A political advertisement for the ACT party broadcast on 23 November 1999 at 6.51am referred to its policy to resolve all Treaty claims. Both ACT’s and National’s policies for resolving Treaty matters were referred to at various times during the election campaign.
William Powell complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that it was responsible for disseminating incorrect and unconstitutional information which would have misled and confused the public. He emphasised that Treaty matters were not for political parties to decide, and pointed to historical evidence which he said supported his view. He noted that the point was now before the Court of Appeal for adjudication.
TVNZ noted that the substance of the complaint was very similar to another lodged by the same complainant, and that it had not been upheld when it was referred to the Broadcasting Standards Authority for review. TVNZ emphasised, as it had in the previous decision, that its task was not to assess whether such policies were achievable, or whether they were morally and legally sound, but to report accurately the policies of the various political parties. It declined to uphold the complaint.
Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Powell referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
The members of the Authority have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, it determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
ACT’s policy to finalise all Treaty settlements was highlighted in its election advertisements and was referred to in various news broadcasts during the lead-up to the election. National’s policy on Treaty issues was also highlighted in news broadcasts.
Mr Powell complained to TVNZ that it had misled viewers by broadcasting ACT’s and National’s policies on resolving Treaty issues within a specified time. He emphasised his view that no political party had the right to vary, alter or terminate the Treaty contract.
In its response, TVNZ pointed out that it had dealt with the matter in a previous complaint, and when it had been referred to the Authority for review, the complaint had not been upheld. Its role, it said, was to report accurately and fairly the policies of the various political parties.
When he referred this matter to the Authority, Mr Powell emphasised that it was not the policy itself which was particularly important, but what he believed that policy was based on. He held it as an example of the Crown attempting:
…to hustle Maori out of their illegitimate sovereign, civil, political and aboriginal property rights through the current controversial hypocritically apologist "fiscal envelope" treaty settlement process.
The Authority’s view on this matter was articulated in Decision No: 1999-219 and it repeats that its jurisdiction is defined in the Broadcasting Act 1989, and its task to consider whether, by publishing parties’ policies on the Treaty, TVNZ had breached any broadcasting standards. In all the circumstances, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
3 February 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered when the Authority determined this complaint:
1. William Powell’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 16 November 1999
2. TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 29 November 1999
3. Mr Powell’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 8 December 1999
4. TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 13 December 1999
5. Mr Powell’s Final Comment – 20 December 1999