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Tobin and Māori Television - 2009-156

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Leigh Pearson

Complainant

  • Ryna Tobin of Auckland

Dated

23rd March 2010

Number

2009-156

Programme

Native Affairs

Channel/Station

Māori Television

Broadcaster

Māori Television


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Native Affairs – item discussed the findings of a 2009 Education Review Office report on a Māori immersion school called Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi – reporter made statements about operation of the school and teachers’ resignations – included footage of a previous interview with the Chair of the school’s Board of Trustees and interviews with a representative from the national body that represents Te Kura Kaupapa Māori and a past principal of the school – allegedly in breach of controversial issues, accuracy and fairness standards 

Findings
Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – item accurate in relation to the points raised by the complainant – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – complainant and the Kura’s Board given adequate opportunity to respond – item dealt fairly with people and organisations taking part and referred to – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An episode of Native Affairs was broadcast on Māori Television at 10pm on Monday 28 September 2009. It included a report called “I had a Dream”, which discussed the findings of a 2009 Education Review Office (ERO) report on a Māori immersion school or Te Kura Kaupapa Māori, called Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi (the Kura).

[2]   The item’s introduction was given by Julian Wilcox and guest presenter Temuera Morrison, who were presenting from the funeral of Mr Morrison’s relative, Sir Howard Morrison.

[3]   The presenters introduced the item by saying:

Mr Wilcox:
Nearly a quarter of a century ago history was made in West Auckland with the revolutionary opening of the first urban based Kura Kaupapa Māori, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi. 

Mr Morrison:
The Kura pioneered the establishment of a further seventy kura, but the Education Review Office has recently released a damning report on Hoani Waititi in the wake of teacher resignations and wh?nau unrest.

[4]   The reporter gave a history of the Kura, saying that it had been the first Kura Kaupapa Māori and that it had been set up by Māori education and language experts Dr Pita Sharples and Dr Katerina Mataira in 1985.

[5]   The reporter explained that in July 2009, the ERO released a review conducted in 2008 on the Kura. She said that the report had claimed: the Kura’s Board lacked an understanding of its role, communication to staff and parents was poor, there were strained relationships between staff, parents and the Board, there was limited formal reporting of student progress, a lack of process for complaints, bullying among students and adults, the principal had failed to provide effective leadership in a number of key areas, and there was no collective understanding of the philosophy that drove kura called Te Aho Matua.

[6]   The reporter stated that, “Such was the unhappiness at the Kura that six teachers resigned en masse late last year”. She said that one of those teachers had spoken to her on the condition of anonymity and said that all six had asked to meet with management to discuss a number of issues, but that the meeting did not go well and had resulted in their resignations.

[7]   The reporter went on to say that, as a consequence of the report’s findings, the ERO recommended that the Ministry of Education (the Ministry) intervene, but that the Ministry had allowed the Kura to come up with its own plan first to turn the situation around. She said that if the Ministry was not satisfied with the Kura’s plan, it could appoint a manager or dissolve the Board and appoint a commissioner.

[8]   The reporter commented that representatives from the Kura were “unwilling to talk to us in depth about the issues raised in the report or what interventions are being put in place”. A brief video clip of the Chair of the Kura’s Board, Ryna Tobin, was shown in which she stated that there had been a lot of positive discussions between the Board and the ERO since the report, that the Board had put “interventions” in place and they had been given support by the Ministry. The reporter stated that the footage of Ms Tobin had come from a different programme called Te Kaea that had screened earlier in the month.

[9]   Hone Mutu, a representative from the national body that represents Te Kura Kaupapa Māori, was interviewed. The reporter said that the organisation was helping the Kura to develop a strategy to deal with the issues raised in the ERO report. Mr Mutu stated that, while the report was “alarming”, there had been disruptions in the Kura including changes to the staff, management and wh?nau representation on the Board. He went on to say that with new people coming “into the fold” there would always be “highs and lows”. He also commented in general terms on the implementation of Te Aho Matua in Te Kura Kaupapa Māori, and explained that it was a “living principle” and an embodiment of Māori culture, rather than a curriculum.

[10]   Mr Mutu stated that the ERO’s report highlighted that there had been a “schism” between the wh?nau, the Board and the management, and that “now was a time to close that down”. He concluded by saying that the ERO’s process had given people the opportunity to share their view.          

[11]   Dr Katerina Mataira, the Kura’s co-founder and first principal, was interviewed and briefly talked about her experiences while working at the Kura in its early days. The reporter said that Dr Mataira was “disheartened at the report”.   

