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Taylor and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2013-091

Members

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

Complainant

  • S Taylor of Napier

Dated

1st April 2014

Number

2013-091

Programme

Nine to Noon

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

A news bulletin on Nine to Noon reported that former Act Party leader John Banks had been ordered to stand trial over ‘allegations of electoral fraud’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this was inaccurate, because he was actually standing trial over allegations of ‘filing a false electoral return’. The label ‘electoral fraud’ was used as shorthand to characterise the accusations against Mr Banks, and was also adopted by numerous other news media. The story and the nature of the allegations were widely publicised so viewers would not have been misled.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  A news bulletin on Nine to Noon reported that former Act Party leader John Banks had been ordered to stand trial over ‘allegations of electoral fraud’. The programme was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National on 17 October 2013.

[2]  S Taylor made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the presenter inaccurately stated that Mr Banks was facing an allegation of ‘election fraud’, when he had actually ‘been committed to trial under an allegation of filing a false election return’.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard, as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  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?

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

[6]  This complaint centres on the broadcaster’s choice of language to characterise allegations against MP John Banks, in the context of a news bulletin updating listeners on the latest development in the story. The presenter stated:

The Act Party president says John Banks has his support as its leader, as well as the party’s backing. Mr Banks resigned from his ministerial portfolios yesterday after a ruling in the Auckland District Court that there is enough evidence to stand trial over allegations of electoral fraud, relating to his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign. The private prosecution was brought before the court by [name] after the police concluded that there was not enough evidence to charge Mr Banks… [our emphasis]

[7]  The issue is whether it was inaccurate or misleading to report that Mr Banks faced allegations of ‘electoral fraud’, as opposed to ‘filing a false election return’.

[8]  Mrs Taylor asserted that RNZ repeatedly broadcast claims that Mr Banks faced allegations of ‘electoral fraud’, despite being advised that was not accurate, by an interviewee in an earlier item on Morning Report. The implication was that Mr Banks was being tried on a criminal matter, she said.

[9]  The label ‘electoral fraud’ in the Nine to Noon news bulletin was used as shorthand to characterise the accusations against Mr Banks, relating to an alleged breach of local body electoral funding rules. This shorthand description was also adopted by numerous other news media.2 The interviewee’s ‘correction’ in the earlier item on Morning Report simply conveyed his view, not that RNZ’s choice of language was wrong. ‘Electoral fraud’ has no defined meaning in New Zealand, reinforcing that its use was descriptive, as opposed to factual. The story was reported widely throughout the news media at the time and continues to attract publicity in the lead-up to the 2014 general election. It was therefore reasonable to expect that listeners were aware of the nature of the allegations against Mr Banks, and they would not have been misled.

[10]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the accuracy complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
1 April 2014

Appendix

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

1                 S Taylor’s formal complaint – 17 October 2013

2                 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 18 November 2013

3                 Mrs Taylor’s referral to the Authority – 9 December 2013

4                 RNZ’s response to the Authority – 14 January 2014