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Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2006-130

Members

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

Complainant

  • Allan Golden of Wellington

Dated

22nd February 2007

Number

2006-130

Programme

Nine to Noon

Channel/Station

National Radio

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Nine to Noon – discussion about taxi safety – referred to taxi drivers as “cabbies” – allegedly in breach of good taste and decency, unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair

Findings
Principle 1 (good taste and decency) – “cabbies” not pejorative – not upheld

Principle 4 (balance) – broadcaster not required to present views of non-Taxi Federation companies – not upheld

Principle 5 (fairness) – did not imply that non-Taxi Federation members were at the “bottom end” of the industry – not unfair – not upheld

Principle 6 (accuracy) – programme was ambiguous as to whether Taxi Federation represented all companies – not inaccurate – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] An item on National Radio’s Nine to Noon programme, broadcast on 13 November 2006, reported a recent warning by police that catching a taxi around the festive season was not necessarily safe. It said that by the end of the year, “up to 180 taxi drivers could have had their licences revoked – as many as half of them for criminal or traffic offences”. The presenter said that Land Transport New Zealand (LTNZ) had recently conducted a survey of passenger perceptions of taxi safety, and that the Taxi Federation, “the organisation which represents cabbies”, had said LTNZ needed to clean up the industry.

[2] The programme included interviews with Detective Sergeant Andy King, head of the Auckland City adult sexual assault team, Tim Reddish, the executive director of the Taxi Federation, and John Doesburg, the national manager of commercial transport from LTNZ.

Complaint

[3] Allan Golden made a formal complaint about the item to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. He argued that the use of the word “cabbies” was a breach of good taste and decency. The complainant pointed to a sentence in the item’s introduction which said that the Taxi Federation was “the organisation which represents cabbies”. He argued that this sentence was inaccurate because the Taxi Federation only represented a select number of taxi companies which were not necessarily owned by the drivers. Therefore, Mr Golden said, the views of the federation were not necessarily those of its own drivers, let alone those of all taxi drivers.

[4] The complainant contended that the programme was unfair to non-federation members because it implied that those taxis or companies were at the “lower end” of the industry and were not as safe. The purpose of this, he argued, was to provide federation members with a bigger market share “by way of scare tactics and insinuation”.

[5] Looking at balance, Mr Golden observed that there were no representatives of non-federation companies or drivers on the programme. Furthermore, he wrote, the “vested interest of the federation” was not mentioned.

Principles

[6] RNZ considered the complaint under Principles 1, 4, 5 and 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Principle 1

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.

Principle 4

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 5

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7] RNZ maintained that Principle 1 (good taste and decency) was not breached by the use of the word “cabbies”. It noted that the word was not considered to be a derogatory or offensive term, and was used only once in the programme.

[8] Turning to the alleged breach of Principle 6 (accuracy), the broadcaster argued that the interviewer did not say that the Taxi Federation represented all drivers. It found that describing the Taxi Federation as “the organisation which represents cabbies” was not inaccurate because the federation did represent taxi drivers.

[9] RNZ noted that throughout the discussion, no distinctions were made between Taxi Federation members and non-members. The interviewer and the interviewee did not mention the names of any specific taxi companies, it said, but referred to the taxi industry in general terms. In light of this, RNZ believed that non-members had not been treated unfairly.

[10] Looking at Principle 4 (balance), RNZ acknowledged that the topic of taxi safety had assumed the status of a controversial issue in New Zealand society. The broadcaster contended that Nine to Noon had presented a range of significant perspectives on the issue. It noted that the panel of interviewees comprised a Detective Sergeant who was head of the Auckland City adult sexual assault team, the executive director of the Taxi Federation and the national manager of commercial transport from LTNZ. It concluded that the balance standard was not breached.

Referral to the Authority

[11] Dissatisfied with RNZ’s decision, Mr Golden referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the use of the word “cabbies” had been used to downgrade taxi drivers and was unacceptable.

[12] The complainant reiterated his view that considerable criticism had been levelled at the “lower end of the industry” throughout the programme, and that this was aimed at non-federation members.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[13] RNZ noted that the Concise Oxford Dictionary described the word “cabby” as a noun and a colloquialism referring to a taxi driver. It wrote:

Radio New Zealand submits that it would be a gross breach of the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 to not admit such colloquialisms into the conversational tone of long form interviews on programmes such as Nine to Noon.

[14] The broadcaster stated that the topic of the interview was a follow-up to a warning issued by the New Zealand Police with respect to the safety of catching taxis, along with the recent launch by LTNZ of a nationwide survey on passenger perceptions of taxi safety. It noted that the Taxi Federation was “the only known national body to represent the interests of the taxi industry”, and contended that its executive director was able to speak on behalf of taxi drivers in that capacity. It was not inaccurate to describe him as representing “cabbies”, RNZ said, because he clearly was.

[15] RNZ also maintained that no issue of fairness arose from the interview, because no particular taxi organisation or driver had been identified.

Complainant's Final Comment

[16] The complainant reiterated several of the points made in his original complaint.

Authority's Determination

[17] 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.

Principle 1 (good taste and decency)

The complainant argued that the use of the word “cabbies” was derogatory and in breach of good taste and decency. In the Authority’s view, the word “cabbies” is not a pejorative term, but an informal description of taxi drivers. Accordingly, the Authority finds that its use did not even approach the threshold for a breach of good taste and decency, and it declines to uphold this part of the complaint.

Principle 5 (fairness)

Mr Golden argued that the programme was unfair to non-Taxi Federation members, because it implied that non-member companies were at the “lower end” of the industry and were not as safe. The Authority notes that two of the interviewees, particularly Detective Sergeant King, did make comments that taxis at the “bottom end of the market” were more likely to be non-compliant with standards. However, nothing in the interviewees’ comments suggested that they were referring to non-Taxi Federation members. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that the broadcast was not unfair to non-Taxi Federation members in this respect.

Principle 4 (balance)

Principle 4 (balance) requires that balance be provided when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. On this occasion, the broadcast discussed the safety of New Zealand taxis and whether more could be done to improve standards within the industry.

In the Authority’s view, the interviewees were speaking in general terms about the different levels of compliance and safety within the industry. The item was not, as Mr Golden contends, drawing a distinction between the safety of members and non-members of the Taxi Federation. Accordingly, the Authority considers that the broadcaster was not required to include the views of a company not represented by the Taxi Federation in order to achieve balance on the issue of taxi safety in New Zealand. It does not uphold the balance complaint.

Principle 6 (accuracy)

Mr Golden complained that it was inaccurate to state that the Taxi Federation was “the organisation which represents cabbies”, because it only represented a select number of companies and drivers. The Authority acknowledges that the federation does not represent all taxi drivers. It considers, however, that listeners would not have automatically assumed that the federation did represent all drivers. It therefore finds that the item was not inaccurate in this respect.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
22 February 2007

Appendix

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

1    Allan Golden’s formal complaint – 15 November 2006

2   RNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 12 December 2006

3    Mr Golden’s referral to the Authority – 14 December 2006

4    RNZ’s response to the Authority – 12 January 2007

5    Mr Golden’s final comment – 20 January 2007