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Mundy and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2002-202

Members

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

Complainant

  • Reg Mundy of Christchurch

Dated

17th December 2002

Number

2002-202

Channel/Station

National Radio

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint
National Radio – news item – warning about miracle healing claims advertised by evangelist Weston Carryer – unfair

Findings
Principle 5 – news item – based on exercise of statutory power – not unfair to Weston Carryer – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] A warning about the services advertised by faith healers was reported in a news item on National Radio at 6.00am on 17 September 2002. The item was based on a statement made by Health and Disability Commissioner, Ron Paterson, who referred to the miracle healing claims advertised by evangelist, Weston Carryer.

[2] Reg Mundy complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was unfair to Mr Carryer as the Commissioner had made the statement without conducting an investigation or obtaining any evidence to validate the statement.

[3] In response, RNZ said that it had reported the Commissioner’s statement which had been made pursuant to a statutory power, and not as a result of any investigation. It declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with RNZ’s response, Mr Mundy 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 listened to a tape of the programme complained about, read a transcript of the item and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] A warning about the services advertised by faith healers was reported in a news item broadcast on National Radio at 6.00am on 17 September 2002. The full item read:

Faith healers are being warned not to oversell their services. The Health and Disability Commissioner says the legislation under which he operates allows him to hear complaints about anyone who provides any kind of healing service whether or not they charge for it. This follows advertisements in a Hutt Valley newspaper for healing meetings by a Tauranga based evangelist Weston Carryer.

The advertisements say hundreds of people have been miraculously cured of illnesses including asthma, cancer and epilepsy as a result of Mr Carryer’s ministry.

But the Commissioner, Ron Paterson, says he’s concerned about the strength of these claims. He says people should not lead (sic) to believe that a miracle is guaranteed.

The Complaint

[7] Reg Mundy complained to RNZ that the item was unfair to Mr Carryer as the Commissioner had made the statement without conducting an investigation. He contended that the item had insinuated that the Commissioner had investigated the claims advertised by Mr Weston Carryer. Mr Mundy referred to a letter he had received from the Commissioner in relation to this matter, which advised that the Commissioner did not intend to investigate Mr Carryer.

[8] Mr Mundy was advised by the Commissioner that he had exercised his statutory power to "make public statements about matters affecting consumers’ rights" by making the media statement on 17 September 2002.

[9] Mr Mundy concluded that the news item was misleading because it had "implied an outcome of Mr Paterson’s authority to investigate".

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[10] RNZ maintained that the item had not stated or implied that the Commissioner had conducted an investigation into Mr Carryer’s activities. It wrote:

We reported Mr Paterson’s view of Weston Carryer’s advertising. Mr Paterson believes he is entitled to make statements about matters affecting consumers’ rights without conducting a formal investigation first (as his letter to you shows).

[11] RNZ declined to uphold that the item had breached broadcasting standards.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[12] Mr Mundy noted what he thought had been broadcast:

Health Commissioner is moving against miracle healing claims of Tauranga- based Weston Carryer. Advertisements in Upper Hutt the subject of complaints.

[13] Mr Mundy reiterated that he had corresponded with the Commissioner regarding the item, and he expressed his dissatisfaction with both the Commissioner’s and RNZ’s response to his complaint. Mr Mundy also requested a transcript of the item complained about.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[14] RNZ maintained that what Mr Mundy had recorded as broadcast was incorrect. It reiterated that the news item had not stated that the Commissioner had conducted an investigation.

The Complainant’s Final Comment

[15] Mr Mundy considered that the action taken by the Commissioner against Mr Carryer was unfair because the matter had not been investigated, or supported by any evidence. He stated that "healings do occur in evangelistic Gospel meetings".

The Authority’s Determination

[16] Mr Mundy maintained that a news item which warned healing service providers not to "oversell their services", and which specifically referred to the miracle healing claims advertised by evangelist Weston Carryer, was unfair. The item was based on a statement made by the Health and Disability Commissioner, Ron Paterson, who Mr Mundy contended had not investigated Mr Carryer’s activities.

[17] As neither the complainant nor the broadcaster nominated a relevant broadcasting standard against which to assess the complaint, it had considered the matter against Principle 5 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which reads:

Principle 5

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

[18] The Authority notes that the Commissioner exercised a statutory power in making the statement on which the news item was based. In its view, the Commissioner had a legitimate right to make the statement which did not imply that an investigation of Mr Carryer’s activities had taken place. The Authority did not consider that Mr Carryer was dealt with unjustly or unfairly on the news item broadcast. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that Principle 5 was not contravened.

[19] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
17 December 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Reg Mundy’s Formal Complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd – 27 September 2002 (plus attachment)
  2. RNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 8 October 2002
  3. Mr Mundy’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 10 October 2002
  4. RNZ’s Response to the Authority – 24 October 2002
  5. Mr Mundy’s Final Comment – 4 November 2002