Skip to main content

Hutchins and UMA Broadcasting Ltd - 2002-021

Members

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

Complainant

  • R D Hutchins of Auckland

Dated

28th February 2002

Number

2002-021

Channel/Station

Radio Waatea

Broadcaster

UMA Broadcasting Ltd


Complaint
Radio Waatea – Liberation Talkbackcaller advocated "illegal use of armed force" by Maori to achieve political goals – incitement – host supported caller’s view

Findings
(1) Principle 8 – warning

(2) Principle 2 – broadcaster did not encourage breaking the law – no uphold

(3) Principle 4 – talkback format allowed reasonable opportunity to present significant views on issues discussed – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] Liberation Talkback was broadcast on Radio Waatea between 8.00pm and 11.00pm on 15 October 2001. Liberation Talkback is a talkback programme broadcast weekly on Radio Waatea.

[2] R D Hutchins complained to Radio Waatea, a radio station broadcast by UMA Broadcasting Ltd (the broadcaster), that a caller to the programme had said "if it means getting the gun, I don’t care". The complainant also contended that the comments had been supported by the programme’s host.

[3] The broadcaster did not uphold the complaint. It said that Liberation Talkback provided a forum for people to express their views "without fear". It also said it did not consider that the host had shown that he agreed with the comment, just because he had not addressed the point made by the caller.

[4] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, R D Hutchins referred the 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 read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. No tape of the broadcast complained about was provided to the Authority. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[6] Liberation Talkback was broadcast on Radio Waatea between 8.00pm and 11.00pm on 15 October 2001. Liberation Talkback is a talkback programme broadcast weekly on Radio Waatea.

The Complaint

 [7] R D Hutchins complained about a comment made by a caller which was broadcast on the programme. The complainant said the caller had stated, "if it means getting the gun, I don’t care", in the context of achieving Maori sovereignty. The complainant said that the statement broadcast "could be interpreted as incitement". The complainant also contended that, as the programme’s host had not criticised the caller, he had clearly supported the statement. The complainant concluded:

It is one thing for your radio station to promote Maori separatism as the underlying theme of Liberation Talkback. It is another, more serious issue to allow an unchallenged statement of intention to use illegal armed force to achieve it.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complaint

[8] The broadcaster said of Liberation Talkback:

The weekly programme provides a forum for Maaori – it is a marae/our marae of the airwaves and the same kawa applies. People can say what they want without fear. People are encouraged to state their views on our station in the language they choose.
They are encouraged to say what they like on the issues they choose and to know they can do so without being cut off simply because their views do not accord with that of the host.
We do not do that on the marae, we strive not to do that on Liberation Talkback also.
It’s important as Maaori that we have the opportunity to share ideas on radio – and Maaori radio is especially important because of the omissions by other sections of the media.

[9] In response to the complainant’s contention that the statement which was the subject of the complaint had not been criticised by the programme’s host, the broadcaster said:

We don’t see the need for [the host] to answer every point that callers make, that’s their choice and right. He is glad to hear their views whether he agrees with then or not, probably he’d like to hear more from those with whom he disagrees. But he doesn’t have to comment on everything people say.

Just because he doesn’t comment, does not mean that he agrees with what listeners say – silence doesn’t mean assent.

[10] The broadcaster also disagreed with what it considered to be the complainant’s assertion that Liberation Talkback had separatism as an underlying theme. It also reported that the host had stated that it was "totally wrong" to say that he supported separatism, and that he had never advocated it. The broadcaster added:

[The host] continues by stating the kaupapa is liberation, tino rangatiratanga, Maaori reclaiming what is theirs, stated openly and proudly.

[11] The broadcaster did not uphold the complaint.

The Complainant’s Referral to the Authority

[12] R D Hutchins referred the complaint to the Authority for review. In the referral the complainant reiterated the view that "the unchallenged reference to the use of armed violence" could constitute "an incitement". The complainant added: "Even if it is generalised, the use of violence is explicitly supported."

[13] The complainant then disagreed with some of the comments made in the broadcaster’s response. First, the complainant said:

the protocol (kawa) of the marae do not displace the legal requirements of radio broadcasting in New Zealand, and… a radio station and network is by no means the same communication context as a marae. The nature and dispersal of the audience, the lack of face-to-face language and the legal contexts make radio differ significantly from the marae customs.

[14] The complainant also commented:

As the item in question is the use of armed violence I am astounded that the station management sees no justification to accept my complaint, especially as the broadcasting of attitudes tolerant of, or advocating, armed political action by Maori against others can only exacerbate race relations in our country. (complainant’s emphasis)

[15] Finally, the complainant said:

I believe the comments [made by the radio station about the host’s] views on tino rangatiratanga and separatism are irrelevant to my complaint, even if over the years he has used his programme to urge Maori not to vote in national and local elections, and has clearly advocated separate Maori legal and political systems – which I take to be separatism.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[16] The broadcaster explained its recording of the programme had been inadvertently taped over, and that, since this error had occurred, it had implemented a new system to ensure the error would not recur.

