Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio New Zealand National News – item reported that 66 New Zealanders had opted to change their status as Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit and take on the titles “Sir” or “Dame” – included interview with Witi Ihimaera – presenter referred to Mr Ihimaera as being a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit – allegedly inaccurate
Standard 5 (accuracy) – the full title of Mr Ihimaera’s honour was not a material point of fact – listeners understood that he could have received the title of “Sir” but had declined to adopt it – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 A news item, broadcast on Radio New Zealand National at 10pm on Friday 14 August 2009, reported that 66 New Zealanders, who had been honoured as Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit, had opted to change their honours and take up the title of Sir or Dame instead.
 The presenter introduced the item by saying:
66 New Zealanders were formally honoured with titles this afternoon at old St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington. They’d earlier received honours without titles under the version adopted by the last government nine years ago.
 The presenter went on to say that 13 people who were eligible to receive a title had declined, including the author Witi Ihimaera. Referring to Mr Ihimaera, the presenter stated, “He said he didn’t take the title of Sir because it would reduce the mana of being a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit...”
 The item included brief comment from Mr Ihimaera stating why he had decided not to take up the title of “Sir”.
 Donald McDonald made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the item was inaccurate because the presenter had missed out the word “distinguished” when referring to the name of Mr Ihimaera’s honour.
 RNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:
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.
 RNZ argued that the full wording of the honour which Mr Ihimaera had already received was immaterial to the focus of the item. The broadcaster contended that the reference to Mr Ihimaera focused on his rejection of the offer to be titled “Sir”. It declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with RNZ’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 The Authority considers that, while the item left out the word “distinguished” when referring to Mr Ihimaera’s honour, it was not a material point of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. It finds that the item’s reference to Mr Ihimaera focused on the fact that he had declined to take up the title of “Sir” and that this fact was clearly conveyed to listeners in the item.
 Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5 (accuracy).
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
25 November 2009
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 18 August 2009
2. RNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 7 September 2009
3. Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 10 September 2009
4. RNZ’s response to the Authority – 9 October 2009