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Beckett and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2012-094

Members

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

Complainant

  • Michael Beckett of Russell

Dated

4th December 2012

Number

2012-094

Programme

Nine to Noon

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Nine to Noon – interview about housing market in Auckland – interviewer commented, “with section prices actually falling in some of the city’s outlying areas” – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – host’s brief comment in the introduction was not a material point of fact in the context of the interview – comment would not have materially altered listeners’ understanding of the issues discussed – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  During Nine to Noon, the host interviewed the chair of the Productivity Commission about the Commission’s recent report on housing affordability, provided to the Government in March 2012. The host introduced the interview as follows:

Our next guest is here to talk about Auckland property prices going balmy... Well what is going on in the Auckland housing market with record highs in house prices and property prices in some suburbs rising so quickly homeowners who have sold have found themselves within months unable to buy again. Competition is fierce in city fringe suburbs…

...Well in its report on housing affordability given to the Government in March, the Productivity Commission blame tight land supply, a slow consenting process, and poor productivity in the construction sector as being key contributors to unaffordable housing. It also said there was an urgent need for more land to be opened up for housing in urban areas, particularly Auckland. But is this the whole story, with section prices actually falling in some of the city’s outlying areas; will opening up new land relieve the pressure if people do not wish to live there? [our emphasis]

[2]  The item was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National on 27 July 2012.

[3]  Michael Beckett made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd (RNZ), the broadcaster, alleging that the host’s comment, “with section prices actually falling in some of the city’s outlying areas” was inaccurate. He said that it was inconsistent with his experiences as a prospective section buyer, and that it was misleading to compare Auckland city prices with prices outside the metropolitan urban limit (MUL).

[4]  When he referred his complaint to this Authority, Mr Beckett sought to add the fairness standard to his complaint. Our role is to review the broadcaster’s decision. As Mr Beckett did not raise the fairness standard in his original complaint, either implicitly or explicitly, we do not now have jurisdiction to consider it. In any event, the standard applies only to individuals taking part or referred to, and Mr Beckett did not identify who he thought was treated unfairly.

[5]  The issue therefore is whether the broadcast breached Standard 5 (accuracy) of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[7]  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

[8]  In determining an alleged breach of the accuracy standard, we must assess whether the statement complained about was a material point of fact, and whether it would have misled listeners in any significant respect.

[9]  In our view, the comment identified by the complainant was not material in the context of the entire item, nor was it a statement of fact.

[10]  The focus of the interview was a discussion about the Commission’s report on housing affordability, and the reasons why house prices were continuing to rise and at record highs. The interviewee identified various factors leading to the “spike” in house prices, including rapid population growth in Auckland and a low construction rate. One of the main points made was a comparison of Auckland prices with the cost of rebuilding homes in Christchurch, and questioning why similar costs were not achievable in Auckland. In this context, the host’s fleeting comment in the item’s introduction was not material, and would not have significantly altered listeners’ understanding of the issues being discussed.

[11]  Further, the comment complained about was phrased as a question on whether “opening up new land [would] relieve the pressure [on housing affordability] if people do not wish to live [in those areas]?” Later in the interview, the host put this point about section prices in fringe suburbs to the interviewee, who offered the view that it was the houses being built that were expensive (again comparing to the rebuild in Christchurch), so people were unlikely to look at fringe/outer suburbs. Listeners would not have interpreted the comments in this context as statements of fact.

[12]  In commenting on section prices, the host did not mention any specific suburb. She simply referred to “outlying areas” and “fringe suburbs”. She did not compare Auckland city prices with prices outside the MUL. We therefore disagree that listeners would have been misled in the manner alleged.

[13]  For these reasons, we find that upholding the complaint would be an unjustifiable limit on the right to freedom of expression, and we decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
4 December 2012

Appendix

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

1          Michael Beckett’s formal complaint – 27 July 2012

2          RNZ’s response to the complaint – 9 August 2012

3          Mr Beckett’s referral to the Authority – 13 August 2012

4          RNZ’s response to the Authority – 13 September 2012

5          Mr Beckett’s final comment – 18 September 2012


1Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036