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Dawson and Radio Bay of Plenty Ltd - 2012-083

Members

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

Complainant

  • Darryl Dawson of Whakatane

Dated

25th September 2012

Number

2012-083

Programme

1XX News

Channel/Station

One-Double-X

Broadcaster

Radio Bay of Plenty Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
1XX News – items reported on repeat complaints about campaign overspending – stated, “Detective Inspector [name] says the Independent Police Conduct Authority determined [the police] investigation was thorough and followed correct procedure. The Ombudsman backed this up” – allegedly in breach of controversial issues and accuracy standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – statement subject to complaint was not a material point of fact but was clearly attributed to detective inspector and reflected contents of police press release – distinction between “thorough” and “adequate” not material – item was not inaccurate or misleading – not upheld

Standard 4 (controversial issues) – focus of the item was repeat complaints and not the adequacy or otherwise of the police investigation into overspending – brief news updates did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Introduction

[1]  Items on 1XX News, broadcast on One-Double-X on 19 June 2012, reported on repeat complaints about campaign overspending by the successful candidate in the Whakatane 2010 local body elections. The first item reported the outcome of a police investigation into the overspending and noted that complainants who were dissatisfied with the outcome had complained again, “believing they have new evidence about the spending and police handling of the case”. In the second item, the newsreader stated:

Detective Crime Manager, Detective Inspector [name] says the Independent Police Conduct Authority determined [the police] investigation was thorough and followed correct procedure. The Ombudsman backed this up.

[2]  Darryl Dawson made a formal complaint to Radio Bay of Plenty Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the items were unbalanced and that one item contained “misleading, incorrect statements” about the findings of the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) and the Ombudsman, neither of which had investigated or reviewed the “thoroughness or otherwise” of the police investigation.

[3]  The issue is whether the items breached Standards 4 (controversial issues) and 5 (accuracy) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcasts complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Were the items inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  Standard 5 (accuracy) 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. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[6]  Mr Dawson argued that it was inaccurate and misleading to report that the IPCA had found the police investigation was “thorough” and that the Ombudsman “backed this up”. He said that the IPCA had only found the investigation was “adequate”, and that neither the IPCA nor the Ombudsman had investigated the “thoroughness or otherwise” of the investigation.

[7]  The broadcaster provided comment from its news editor, who said that the information broadcast was a summary of a statement issued by the Bay of Plenty police, in response to her request for confirmation the police had received further complaints about the investigation. She stated, “It basically just sums up the police statement with the key point they will not be proceeding, and the case is closed, they’ve got more important work to do”.

[8]  We are satisfied that the statement subject to complaint (see paragraph [1]) was not a material point of fact. Rather it was clearly attributed to the detective inspector who issued the press release, and was an analysis of that statement.2 In any event, we do not consider that the use of the term “thorough” instead of “adequate” was material to the point being made – that the IPCA was satisfied with the way the police investigation had been handled – or that it would have materially affected listeners’ understanding of the items. With regard to the remainder of Mr Dawson’s accuracy complaint, we consider that 1XX News made reasonable efforts to ensure the reports were accurate by relying on the contents of a press release issued by the police.

[9]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Did the items discuss a controversial issue of public importance requiring the presentation of significant viewpoints?

[10]  Standard 4 states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and 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.

[11]  The Authority has previously stated that the balance standard exists to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.3 The standard only applies to programmes which discuss “controversial issues of public importance”, and therefore this objective is of vital importance in a free and democratic society.

[12]  Mr Dawson’s concerns under this standard relate to the omission of information which, in his view, cast doubt on the police investigation. He argued that the items failed to “give balance” by not reporting that the investigating police officer had disclosed a conflict of interest, but nevertheless continued to work on the investigation.

[13]  The focus of the items was repeat complaints in relation to electoral overspending on which the police were refusing to take any further action, and not the adequacy or otherwise of the police investigation. The items were brief news updates on an ongoing local issue, and did not amount to a discussion of a controversial issue of public importance.

[14]  Given the focus and nature of the items, it was not necessary to include balance by way of information about the investigating officer, or the way the investigation was handled.

[15]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 4 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
25 September 2012