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Dulakiverata and National Pacific Radio Trust Inc - 2007-032

Members

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

Complainant

  • Losalini Dulakiverata of Auckland

Dated

25th September 2007

Number

2007-032

Channel/Station

Niu FM

Broadcaster

National Pacific Radio Trust Inc

 


Tapu Misa declared a conflict and did not take part in the determination of this complaint.

 


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Fijian Language Programme – interview with Frank Bainimarama discussing situation in Fiji – Mr Bainimarama portrayed situation in Fiji as cheerful and normal – allegedly in breach of balance and social responsibility standards

Findings
Principle 7 (social responsibility) – matters raised by complainant were ones of editorial discretion – not upheld

Principle 4 (balance) – broadcaster upheld balance complaint – action taken insufficient – upheld  

Order
Section 13(1)(a) – broadcast statement

 This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item broadcast on Niu FM during its Fijian Language Programme on 15 December 2006 contained an interview with Commander Frank Bainimarama. Backed by the Fijian military, Mr Bainimarama led a successful coup in late 2006 and, at the time of the broadcast, controlled the Fijian government and the country’s armed forces.

[2]   The host and Mr Bainimarama discussed the situation in Fiji since the coup.

Complaint

[3]   Losalini Dulakiverata made a formal complaint to National Pacific Radio Trust Inc (NPRT), the broadcaster, on 9 January 2007 alleging that standards of balance and social responsibility had been breached.

[4]   The complainant argued that the interview was more like a “friendly chat” and that Mr Bainimarama was left by the host to lead the whole interview. She believed that the host allowed Mr Bainimarama to convey an inaccurate portrayal of the situation in Fiji, that being “cheerful, normal and business as usual”. She believed that Mr Bainimarama should have been interviewed more critically, considering he was a “coup-perpetrator”.

[5]   Ms Dulakiverata maintained that because Mr Bainimarama had been interviewed by the broadcaster on previous occasions, the item was unnecessary and socially irresponsible.

Principles

[6]   NPRT assessed the complaint under Principles 4 and 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Principle 4 Balance

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain 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.

Principle 7 Social Responsibility

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

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7]   NPRT responded to the formal complaint on 16 March 2007. It upheld Ms Dulakiverata’s complaint in relation to Principle 4 stating that it agreed that the interview with the Commander was not balanced. It explained that a less experienced host had proceeded with the interview in the absence of the regular and more experienced producer, and that it was dealing with the matter internally to ensure it did not happen again.

[8]   The broadcaster argued that the interview on its own was not enough to uphold the complaint under Principle 7. It maintained that it had been socially responsible when taking into consideration the range of other programmes and interviews it had broadcast relating to the situation in Fiji. 

[9]   NPRT apologised for any hurt or distress caused by the item and informed the complainant that an apology had already been broadcast. It invited the complainant to discuss the matter further if she felt that the action it had taken was insufficient.    

Referral to the Authority

[10]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Dulakiverata referred her complaint to the Authority under s8.(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[11]   The complainant reiterated her points made in her original complaint in relation to Principle 4. She stated that she did not accept the aired apology because she did not hear it and believed that she should have received a written apology from the programme’s producer.

[12]   Ms Dulakiverata maintained that Niu FM had conducted a number of interviews with Mr Bainimarama allowing him to “spout his military propaganda” and that it was unnecessary and socially irresponsible to interview him so many times.

[13]   The complainant argued that the broadcaster could not use the overall performance of Niu FM as a yard stick to judge Fijian programmes and that each programme should be judged on its own merits.      

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14]   The broadcaster believed that the complaint had been handled fairly and that it had taken the appropriate action by broadcasting an apology during its Fijian language programme on 2 March 2007. It said that its Board had also apologised in writing to the complainant.

[15]   NPRT disagreed with the complainant that it could not take all Niu FMprogramming coverage into account when considering Principle 7, maintaining that on the whole it had been socially responsible.  

Complainant’s Final Comment

[16]   The complainant reiterated her argument that the item was unbalanced and socially irresponsible. She maintained that the broadcaster had made “no effort to accommodate the multiplicity of views” on the Fijian crisis and that each programme should be judged on its own merits.

