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Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2013-028

Members

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

Complainant

  • Allan Golden of Wellington

Dated

3rd September 2013

Number

2013-028

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Sunday Morning with Chris Laidlaw – interview with Sir Stephen Tindall – Sir Stephen made very brief reference to Joan Withers as a trustee of one of his projects – allegedly in breach of accuracy, fairness and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy), Standard 6 (fairness), Standard 8 (responsible programming) – Authority has previously declined to determine similar complaints from Mr Golden – complaint is trivial and bordering on vexatious for Mr Golden to continue referring similar complaints following Authority’s previous rulings – Authority declines to determine the complaint in accordance with section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  During Sunday Morning with Chris Laidlaw the host interviewed Sir Stephen Tindall, a successful New Zealand businessman and the founder of the Tindall Foundation, about his views on philanthropy as a catalyst for social change. The host asked Sir Stephen to explain the process of “catalytic philanthropy” by reference to one of his projects, and it was in this context that Sir Stephen made a very brief reference to a trustee of that project, Joan Withers, as follows:

Host:    So from the point of view of your foundation, you fund various aspects of this, so 
            you are sort of wrapping yourself around the process.

Tindall: Correct. What you really do Chris, I guess, is that by providing the funding you buy a
            seat at the table and you are then able to influence how some of these things
            occur… the catalyst is more money to keep going, or no money and it dries up.
            We’ve got one of our trustees – Joan Withers is on the Board – that directs the way
            this thing works. I meet with them quite often… and set this process in place.

[2]  The interview was broadcast on the morning of 7 April 2013 on Radio New Zealand National.

[3]  Allan Golden made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd (RNZ), the broadcaster, alleging that the reference to Joan Withers was misleading, unfair and socially irresponsible. He noted that Ms Withers was a former director of Feltex Carpets Ltd which collapsed in 2006, and alleged that she had “robbed” New Zealand investors of substantial amounts of money. Mr Golden said, “I believe sanitizing [sic] Withers was one of the purposes, probably the only purpose of the interview”.

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached standards relating to accuracy, fairness, and responsible programming, as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Did the item breach broadcasting standards?

[6]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. The policy behind section 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are, in the end, sustained by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted in having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.1

[7]  We have reached the view that it is appropriate for us to decline to determine this complaint under section 11(a), on the basis it is trivial. Mr Golden’s complaint is trivial because it relates to matters that were not discussed in the broadcast, that is, Ms Withers’ role as a former director of Feltex Carpets Ltd and her alleged culpability for the loss suffered by investors following the company’s collapse. Sir Stephen mentioned Ms Withers only fleetingly, in reference to her role as trustee of one of his projects in South Auckland and in the context of an interview about his views on philanthropy.

[8]  We also think this complaint is bordering on vexatious. Mr Golden has made many previous complaints to the Authority. None have been upheld, and almost half we have declined to determine. While each complaint is assessed on its own merits,2  we think that our decisions on two of his previous complaints in particular, which were similar to this one, ought to have put him on notice of the likely outcome of this complaint. In one case, Mr Golden referred a complaint about the broadcast of a reference to Ms Withers during an interview on Morning Report.3  This complaint was dismissed and comprehensive reasons given for its dismissal. In the other, the Authority declined to determine his complaint that a Nine to Noon interview portrayed an interviewee in a more favourable light than was warranted in his view, as his complaint did not raise any issues of broadcasting standards.4

[9]  We wish to put Mr Golden on notice that if he continues to refer complaints of this nature, despite receiving adequate responses from the broadcaster, the broadcaster may seek to recover costs from him.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
3 September 2013

Appendix

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

1          Allan Golden’s formal complaint – 18 April 2013

2          RNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 3 May 2013

3          Mr Golden’s referral to the Authority – 9 May 2013

4          RNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 June 2013


1Practice Note: Section 11 powers to decline to determine a complaint (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2013)

2We recently declined to uphold (rather than declined to determine) another complaint by Mr Golden (see Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2013-026).

3Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-167

4Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-048