr Rikys’ final comment – 8 October 2009
7.          TVNZ’s final comment – 12 October 2009
8.          TVNZ’s response to Authority’s request for further information – 11 and 23 November 2009


1Decision No. 2006-030

2Decision No. 2002-152

3Decision No. 2005-133