Further information Requested by the Authority

[17]   The Authority asked NPRT to provide a recording or transcript of the apology it had broadcast. The broadcaster was unable to do so as it had not retained a recording of the apology. However, the producer of the programme advised that the apology consisted of the radio station apologising for any distress or hurt the interview with Mr Bainimarama may have caused its listeners and the community. It had also reminded listeners of their ability to raise concerns about the station’s programming with either its CEO or the show’s producers and that it welcomed feedback. 

Authority's Determination

[18]   The members of the Authority have read a transcript of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[19]   The Authority notes its concern at the time taken by the broadcaster to provide a decision on the complaint made by Ms Dulakiverata.

[20]   Under the Broadcasting Act 1989 a broadcaster has 20 working days from the receipt of a valid formal complaint in which to issue its decision. On this occasion, the formal complaint was made on 9 January 2007 and the broadcaster issued its decision on 16 March 2007. The Authority reminds NPRT that it must adhere to the time limits set down in the Act and that it is required by the Act to have adequate processes in place to enable it to deal with complaints in a timely fashion. The Authority intends to follow up this matter with the NPRT.

Principle 7 (social responsibility)

[21]   The Authority considers that the number of times Mr Bainimarama was interviewed is a matter of editorial discretion, and therefore Principle 7 is not relevant on this occasion. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold this part of the complaint.

Principle 4 (balance)

[22]   The broadcaster upheld Ms Dulakiverata’s complaint that the interview with Frank Bainimarama broadcast on 15 December 2006 was unbalanced. The interview discussed the state of affairs in Fiji following the coup and the Authority considers this topic to be a controversial issue of public importance to which the balance standard applies. The Authority agrees with NPRT’s finding that Principle 4 was breached on this occasion. Its present task is to determine whether, having upheld the complaint, the action taken by Niu FM was sufficient in all the circumstances.

[23]   The Authority has reviewed Niu FM’s description of its broadcast apology. It notes that the statement did not contain any mention that the broadcast breached Principle 4 (balance), or any mention of broadcasting standards in general. In these circumstances, the Authority is not satisfied that the action taken by the broadcaster to rectify the breach was sufficient. Accordingly, it upholds the complaint that the action taken by Niu FM was not sufficient.

Bill of Rights

[24] For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint in reaching this determination. For the reasons given above, the Authority considers that its exercise of powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

For the above reasons, the Authority upholds the complaint that the action taken by the National Pacific Radio Trust Inc in respect of a broadcast on Niu FM on 15 December 2006 was insufficient.

[25]   Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It considers it unnecessary to invite submissions on orders from the parties on this occasion.

[26]   The Authority has found that the action taken by Niu FM after it upheld a breach of Standard 4 (balance) was insufficient. Accordingly, it finds it appropriate to order Niu FM to broadcast a statement summarising the Authority’s decision, and the reasons why the broadcast on 15 December 2006 breached Principle 4 (balance).

Orders

Pursuant to section 13(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders The National Pacific Radio Trust Inc to broadcast, within one month of the date of this decision, a statement summarising this decision, and the reasons why the broadcast on 15 December 2006 breached Principle 4 (balance).

The statement shall be approved by the Authority and shall be broadcast during the Fijian Language Programme on Niu FM at a time and date to be approved by the Authority.

The Authority draws the broadcaster’s attention to the requirement in section 13(3)(b) of the Act for the broadcaster to give notice to the Authority and the complainant of the manner in which the order has been complied with. 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
25 September 2007

Appendix

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

1.            Losalini Dulakiverata’s formal complaint – 9 January 2007
2.           NPRT’s decision on the formal complaint – 16 March 2007
3.           Ms Dulakiverata’s referral to the Authority – 12 April 2007
4.           NPRT’s response to the Authority – 28 June 2007
5.           Ms Dulakiverata’s final submission – 25 July 2007
6.           NPRT’s response to Ms Dulakiverata’s final submission – 9 August 2007