[12]   The reporter stated that over the past six years, the Kura had received five ERO reports, which she said were “indicative of its poor performance” and went on to describe some of the concerns outlined in previous reports. She stated that she had spoken with some parents and staff who said that “a culture of bullying does exist in the Kura community”.

[13]   The item concluded with Mr Wilcox saying:

As Makere Edwards reported in the story, we made repeated attempts to get reaction from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi marae, but they declined to comment. We also approached the Minister of Māori affairs Dr Pita Sharples for comment, however he declined and his office spokesperson says he has little involvement now with the Kura.        

Complaint

[14]   Ryna Tobin, the Chair of the Kura’s Board, made a formal complaint to Māori Television (Māori TV), the broadcaster, alleging the item breached broadcasting standards.

[15]   With respect to Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints), the complainant argued that the report had discussed a controversial issue of public importance “for the Māori public audience”. She stated that “the broadcaster should have exercised a more considered duty of care to ensure that a high threshold of reasonable effort and opportunity was accorded to the subject matter” and the Kura.

[16]   Ms Tobin argued that there was insufficient “input of perspectives from informed sources to create a balanced view of the actual issues under scrutiny in the report” and that it was “essential to obtain the response of Kura representatives”.

[17]   The complainant contended that “there was insufficient detail in the ERO report to provide a comparative background to the viewer” on issues such as why six members of staff had resigned. She considered that the information given to the reporter by the anonymous teacher was inaccurate and unreliable, and argued that the Board could not comment on employment-related issues because of confidentiality and privacy concerns.

[18]   Ms Tobin was of the view that the item should have highlighted the “areas of improvement” outlined in the ERO report to provide “some balance” to the audience. She argued that the comments from Mr Mutu were generalised and generic and had not provided the necessary “balance” required.

[19]   The complainant argued that Dr Mataira’s comments were also too general in nature to provide the audience with any context for the issues discussed.

[20]   Turning to accuracy, Ms Tobin argued that the reporter’s statement that “if the Ministry was not satisfied with their plan, it could appoint a manager or dissolve the Board and appoint a commissioner” was inaccurate according to her “sources”.

[21]   Turning to Mr Wilcox’s statement that Māori TV had made repeated attempts to get “reaction” from the Kura’s Board, the complainant argued that this was inaccurate. She stated that the Board had emailed the broadcaster saying that it would participate under eight specific conditions. Further, the complainant said that on 24 September 2009, she had communicated with Māori TV’s General Manager of News and Current Affairs and told him that any item on the Kura should be postponed until after an action plan had been finalized with the Ministry.

[22]   Ms Tobin contended that, for the reasons outlined above, the item had also treated the Kura unfairly.   

Standards

[23]   Māori TV assessed the complaint under Standards 4, 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These 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.
Standard 6 Fairness

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

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[24]   With respect to Standard 4, Māori TV stated that the item was an analysis of the ERO’s report on the Kura. It contended that significant viewpoints were presented from several different contributors including Ms Tobin, who outlined “the positive aspects of dealing with the Ministry of Education from a Te Kaea episode recently aired”.

[25]   The broadcaster stated that it had sought comment from the Kura’s Board, but it had declined to take part due to the fact that Māori TV was unwilling to meet eight specific conditions being sought by the Board for any interview. It declined to uphold the complaint that Standard 4 had been breached.

[26]   Turning to Standard 5 (accuracy), Māori TV said that the reporter’s statement regarding staff resignations came after a description of the problems at the school, which included bullying and strained relations between staff and parents as outlined in the ERO’s report. It argued that the reporter’s comments about the staff resignations were accurate.      

[27]   With respect to the comment that the Ministry could appoint a commissioner, the broadcaster contended that there were statutory provisions stating that a “commissioner may be appointed”. It noted that the reporter had not stated that a commissioner would be appointed if the Kura’s action plan did not get the desired results, but that one “could” be appointed. It declined to uphold this aspect of Ms Tobin’s accuracy complaint.

[28]   Māori TV contended that there was nothing inaccurate or misleading about the comments made by Mr Mutu or Dr Mataira. It considered Mr Mutu’s remarks about the Kura were positive and reflected well on the school and stated that the reporter’s remark that Dr Mataira had been “disheartened” by the ERO report was a direct quote from Dr Mataira.

