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Māori Television and CanWest RadioWorks Ltd - 2006-056

Members

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

Complainant

  • Māori Television

Dated

19th September 2006

Number

2006-056

Programme

Radio Pacific

Channel/Station

Radio Pacific

Broadcaster

CanWest RadioWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio Pacific – host made comments about television personality who hosted Anzac Day programme on Māori Television – said she would have been paid “$25,000 or thereabouts” – questioned whether she would have “been allowed to take that lovely piece of greenstone home with her” – host also called Māori Television “disgusting apartheid TV station” – allegedly inaccurate and denigratory

Findings
Standard 6 (accuracy) – comments clearly speculation – not statements of fact to which accuracy standard applies – not upheld

Standard 7 (social responsibility) and guideline 7a (denigration) – Māori Television not a “section of the community” to which denigration standard applies – comments not denigratory of Māori generally – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] On 27 April 2006 on Radio Pacific at around 6:50am, host John Banks discussed his views on how much former Television New Zealand newsreader Judy Bailey would have been paid for co-hosting Māori Television’s Anzac Day programme. The host said:

How much money would’ve Mrs Bailey, mother of the nation, got for fronting the apartheid channel on Anzac Day? I’m pitching at $25,000. I’ve got to be honest with you, I do not know, I do not know. But I’m pitching at $25,000 for starters. She would’ve been paid a one lump sum payment of $25,000 or thereabouts for that day’s work… Would’ve the … would’ve the mother of the nation have been allowed to take that lovely piece of greenstone carving home with her? Would’ve they turned a blind eye if she slipped it into her purse as she left the TV station? Would that be part of the bonus?

[2] On 3 May, the same host again made comments about Māori Television, saying:

Why would I have to, why would I have to listen to state radio and why, why would I have to pay taxes to prop up government television and the apartheid TV station Te Karere one of the most disgusting apartheid TV stations in the history of the world here in New Zealand. A useless Māori television station, good for nothing except sucking deep into my pockets. Why do we need it or have I got the wrong end of the stick? I don’t mind a contrary view but there’s no-one out there that disagrees with me. Everyone knows that we don’t need Māori Television in this country any more that we need Māori seats in Parliament or a Māori football team, the so-called Māori All Blacks made up of Polynesians. How does that work? We don’t need that. All the good Māoris that play rugby can play in the All Blacks, the real All Blacks.

Complaint

[3] Māori Television complained to Radio Pacific that the comments about Judy Bailey made on 27 April were inaccurate and breached Principle 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4] Māori Television stated that it was a matter of public record that Mrs Bailey was paid $8000 for four weeks work relating to the Anzac Day programme, including the 19 hours worked on Anzac Day itself. It also stated that the host’s statements about the greenstone were inflammatory and implied Mrs Bailey would consider stealing, and that Māori Television would condone theft.

[5] Māori Television also complained that the comments made on 3 May were derogatory and “inherently racist”, and thus breached the prohibition against denigration contained in guideline 7a of the Radio Code. In saying that Māori Television was “good for nothing” and that “no-one out there disagrees with me”, the host also breached Standard 6 (accuracy), it complained.

Principles

[6] Māori Television cited Principles 6 and 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice in its formal complaint. These read:

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 7a

Broadcasters will not portray people in a manner which encourages denigration of or discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender, race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation; or as the consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement does not extend to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual; or

ii) a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion, or

iii) by way of legitimate humour or satire.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7] Radio Pacific responded to the complaint. Radio Pacific’s programme director stated that “[the radio host] clearly stated that the $25,000 sum is an estimate of what he believed the host (Judy Bailey) would have been paid for the ANZAC programme”.

[8 ]In respect of the comments regarding the greenstone, Radio Pacific replied that the host has a “wonderfully fertile and unique imagination” and was pleased to hear that what he suggested was not the case.

[9] In response to the complaint alleging a breach of Principle 7, Radio Pacific noted that the host has been openly critical of Māori Television, and the government’s role in supporting it. It noted that the views in this programme were consistent with what he had said previously on many other occasions, and stated that it did not wish to “infringe upon [the host’s] right to freedom of expression.”

[10] Radio Pacific concluded that it saw no reason to take the matter any further.

Referral to the Authority

[11] Māori Television referred its complaint to the Authority under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[12] In response to the referral, CanWest RadioWorks Ltd (the broadcaster responsible for Radio Pacific) noted that the host had been talking not just about Māori Television but about state broadcasting generally, as well as ethnically selected sports teams.

[13] CanWest stated that the host’s views are expressed in “robust, colloquial and overstated terms”. These were a common feature of talk radio, it argued, and this host in particular had a well-deserved reputation for being “outspoken, opinionated, and … openly critical of Māori TV and the government’s role in it”.

