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Hashimoto and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2014-010

Members

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

Complainant

  • Masaru Hashimoto of Auckland

Dated

2nd May 2014

Number

2014-010

Programme

Summer Noelle

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd


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

During a discussion on Summer Noelle about current events in Japan, a foreign correspondent commented that whale meat in Japan was ‘quite cheap’, and that the Senkaku Islands were ‘fairly meaningless’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that these comments were inaccurate, as they were clearly the personal opinions and analysis of the correspondent.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  During a discussion on Summer Noelle about current events in Japan, a foreign correspondent made comments about the price of whale meat, and the Senkaku Islands. The programme was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National on 8 January 2014.

[2]  Masaru Hashimoto made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd (RNZ), alleging that the foreign correspondent’s comments were inaccurate.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard (Standard 5) as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Were the comments 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]  Mr Hashimoto complained about two aspects of the item: the correspondent’s comments about the price of whale meat; and her comments about the Senkaku Islands.

Were the comments about the price of whale meat in Japan inaccurate or misleading?

[7]  The following exchange took place during the item:

Presenter:              Is [whale meat] expensive…?

Correspondent:      No, no. It’s quite cheap… It compares to something like salmon or       
                             even a white fish…

Presenter:              It’s about 10 American dollars I think…

Correspondent:      Yes, that’s about right.

[8]  Mr Hashimoto argued that these comments were inaccurate, because whale meat in Japan was ‘usually about 10 times more expensive than salmon’. He considered these comments would have given listeners the impression that ‘Japan takes the lives of whales… lightly’.

[9]  The broadcaster said the price of whale meat was referred to in a ‘fleeting manner’ only and was incidental to the focus of the item.

[10]  Guideline 5a to the accuracy standard states that it does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, commentary or opinion. In our view, it was clear that the reporter’s comments throughout the segment reflected the culture and attitudes toward whaling that she had personally encountered while living in Japan; she was offering her own views and experiences, rather than making statements of fact. Specifically, her comments about the price of whale meat were based on her own observations in local supermarkets. Just prior to the presenter asking her about the price of whale meat, the correspondent noted:

I live in a suburb of Tokyo, an inner city suburb, and I see [whale meat] in the supermarket from time to time… I still get shocked when I see it in the seafood section in the supermarket and I think, ‘I can’t believe that’s whale meat that I’m looking at’.

[11]  Even if the comments did amount to material points of fact, we are not convinced that the price mentioned was inaccurate. We have found sources which state that whale meat in Japan today is of a similar price to salmon and other meats like beef.2 Others suggest that some cuts of whale meat, for example from the fluke of the whale, are significantly more expensive than others.3 Accordingly, both the reporter’s comments and the complainant’s figures could be accurate.

[12]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold this part of the accuracy complaint.

Was it inaccurate or misleading to call the Senkaku Islands ‘fairly meaningless’?

[13]  During a discussion about increasing tensions between China and Japan, the foreign correspondent observed that:

The ambassador is saying that Japan's maritime forces never harass neighbours in the high sea as China does, and that Japan has been a good citizen in terms of the UN charter. So this is of course about the islands dispute in the East China Sea. Japan controls these fairly meaningless islands at the moment but China claims territorial rights to them. [our emphasis]

[14]  Mr Hashimoto argued the comment that the islands were ‘fairly meaningless’ was inaccurate as they are ‘located in a very important location in terms of fishery, military defence as well as resources’.

[15]  In our view, labelling the Senkaku Islands ‘fairly meaningless’ was unfounded and demonstrated a level of ignorance. Nevertheless, this was clearly a subjective analysis by the foreign correspondent, and was not a statement of fact. The accuracy standard therefore did not apply to this particular comment, in accordance with guideline 5a.

[16]  We therefore decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
2 May 2014

Appendix

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

1                 Masaru Hashimoto’s formal complaint – 8 January 2014

2                 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 16 January 2014

3                 Masaru Hashimoto’s referral to the Authority – 30 January 2014

4                 RNZ’s response to the referral – 27 February 2014