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Rupa and Māori Television - 2011-087

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Dilip Rupa of Auckland

Dated

18th October 2011

Number

2011-087

Channel/Station

Māori Television

Broadcaster

Māori Television


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Tuko Anzac in Māori – Anzac Day broadcast – included images of the New Zealand flag – allegedly in breach of broadcasting standards

Findings
Standard 4 (controversial issues) – complaint frivolous and vexatious – decline to determine under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Broadcast

[1]  An Anzac Day programme entitled Tuko Anzac in Māori was broadcast on Māori Television at approximately 10am on 25 April 2011. During the programme, the presenter interviewed the leader of the Anglican Church, Dr Hone Kaa, with regard to his experiences with war. Throughout the interview, the New Zealand flag was visible in the background. Later in the programme, author Mark Dwight discussed the life of Walter Callaway, the “forgotten soldier”, who was supposedly the first Māori soldier to travel overseas to fight for New Zealand. During the discussion, Mr Dwight said that Mr Callaway’s conscription to the army was an oddity because Māori were not allowed to fight in what was seen as a “white man’s war”.  

Complaint

[2]  Dilip Rupa made a formal complaint to Māori Television, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme breached Standard 4.

[3]  The complainant asserted that the programme contained three images of the New Zealand flag (“post Boer War flag”) and argued that the broadcaster deliberately withheld information relating to New Zealand’s “true” flag present at Waitangi. In his view, this displayed Māori Television’s failure to respect the Boer War soldiers and Native Chiefs by “not clarifying the detailed points of history from a Māori [perspective]”. He stated, “To date the New Zealand flag used for New Zealand contingent soldiers not in the British forces has not been associated with Anzac Day coverage [or] discussed on any Māori TV current affairs show, including Native Affairs, whose presenter fronted the Anzac Day programme.”

[4]  Mr Rupa also noted that the programme included footage of the Victoria Cross stamp collection, and said that it failed to mention that “one of these was won during the Land Wars, and that the first one issued during the Boer War was not for killing Māori.”

Standards

[5]  Mr Rupa nominated Standard 4 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his complaint. It provides:

Standard 4 Controversial Issues – Viewpoints

When discussing controversial issues of public importance in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[6]  Māori Television stated that the Anzac Day broadcast was primarily a commemoration of the battles of New Zealand soldiers who fought in many wars. It asserted that, during the studio interview with Dr Kaa, there were no flags in the background. In any event, the broadcaster argued that the programme did not contain any discussion of controversial issues that required balancing viewpoints. Accordingly, it declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]  Mr Rupa maintained that the programme included images of the “Post Boer War flag” in the background of “many” studio interviews, but deliberately avoided any mention of the “only flag chosen by Native Chiefs and raised after the signing of the founding document formalising New Zealand nationhood [the Declaration of Independence]”. He stated, “The withholding and misleading of facts and the absence of debate and discussion will be grounds for future generations to accuse [Māori Television] and TVNZ... as being Crown puppets.”

[8]  The complainant argued that Māori Television had an obligation to “reveal the truth” so that people understood the history relating to New Zealand’s flag, in particular, why it became the official flag following the Boer War. He reiterated his view that the broadcast was disrespectful to the Boer War soldiers and Native Chiefs and maintained that broadcasting standards had been breached.

Further Submissions from the Complainant

[9]  In further comments provided to the Authority, Mr Rupa argued that during the broadcast, Māori Television put forward the “unsubstantiated assumption” that the Boer War was a “white man’s war” by stating that the Natives were not allowed to fight in that war. He asserted that this supported his view that the broadcast consisted of “lazy journalism”.

[10]  In the complainant’s view, the Authority needed to give consideration to the fact that:

Anzac Day is our remembrance day. The Land Wars saw Native people killed and imprisoned under the command of the treaty jurisdiction of the Union Jack flag. Land was confiscated under the treaty, but never was this done under the Declaration of Independence.

[11]  Mr Rupa said that the presenter did not discuss these facts in the Anzac Day broadcast or in other programmes, and reiterated his view that there was “no justification” for not showing “the only New Zealand flag which was not the post Treaty official flag, or the British Union Jack which remained New Zealand’s official [flag] until it was replaced... by the current flag”.

[12]  The complainant considered that “steps needed to be taken to correct [the broadcast] by revealing the truth. The distortion of the truth of the past has no purpose other than to hide how Sovereignty... was transferred via jurisdictional flag”. He argued that this was urgent because it had the potential to affect Treaty settlements. He stated, “To knowingly deny people the right to make a better decision for the future of their people is despicable”. 

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[13]  Māori Television disputed the complainant’s contention that it had withheld information regarding the flag, and argued that this information was already in the public domain and formed part of the “historical record” accessible by every New Zealander.

[14]  The broadcaster considered that the complainant’s concerns related to matters of editorial discretion, and did not raise any issues under Standard 4. It noted that, in total, Mr Rupa had made five referrals to the Authority over a span of 15 years, none of which had been upheld. In particular, it referred to the Authority’s decision in Rupa and Māori Television,1 where it declined to uphold his complaint on the basis that it did not raise any broadcasting standards issues. In this respect, Māori Television considered that Mr Rupa was under a “fundamental misapprehension” as to the Authority’s procedures and the extent of its jurisdiction, resulting in continuous frivolous and vexatious complaints. It submitted that the Authority should decline to determine the complaint.

Authority’s Determination

[15]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Preliminary Matter

[16]  Mr Rupa asked for the complaint to be heard on a Marae, stating, “This way [Māori Television] can be closer to the people it has forgotten to serve”. For the reasons given below, we do not consider that the complaint involves any issues which require a formal hearing, and we therefore determine the complaint on the papers in accordance with usual practice.

Standard 4 (controversial issues)

[17]  Mr Rupa has made a number of complaints to this Authority relating to the presentation of New Zealand’s history and its flags, in each instance arguing that the broadcasts did not contain information which he considered should have been included.2 He has been put on notice that his complaints do not raise any issues of broadcasting standards, but are concerned solely with matters of personal preference and editorial discretion.3 Despite this, Mr Rupa has continued to refer complaints of this nature, thereby expending a significant amount of both the Authority’s and broadcasters’ time and resources.

[18]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 allows the Authority to decline to determine a complaint which it considers to be frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. In our view, it has now reached a point where it is vexatious for Mr Rupa to again complain about matters of personal preference which cannot be resolved by this complaints procedure. We therefore decline to determine the complaint pursuant to section 11(a), on the grounds that it was frivolous and vexatious.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
18 October 2011

Appendix

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

1                  Dilip Rupa’s formal complaint – undated

2                 Māori Television’s response to the complaint – 10 June 2011

3                 Mr Rupa’s referral to the Authority – 6 July 2011

4                 Mr Rupa’s additional comments – 9 August 2011

5                 Māori Television’s response to the Authority – 24 August 2011


1Decision No. 2010-009

2See Rupa and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-058; Rupa and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-012; Rupa and Māori Television, Decision No. 2010-009, Rupa and Māori Television, Decision No. 2011-055

3See Rupa and Māori Television, Decision No. 2010-009