[14] In response to the accuracy complaints, CanWest argued that the comments were not part of the presentation of news or current affairs, but were instead the expression of the host’s opinion in a talk radio setting. Accordingly, it concluded, the accuracy standard did not apply.

[15] CanWest also concluded that the comments could not be said to encourage denigration of or discrimination against either Māori Television or Māori in general, and that they were not hate speech or vitriol. CanWest referred to several previous decisions in which the Authority had outlined the requirements of the denigration guideline.

[16] In light of the principles established by these previous decisions, CanWest concluded that the comments in the present case did not cross the line into the realm of hate speech or vitriol that was required to find a breach of the denigration guideline. It concluded:

[The host] has established over many years his fierce advocacy of a lightly regulated, free market where government plays no role. These comments, expressed in the classic language of “Talk Radio”, are yet another expression of this philosophy.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[17] Māori Television made detailed submissions in response. In relation to the allegations of inaccuracy, it submitted that the host’s comments gave the clear impression that Mrs Bailey was paid $25,000, and that this was incorrect. It cited a previous decision of the Authority (Decision No. 2005-016) in which the Authority had stated that talkback radio might amount to current affairs (and thus be subject to the accuracy standard) where the host makes “unqualified statements of material fact that set the basis for the discussion”. That principle applied to the present case, it argued.

[18] Māori Television also pointed out that Te Karere was the name of the Māori news programme broadcast on Television New Zealand, and had nothing to do with Māori Television. It also stated that it was inaccurate to state that Māori Television operated apartheid policies.

[19] In relation to the denigration argument, Māori Television cited a number of decisions involving the interpretation of the denigration guideline, and submitted that the reference to Māori Television as “apartheid” amounted to such denigration.

[20] It argued:

… it encourages denigration of Māori Television and by extension since it is an organisation which promotes Māori culture and language – encourages denigration to Māoridom itself. [The host] does this by blackening the reputation of Māori Television itself in the use of this racial epithet and cannot be taken as serious opinion because the opinion being expressed is one of racial discrimination.

Further Correspondence

[21] In response to Māori Television’s final comment, CanWest submitted that the host’s comments were “standard talk radio overstatement and repetition”.

Authority's Determination

[22] The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast of 3 May complained about. CanWest did not preserve a recording of the comments made on 27 April, and the Authority has accordingly determined the complaint based on the wording in the Newstel transcript provided by the complainant (the wording of which was not disputed by CanWest). The Authority members have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix, and determine the complaint without a formal hearing.

Principle 6 (accuracy)

[23] The Authority agrees with CanWest that the accuracy standard has no application to the comments complained of. As Māori Television noted in its submissions, the Authority has previously determined that a talkback programme amounts to “current affairs” when a host makes unqualified statements of material fact that set the basis for the discussion. That did not happen in the present case.

[24] The comment about Mrs Bailey’s remuneration was purely speculative, and the host acknowledged that he did not actually know the facts surrounding the issue. Nor did his comment about the greenstone amount to a statement of fact; it was again speculation on the part of the host. Finally, the comments about Māori Television were clearly identifiable as the host’s opinion and contained no statements of unqualified fact.

[25] In these circumstances, the accuracy principle does not apply to the comments complained of and the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Principle 7 (social responsibility) and guideline 7a (denigration)

[26] As a preliminary observation, the Authority records its view that the “apartheid” comments were calculated to offend and, in referring to Māori Television as Te Karere, ill-informed. Nevertheless, the Authority is of the view that they did not amount to a breach of the Radio Code.

[27] Guideline 7a applies only to those broadcasts which encourage denigration of a “section of the community”. In the view of the Authority, Māori Television – a body corporate created by statute – is not a “section of the community” and thus does not enjoy the protection of the prohibition against denigration.

[28] Māori Television also argued that the comments were denigratory of Māori generally, given that it promotes Māori language and culture. The Authority does not agree. The host’s comments were directed primarily at the policy decision to create the channel and fund it from public money, and incidentally at Māori Television as a corporate entity. The comments did not purport to portray Māori generally as “useless”, or as supporting a policy of apartheid.

[29] For this reason, the Authority concludes that the denigration guideline does not apply to the host’s comments about Māori Television, and it declines to uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
19 September 2006

Appendix

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

  1. Māori Television’s formal complaint to Radio Pacific – 10 May 2006
  2. Radio Pacific’s response to the formal complaint – 26 May 2006
  3. Māori Television’s referral to the Authority – 2 June 2006
  4. CanWest RadioWorks’ response to the referral – 21 July 2006
  5. Māori Television’s further submissions – 25 July 2006
  6. CanWest’s final comment – 15 August 2006