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Reynolds and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-138

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Leanne Reynolds of Waitakere

Dated

14th November 2011

Number

2011-138

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Te Raumawhitu Kupenga declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the determination of this complaint.


Complaint under section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
National Party Education Advertisement – National Party leader and Prime Minister John Key stated, “National is building a better education system, with school reports in plain English...” – statement allegedly inaccurate and misleading

Findings
Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes) – Standard 5 (accuracy) of Free-to-Air Television Code – advertisement did not state as fact that all school reports would be written in the English language – “plain English” was colloquial way of stating “easy to understand” – not inaccurate or misleading – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Broadcast

[1]  An advertisement for the New Zealand National Party was broadcast on TV One on 2 November 2011 at approximately 9.30pm. The advertisement contained images relating to New Zealand’s education system, as the National Party leader and Prime Minister John Key stated:

National is building a better education system, with school reports in plain English, help for kids falling behind and 12,500 more tertiary places. Make no mistake, we can have a brighter future, but only if you choose it.

Referral to the Authority

[2]  Leanne Reynolds directly referred a complaint about the advertisement to the Authority under section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She argued that the advertisement was inaccurate and misleading because it stated that all school reports would be in plain English, and failed to acknowledge that Te Reo was the only language written and spoken at Kura Kaupapa.

Standards

[3]  The broadcaster assessed the complaint under Standard E1 of the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice, and Standard 5 (accuracy) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes)

An election programme is subject to all relevant provisions of the Codes of Broadcasting Practice for television and radio except for the requirement to present a range of significant viewpoints on issues of public importance.

Robust debate, advocacy and expression of political opinion are a desirable and essential part of a democratic society and broadcasting standards will be applied in a manner which respects this context.

Standard 5 Accuracy

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:

  • is accurate in relation to all material points of fact; and/or
  • does not mislead.

National Party’s Response to the Authority

[4]  The National Party contended that the term “plain English” was a figure of speech meaning “easy to understand” or “plain language”, and did not refer to the specific language that would be used in the school reports. It said that while the National Party had a strong commitment to Te Reo, the emphasis of the National Administration Guidelines (NAG 2A) was on the use of plain language. The expectation for plain language was part of the NAG 2A guidelines for Kura Kaupapa, it said, and depending on the needs of the particular community, this could mean English or Te Reo. For example, it said that if parents were not fluent in Te Reo, then a report written in Te Reo would not be “plain language”, and it said that this was a decision to be made by each school.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[5]  Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, maintained that the advertisement was not inaccurate or misleading in breach of Standard 5. It reiterated the arguments put forward by the National Party in its response to the Authority.

[6]  Accordingly, TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

Authority’s Determination

[7]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[8]  Standard 5 states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead.

[9]  On this occasion, we accept the arguments made by the National Party and TVNZ that John Key’s statement, “National is building a better education system, with school reports in plain English”, was a reference to the Party’s changes in the compulsory education sector. We do not consider that the comment stated as fact that all school reports would be written in the English language, as opposed to Te Reo or any other language. Rather, we consider that the expression “plain English”, in this context, meant “plain language”, and was a colloquial way of saying “easy to understand”.

[10]  Accordingly, we find that the advertisement was not inaccurate or misleading in this respect, and we decline to uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
14 November 2011

Appendix

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

1                  Leanne Reynolds’ direct referral to the Authority – 3 November 2011

2                 The National Party’s response to the Authority – 7 November 2011

3                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 November 2011