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Marriott and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2008-064

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • John Marriott of Whangaparaoa

Dated

18th September 2008

Number

2008-064

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio New Zealand National News – item concerning MAF’s approval of the importation by zoos of crocodiles and salt-water alligators – allegedly in breach of accuracy and social responsibility

Findings
Principle 6 (accuracy) and Principle 7 (social responsibility) – complainant mistaken as to the contents of the broadcast – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   During the 7pm news bulletin on Radio New Zealand National on 24 April 2008, the following item was introduced:

Crocodiles and alligators have been approved for import. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has agreed to allow zoos to bring in Australian salt-water crocodiles and American alligators.

[2]   The item quoted the general manager of Auckland’s “Butterfly Creek”, a tourist and educational attraction housing exotic butterflies, tropical fish, birds and lizards, as saying that crocodiles coming from Australia were “a low environmental risk”.

Complaint

[3]   John Marriott made a formal complaint about the item to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. He stated that the news item had “said that government had agreed to the importing of crocodiles and alligators from Australia and America respectively”. Mr Marriott noted that he could not find any references to this in major newspapers, and therefore he challenged the accuracy of the news item.

[4]   The complainant contended that because there had been no warning prior to the item, particularly for those living near the sea, the item had breached Principle 7 (social responsibility) and guideline 7b which related to programmes which were likely to disturb listeners.

Principles

[5]   The complainant nominated Principles 6 and 7 and guideline 7d of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Principle 6

In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

Principle 7

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.

Guideline 7d         

If a programme is likely to disturb, an appropriate warning should be broadcast.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6]   RNZ noted that the opening sentence of the item said that “the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has agreed to allow zoos to bring in Australian salt-water crocodiles and American alligators”. As a result, it said, there was no impact on those living near the sea. RNZ said that neither of the standards raised by Mr Marriott had been breached.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s decision, Mr Marriott referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He disputed that the item had referred to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), or any zoos, and maintained that the item had said the “government had approved” the importation of salt-water crocodiles and alligators.

[8]   Mr Marriott said that he had contacted MAF and asked if they had granted permission for such importation, and was told that they had not. Further, he could not find any mention of the item in the New Zealand Herald or The Dominion Post. He therefore maintained that the item was inaccurate in breach of Principle 6.

[9]   The complainant also contended that the item had breached Principle 7 (social responsibility), because the item contained no warning and would have been alarming for those people living near the sea.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10]   RNZ provided the Authority with a recording of the item which it said confirmed that MAF had agreed to allow zoos to bring in Australian salt-water crocodiles and American alligators. What was, or was not, published in newspapers was irrelevant to a broadcasting standards complaint, it wrote.

Authority's Determination

[11]   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.

[12]   Having listened to a recording of the broadcast, the Authority agrees with RNZ that the item referred to MAF approving the importation of crocodiles and alligators for zoos. It did not state, as Mr Marriott alleged, that the government had approved the general importation of crocodiles and alligators so that people living near the sea would have cause for alarm.

[13]   Because Mr Marriott was mistaken about the contents of the broadcast, the Authority finds that there is no basis upon which to uphold his complaints under Principles 6 and 7.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
18 September 2008

Appendix

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

1.          John Marriott’s formal complaint – 19 May 2008
2.          RNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 18 June 2008
3.          Mr Marriott’s referral to the Authority – 24 June 2008 and 2 July 2008
4.          RNZ’s response to the Authority – 29 July 2008