[17] The broadcaster considered that the complainant had taken some of its comments out of context. It said that it had not implied any support for armed politics. It then reiterated its view that the host had not supported the caller’s view simply by not commenting. The broadcaster also reiterated that the programme promoted tino rangatiratanga, not separatism.

[18] Next, the broadcaster emphasised that it did not support the use of armed violence in any context. It maintained:

In fact, our talkback shows have always been about finding political solution for key issues that Maaori feel aggrieved [about].

[19] The broadcaster continued:

We fully support the airing of views and the addressing of issues where Maaori have been wronged. The manner in which we address these issues on air is by letting the callers speak in a manner appropriate and comfortable for them.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[20] In a final comment, R D Hutchins repeated the views which had been earlier advanced.

The Authority’s Determination

[21] By way of preliminary comment, the Authority expresses its concern that the broadcaster did not provide the Authority with a tape of the broadcast complained about. Principle 8 of the Radio Code requires broadcasters to be able to provide copies of the tapes of all open line and talkback programmes for a period of 35 days after the broadcast. The Authority reminds the broadcaster of its obligations under Principle 8.

[22] In the absence of a tape, it is the Authority’s usual practice to accept the complainant’s version of the broadcast. Taking into account that the complainant’s version of the broadcast was not disputed by the broadcaster, the Authority determines the complaint on the basis of the complainant’s account.

[23] By way of further preliminary comment, the Authority observes that neither the complainant nor the broadcaster nominated any specific radio broadcasting standards against which to assess this complaint. The Authority considers Principles 2 and 4 of the Radio Code to be the standards relevant to this complaint and proceeds accordingly. Those principles read:

Principle 2

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order.

Guidelines

2a  Care should be taken in broadcasting items which explain the technique of crime in a manner which invites imitation.

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.

Guidelines

4a  Broadcasters will respect the rights of individuals to express their own opinions.

4b  Broadcasters may have regard, when ensuring that programmes comply with Principle 4, to the following matters:

(i) An appropriate introduction to the programme; and

(ii) Any reasonable on-air opportunity for listeners to ask questions or present rebuttal within the period of current interest. Broadcasters may have regard to the views expressed by other broadcasters or in the media which listeners could reasonably be expected to be aware of.

[24] Turning to the substance of the complaint, the Authority’s task in assessing whether Principle 2 has been contravened is to consider whether the broadcaster has breached its obligation to maintain standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law and order. On previous occasions, the Authority has found a breach of Principle 2 where the broadcaster has actively encouraged breaking the law, or has abused the judiciary and its processes (see for example Decision No: 2001-054 and Decision No: 2000-018).

[25] On this occasion the Authority does not consider that the broadcaster crossed the threshold required to constitute a breach of Principle 2. The Authority has not listened to the broadcast and therefore is unable to assess the context in which the remark was made. Nevertheless, it does not agree with the complainant’s assertion that the host, by not commenting on the caller’s comment "If it means getting the gun, I don’t care", advocated any breach of the law. It declines to uphold the complaint as a breach of Principle 2.

[26] As to Principle 4, the Authority considers that this principle is relevant as the broadcast discussed issues relating to Maori liberation and tino rangatiratanga. The Authority considers that these are controversial issues of public importance, the discussion of which require that:

 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.

[27] Liberation Talkback is a talkback programme. Talkback is a programme format which encourages participation by telephone from people with different views. The Authority repeats the view advanced in earlier decisions that, unless there is evidence to the contrary, it considers that the talkback format of the broadcast gives reasonable opportunity for the presentation of significant points of view on the issues under discussion. In this context, it notes that guideline 4a to Principle 4 requires that broadcasters respect the rights of individuals to express their own opinions. The Authority concludes that Principle 4 was not breached by the broadcast.

[29] The Authority observes that to find a breach of the nominated principles would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to place too great a limit on the broadcaster’s statutory freedom of expression in s.14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and prefers to adopt an interpretation of the principles which is consistent with the Bill of Rights.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
28 February 2002

Appendix

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

  1. R D Hutchins' Complaint to Radio Waatea – 16 October 2001
  2. Radio Waatea’s Response to the Complainant – 1 November 2001
  3. The Complainant’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 12 November 2001
  4. Radio Waatea’s Response to the Authority – 26 November 2001
  5. The Complainant’s Further Letter – 17 December 2001
  6. The Complainant’s Final Comment – 20 December 2001