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Lowery and The Radio Network Ltd - 2004-055

Members

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

Complainant

  • Stuart Lowery of Wellington

Dated

6th May 2004

Number

2004-055

Programme

Newstalk ZB news

Channel/Station

Newstalk ZB

Broadcaster

The Radio Network Ltd


Complaint under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Newstalk ZB – news item – question in Parliament about National Party leader Dr Brash’s previous interest in Treaty of Waitangi and racial issues – impression said to be left that he had never raised such concerns previously – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Principle 6 (accuracy) – news item showed leader of New Zealand First and the Prime Minister “ganging up” on leader of the National Party – Parliamentary question reported accurately – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] A question in Parliament from the leader of New Zealand First to the Prime Minister about the leader of the National Party’s previous concerns about the Treaty of Waitangi and race issues, before his recent Orewa speech, was the lead item on the news on Newstalk ZB broadcast at 5.00pm on Wednesday 25 February 2004. The question, the item said, showed the Prime Minister and the leader of New Zealand First “ganging up” on the leader of the National Party. In her reply to the question, the Prime Minister said that she could not recall any previous interest expressed by the leader of the National Party.

Complaint

[2] Stuart Lowery complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster of Newstalk ZB. He contended that the exchange as reported left the listener with the impression that the National Party leader was a “Johnny-come-lately” to the issues.

[3] However, he continued, Hansard showed that a few minutes after the exchange, the National Party leader had raised a point of order and sought to table two documents which showed that he had previously raised the issues. Leave to table the documents was declined.

[4] Referring to a speech that the leader of the National Party had earlier made (and had attempted to table), Mr Lowery argued that the news item left an incorrect impression and, in the interests of balance, fairness and accuracy, a correction should be broadcast.

Principle

[5] TRN assessed the complaint under Principle 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice which reads:

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

[6] TRN contended that the “crucial aspect” of the item was the report that the Prime Minister and the leader of New Zealand First had “ganged up” on the leader of the National Party. That had occurred, it wrote, because of the recent increase in popularity of the National Party in the polls. It added:

What followed in Parliament was immaterial to the item of “ganging up”.

[7] Furthermore, TRN noted, the Prime Minister had said that she “could not remember”, which left room for the National Party Leader to have in fact made statements on the issue.

Referral to the Authority

[8] Dissatisfied with TRN’s response, Mr Lowery referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. In response to TRN’s reply, Mr Lowery wrote:

If the so-called “ganging-up” was the prime reason for the report, there is no reason why the reporter could not have pointed out the facts of the case did not support what Peters and Clark were insinuating.

[9] Accusing TRN of “gutter-level journalism” and not allowing the facts to get in the way of a good story, Mr Lowery said TRN should be censured both for biased reporting and its cavalier response to his complaint.

Authority's Determination

[10] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[11] The Authority declines to uphold the complaint. First, it accepts that the item accurately reported the question in Parliament and its answer. Secondly, in her answer the Prime Minister expressed her opinion, rather than stating a fact, about the National Party Leader’s previous concerns for Treaty of Waitangi issues. The Authority notes that Parliamentary procedure enables political leaders to respond to critical comments later either within or outside Parliament. The news item, it finds, was not in breach of Principle 6.

 

For the above reasons, the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
6 May 2004

Appendix

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

  1. Stuart Lowery’s Formal Complaint to The Radio Network Ltd – 26 February 2004
  2. TRN’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 5 March 2004
  3. Mr Lowery’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 13 March 2004
  4. TRN’s Response to the Authority – 17 March 2004