[29]   Looking at the statement that repeated attempts were made to obtain “reaction” from the Kura’s Board “but they declined to comment”, the broadcaster noted that the Board sought to impose conditions on the interview. Māori TV argued that the reason why it had not accepted the conditions was because “the mere acceptance of these conditions would have compromised the impartiality of the reportage of the story”. It acknowledged that the timing of the story was not ideal for the Kura, but considered that this was not a good enough reason to delay the story from being broadcast. It declined to uphold the accuracy complaint.

[30]   In terms of Standard 6 (fairness), Māori TV argued that it had “done the utmost to ensure the presentation of all significant points of view” and that it had treated the Kura and its Board fairly. It declined to uphold the fairness complaint. 

Referral to the Authority

[31]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Tobin referred her complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She reiterated her arguments and maintained that the item had breached Standards 4, 5 and 6.

[32]   The complainant also argued that the reference to Dr Sharples declining to give comment was unfair “speculation”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[33]   Māori TV maintained that the item had not breached broadcasting standards. It provided the Authority with the list of interview conditions sought by the Kura’s Board and a copy of the 2009 ERO report.

Authority's Determination

[34]   The members of the Authority have viewed 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.

Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints)

[35]   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 news, currents affairs and factual programmes.

[36]   The Authority has typically defined an issue of public importance as something that would have a “significant potential impact on, or be of concern to, members of the New Zealand public” (see, for example, Powell and CanWest TVWorks1).

[37]   In the Authority’s view, the item reported the findings of an ERO report that related specifically to Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi and the problems it was facing. It considers that, while a discussion about the broader problems facing kura in general and what was being done to address any such problems would be a controversial issue of public importance, this item focused on the experiences of the individual kura involved.

[38]   As a result, the Authority concludes that the item’s report on the ERO’s findings in relation to Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance to which Standard 4 applied.

[39]   In any event, the Authority notes that Māori TV sought comment from the Kura’s Board and invited a Kura representative to take part in an interview. While the interview did not eventuate because of the Board’s list of what the Authority considers to be unreasonable conditions, the broadcaster included relevant comments from Ms Tobin from a previous interview. In these circumstances, it finds that the broadcaster provided the Kura with a reasonable opportunity to respond to the issues raised in the programme.

[40]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that Standard 4 was breached.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[41]   Standard 5 states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news programmes are accurate in relation to all material points of fact and that they do not mislead.

[42]   Looking at the comments about staff resignations at the Kura, the Authority notes that the reporter had sourced her information from one of the teachers concerned and that the complainant has not provided any information to contradict those statements. In these circumstances, it declines to uphold this aspect of Ms Tobin’s accuracy complaint.

[43]   Turning to the statement, “If the Ministry was not satisfied with their plan, it could appoint a manager or dissolve the Board and appoint a commissioner”, the Authority notes that this action is specifically provided for in section 78N(1) of the Education Act 1989. Accordingly, it declines to uphold this aspect of the accuracy complaint.

[44]   With respect to Mr Wilcox’s statement that Māori TV had “made repeated attempts to get reaction from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi marae, but they declined to comment”, the Authority considers that the statement was an accurate representation of what had occurred. It notes that the broadcaster had invited the Kura’s Board to make a response on more than one occasion and offered to interview a Kura representative, but the Board imposed a set of unreasonable conditions on the interview which Māori TV quite rightly refused to agree to. Indeed, the Authority considers that, had Māori TV agreed to the conditions, this would have compromised their editorial independence.

[45]   In the Authority’s view, the Kura’s Board effectively “declined” to make a response and the broadcaster provided viewers with an adequate shorthand summation of what had occurred. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.

Standard 6 (fairness)

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

[47]   Ms Tobin argued that the Kura was treated unfairly by the broadcaster. The Authority disagrees. It considers that Māori TV acted in a respectful manner and made commendable efforts to obtain the Kura’s perspective.

[48]   In the Authority’s view, the Kura’s Board was given a number of opportunities to respond to the broadcaster’s questions and Māori TV correctly maintained its editorial independence by declining to accept the set of interview conditions sought by the Board. Further, the item dispassionately reported the findings of the ERO report and did not unfairly represent the Kura in any way.

[49]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 6.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
23 March 2010

Appendix

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

1.           Ryna Tobin’s formal complaint – 15 October 2009
2.          Māori TV’s response to the formal complaint – 6 November 2009
3.          Ms Tobin’s referral to the Authority – 3 December 2009
4.          Māori TV’s response to the Authority – 20 January 2010


1Decision No. 2005-125