Omission to broadcast news about an Invercargill businessman – unbalanced – deceptive programming practice
Complaint about omission to broadcast – editorial judgement – decline to determine
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
Brent Procter complained that local news bulletins on Foveaux Radio had failed to cover the activities of Matthew Gould, an Invercargill businessman who had been charged with fraud. He contended that in this omission the broadcaster had failed to show balance and had used deceptive programming practice in its broadcasts, notably during the period of newsworthiness, between 6 March and 10 March 2000.
The RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster of Foveaux Radio, responded that it had taken note of Mr Procter’s thoughts and comments on the matter and would keep them in mind for future consultation with news providers.
Dissatisfied with The RadioWorks’ response, Mr Procter 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, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
Brent Procter complained that local news bulletins on Foveaux Radio had neglected to provide ongoing coverage concerning an Invercargill businessman who had been charged with fraud, during the period between 6 March and 10 March 2000.
Mr Procter contended that, in failing to cover this story, The RadioWorks had breached standards R9 and R10 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Code cited by Mr Procter is no longer in force and the equivalent provisions in the current Radio Code are Principle 4 and Principle 6, Guideline 6a, which read:
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.
In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.
6a Broadcasters will not use deceptive programme practices.
Mr Procter contended that what he called the "disgraceful" conduct of the station in this regard "should be admitted by the broadcast of a suitable, culpability-accepted apology", and:
There should be a public assurance to never again describe, promote or advertise your erstatz local informational product as news.
The RadioWorks thanked Mr Procter for his letter and said it had noted his thoughts and comments and would keep them in mind in future consultation with its news providers.
Dissatisfied with this response, Mr Procter referred his complaint to the Authority. In Mr Procter’s view, it had not been socially responsible to neglect to broadcast the ongoing story. Mr Procter also cited Principle 6, Guideline 6d in his referral, which he considered was relevant to his complaint.
In The RadioWorks’ response to the referral, it maintained that there was no basis for Mr Procter’s complaint, commenting that:
The RadioWorks is under no obligation to broadcast news bulletins, or broadcast any particular news story.
In Mr Procter’s final comment, he reiterated his concerns about the quality of local news coverage.
In an earlier decision (Decision No: 1993-112) the Authority accepted that the non-broadcast of an event is not usually a matter to which the complaints process is applicable, and that, in most cases, it is a matter of editorial discretion whether an item is considered to be worthy of broadcast as a news item by a broadcaster. The Authority sees no reason to depart from this precedent on this occasion. As there was no broadcast and no issue of broadcasting standards was raised in the complaint, and having considered all the circumstances, the Authority declines to determine the complaint under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act.
For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
1 June 2000
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Brent Procter’s Formal Complaint to The RadioWorks – 16 March 2000
2. The RadioWorks’ Response to the Formal Complaint – 22 March 20003.
3. Mr Procter’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 17 April 2000
4. The RadioWorks’ Response to the Authority – 28 April 2000
5. Mr Procter’s Final Comment – 18 May 2000