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Bennett and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2002-001

Members

  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • R Bryant
  • B Hayward
  • J H McGregor

Complainant

  • Warwick Bennett of Featherston

Dated

24th January 2002

Number

2002-001

Programme

Classical Chart

Channel/Station

Concert FM

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
Concert FM – Classical Chart – chart not an accurate reflection of top 10 classical recordings sold each week in New Zealand

Findings
Principle 6 – not "news and current affairs" – musical entertainment – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Concert FM’s Classical Chart is a weekly programme broadcast on Concert FM. The programme lists the top 10 classical recordings sold in New Zealand that week.

[2] Warwick Bennett complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the Classical Chart did not accurately represent the sales of classical albums in New Zealand. He argued that some classical albums were being excluded.

[3] RNZ declined to uphold the complaint that the chart was inaccurate, stating that whether certain albums were listed or not was in part a matter of editorial judgment.

[4] Dissatisfied with RNZ’s response, Mr Bennett referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of one of the weekly broadcasts of Concert FM's Classical Chart, and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] Concert FM’s Classical Chart is a weekly programme broadcast on Concert FM. The programme lists the top 10 classical recordings sold in New Zealand that week.

The Complaint

[7] Warwick Bennett complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the Classical Chart broke "just about every principle of broadcasting". He said:

[It] purports to represent the sales of classical albums in New Zealand, but in fact does nothing of the sort.

[8] Mr Bennett complained that some albums were being excluded from the chart for "no apparent reason", in spite of their content being "clearly classical". He cited as an example an album by Hayley Westenra, which he said was "entirely classical, and outsold not only every other classical album in the New Zealand shops, but every other album of any kind". That album had gone straight to the top of the New Zealand charts, but had yet to be recognised by the Concert FM chart, he said.

[9] Mr Bennett continued:

Another album which should be in the chart is "Born" by the string quartet, Bond. There are some grounds on which this CD could be argued to be something other than classical, but such arguments are blown sky-high by the inclusion on the chart of the Kennedy jazz-rock album, "Doors Concerto" and the weird percussion CD, "Strike". To exclude the Hayley Westenra and Bond recordings and include Strike and the Doors Concerto is simply bizarre!

The Standard

[10] Radio New Zealand assessed the complaint under Principle 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which states:

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.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[11] RNZ began by questioning whether a chart of record sales fell within the definition of "news and current affairs programmes". In any event, it said, there was nothing inaccurate in the compilation and presentation of the information in the chart. The chart, it noted, was developed and maintained by Concert FM in conjunction with the recording industry and was compiled from weekly sales figures supplied by retailers throughout the country.

[12] RNZ continued:

As to the albums that are listed or not listed on the Chart, there is an element of editorial judgement exercised to determine what qualifies. These judgements are based on the criteria used to determine whether such music is heard on general play on Concert FM.

[13] RNZ listed the following factors as criteria: the particular artist; the public’s perception of them; the nature of the recorded material (that is, whether the composers were accepted "classical" composers); and, the treatment of the music (that is, whether it was "core material or accompaniment, purely symphonic or synthesised").

[14] It said:

In applying these criteria, some albums are classified as "cross over" material and may be more suited for play on National Radio rather than Concert FM and would therefore not appear in the Chart to which you refer.

The Referral to the Authority

[15] Dissatisfied with RNZ’s response, Mr Bennett referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[16] In his view, the programme clearly fell within the ambit of a news and current affairs programme. He said:

Just as the Business section of National Radio's "Midday Report", which nobody would deny is a current affairs programme, covers the sales of stocks and precious metals, the Concert FM Classical Chart performs the same function with respect to classical recordings.

[17] Mr Bennett argued that the objectivity and accuracy of relative sales of albums became "meaningless" when the figures were manipulated by "arbitrary and inconsistent" criteria, criteria which he said were ignored when convenient.

[18] In relation to the criteria concerning the nature of the recorded material and whether the composers were accepted as "classical" composers, Mr Bennett said "Strike" and "The Doors Concerto" should not have been included, and Hayley Westenra and the Bond album should have been.

[19] Under the criteria of the "treatment the music receives" (that is, whether it was the core material or accompaniment, purely symphonic or synthesised), Mr Bennett argued there was "absolutely no basis" for the exclusion of Hayley Westenra as both the material and its treatment were purely classical.

[20] He continued:

As regards the treatment of the material in "Born", it is certainly upbeat, with a heavy rhythmic accompaniment, but it is hardly "synthesised" – certainly no more so than is the case with "The Doors Concerto". As for "Strike", if banging a pile of kitchen implements together constitutes a "classical" and "purely symphonic" treatment, I would suggest that one of us is on the wrong planet!

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[21] RNZ reiterated that the matter was not an issue of broadcasting standards and therefore fell outside the Authority's jurisdiction.

The Authority’s Determination

[22] The Authority notes that, so far as the accuracy or otherwise of Concert FM's Classical Chart is concerned, Principle 6 is the only principle in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Standards which applies to Mr Bennett's complaint.

[23] Principle 6 requires broadcasters, in the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, to be truthful and accurate on points of fact. Therefore, before it can rule on the complaint, the Authority is required to determine whether or not the Classical Chart is a "news" or "current affairs" programme.

[24] In the Authority's view, Concert FM's Classical Chart does not fit the conventional description of a news or current affairs programme. The Authority considers that the principal purpose of the Chart is to provide musical entertainment. It arrives at this decision by noting the musical excerpts used during the Classical Chart programme, the fact that weekly sales figures are provided by retailers not journalists, and the acknowledged level of editorial judgement applied to the eventual compilation. As such, therefore it declines to uphold the complaint.

 

For the reasons given, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
24 January 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Warwick Bennett's Complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd – 11 August 2001
  2. RNZ’s Response to Mr Bennett – 10 September 2001
  3. Mr Bennett's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 20 September 2001
  4. RNZ’s Response to the Authority – 12 October 2001
  5. Mr Bennett's Final Comment – 6 November 2001
  6. RNZ’s Response to Mr Bennett’s Final Comment – 21 November 2001
  7. Mr Bennett’s Further Letter – 26 November 2001