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Lubbock and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-019

Members

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

Complainant

  • Maurice Lubbock of Auckland

Dated

3rd May 2007

Number

2007-019

Programme

One News

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – report on National Party leader John Key's "state of the nation" speech – included responses from community groups and the Prime Minister – allegedly unbalanced

Findings
Standard 4 (balance) – reasonable efforts made to present significant viewpoints – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]    An item on One News , broadcast on TV One at 6pm on 30 January 2007, reported on the "state of the nation" speech by National Party leader, John Key. It showed parts of Mr Key's speech and also contained a short excerpt from a speech by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, in which she disputed Mr Key's assertion that there was a "growing underclass" in New Zealand.

[2]   The One News political editor commented that Mr Key's speech had not contained "a lot of real concrete solutions". However, he stated that Mr Key did not need to make an impact, unlike the previous National Party leader Don Brash who had delivered an "explosive" state of the nation speech at Orewa in 2004.

[3]   Kay Brereton from the Wellington People's Centre stated that she was disappointed at Mr Key's "beneficiary bashing", and she said that Mr Key was blaming beneficiaries for problems such as gangs and youth crime. Ian Kilgour from the Salvation Army commented that it was "early days" and much work was needed to solve the problems that Mr Key had referred to in his speech.

[4]   The reporter stated that Mr Key had angered some residents of a street in Auckland which he had used as an example of an area that was terrorised by youth gangs, stating that it was a street "without hope". Two residents from the street disagreed with Mr Key's views and contended that he should come to the street and look for himself. The reporter stated that community groups had said that they believed Mr Key was sincere, but that it was "just the fine print that's missing".

Complaint

[5]   Maurice Lubbock made a formal complaint about the item to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the report was "disgracefully one-sided". He stated that the soundbites from Mr Key's speech had been immediately followed by negative commentary from "carefully selected individuals who could be guaranteed not to agree with the speech's contents". Mr Lubbock contended that the broadcaster should have let viewers hear more of Mr Key's speech so they could make up their own minds as to its significance.

Standards

[6]   TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 4 and guideline 4a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

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.

Guideline 4a    

Programmes which deal with political matters, current affairs, and questions of a controversial nature, must show balance and impartiality.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7]    TVNZ contended that Mr Lubbock's complaint was alleging that, while a major political speech could be reported, critical comments about the speech made by people with information relevant to its subject matter could not.

[8]   The broadcaster noted that the item had included seven quotes which had covered the main theme of Mr Key's speech. Having done so, it said, it was essential in the interests of balance and fairness that relevant comment from those critical of the speech also be included. In addition, TVNZ wrote, both the political editor and the reporter had given Mr Key credit for his speech.

[9]   Looking at Standard 4 (balance), the broadcaster did not accept that the item was unbalanced. It contended that it would have been unbalanced if criticism of the speech had not been heard. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[10]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Mr Lubbock referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. Referring to TVNZ's statement that it was essential to include criticism of the speech, the complainant asked why it was not considered equally essential to report the views of people who had positive views about the speech. He contended that the report had only contained "half the story".

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[11]   TVNZ maintained that Mr Lubbock had not recognised that the speech itself formed part of the balance. Mr Key had made the points himself, it said, and balance had been achieved between the seven main themes of his speech and the comments of people who were critical of his views. It contended that the political editor and reporter had "set the speech and critical comments in context".

Complainant's Final Comment

[12]   In his final comment, Mr Lubbock reiterated the points made in his earlier correspondence.

Authority's Determination

[13]   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.

[14]   Standard 4 requires that balance be provided in programmes which discuss controversial issues of public importance. On this occasion, One News reported on the new National Party leader's first "state of the nation" speech. The Authority notes that speeches by political leaders tend to be controversial in nature, and are of importance to the public. In the Authority's view, the balance standard applied to this report on the Leader of the Opposition's speech.

[15]   The complainant's main concern was that the item only included negative comments about Mr Key's speech. However, in the Authority's view it was not necessary for the broadcaster to obtain comments from people merely on the basis of whether or not they supported Mr Key's speech.  The item contained several excerpts from Mr Key's speech, and the Authority agrees with TVNZ that these adequately presented the National Party leader's viewpoint. As the focus of Mr Key's speech was what Mr Key termed the "underclass", the Authority agrees with TVNZ that the item achieved balance by presenting a range of relevant perspectives from the Wellington People's Centre, the Salvation Army and the residents of the Auckland street which was mentioned in Mr Key's speech.

[16]   In the Authority's view, TVNZ made reasonable efforts to present significant perspectives on the controversial issue under discussion. Accordingly, it declines to uphold the balance complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
3 May 2007

Appendix

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

1             Maurice Lubbock's formal complaint – 30 January 2007
2            TVNZ's decision on the formal complaint – 21 February 2007
3            Mr Lubbock's referral to the Authority – 21 February 2007
4            TVNZ's response to the Authority – 19 March 2007
5            Mr Lubbock's final comment – 29 March 2007