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Keren and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2014-144

Members

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

Complainant

  • Gael Keren

Dated

4th March 2015

Number

2014-144

Programme

Morning Report

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

An item on Morning Report covered a truce between Israel and Hamas during the Gaza conflict. A Palestinian rights activist and an Israeli spokesman were interviewed. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item was unbalanced because more air time was given to the Palestinian view, and because no significant point of view was presented from an equivalent Israeli activist. There is no requirement for mathematically equal time to be given to competing perspectives on controversial issues. Sufficient efforts were made during the broadcast to showcase the Israeli, as well as the Palestinian, perspective. Further, listeners could reasonably be expected to be aware of a range of views on the Gaza conflict given the extensive and ongoing coverage of this issue.

Not Upheld: Controversial Issues


Introduction

[1]  A four-minute item on Morning Report covered a recent truce between Israel and Hamas during the Gaza conflict. A Palestinian rights activist and an Israeli spokesman were interviewed.

[2]  Gael Keren complained that the broadcast was unbalanced because it gave more air time to the Palestinian rights activist and did not present 'a significant point of view from an equivalent Israeli rights activist'. Ms Keren also made four other complaints of a similar nature which we are not able to consider as they were not received by the broadcaster within the required statutory timeframe.

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

[4]  The item was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National at approximately 8:20am on 27 August 2014. 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 item sufficiently balanced?

[5]  The balance standard (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. The standard exists to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable a viewer to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.1

[6]  Ms Keren said she had timed the amount of air time given to the Palestinian rights activist versus the Israeli spokesman, and found that the Palestinian rights activist was given two thirds of the total air time. She argued that 'For coverage of a ceasefire between two parties in conflict, there should be equivalent points of view from both parties, especially on something as major as an agreed truce.'

[7]  RNZ maintained that broadcasting standards had never required 'stopwatch journalism' in order to achieve balance. It said that extensive coverage was given to the Gaza topic over many days, which included comments from Israeli spokespeople.

[8]  A number of criteria must be satisfied before the requirement to present significant alternative viewpoints is triggered. The standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programmes which discuss a controversial issue of public importance. The subject matter must be an issue 'of public importance', it must be 'controversial', and it must be 'discussed'.2

[9]  We have previously accepted that the Gaza conflict, and particular developments within that conflict, amount to a controversial issue of public importance.3

[10]  We are satisfied that RNZ made reasonable efforts to provide balance on that issue. The Authority has consistently held that 'balance need not be achieved by the "stopwatch", meaning that the time given to each competing party or viewpoint does not have to be mathematically balanced'.4 RNZ included a substantial interview with an Israeli spokesman, lasting two to three minutes. It was not required to give him exactly equal air time as the Palestinian rights activist; that the Israeli perspective was included within the item was sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the balance standard.5

[11]  In addition, Guideline 4a to the balance standard states that an assessment of whether a reasonable range of views was presented can take into account whether listeners would be aware of views expressed in other coverage. Given the long-standing nature of the Gaza conflict and its ongoing period of current interest, RNZ could reasonably expect listeners to be aware of significant perspectives on that topic from extensive coverage offered both by RNZ as well as other media outlets.

[12]  For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaint that Standard 4 was breached.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
4 March 2015

 

Appendix

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

1      Gael Keren's formal complaint – 24 September 2014
2      RNZ's response to the complaint – 22 October 2014
3      Gael Keren's referral to the Authority – 20 November 2014
4      RNZ's response to the Authority – 17 December 2014

 

 


1 Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014 

2 For further discussion of these concepts see Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Television (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2010) and Practice Note: Controversial Issues – Viewpoints (Balance) as a Broadcasting Standard in Radio (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2009)

3 Bolot, Finlay and Gautier and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2013-008

4 See, for example, Boyce and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-163; Signer and Bailey and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2011-111; and Brooking and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2009-012

5 We have previously declined to uphold similar complaints that various RNZ programmes breached the balance standard by being ‘deeply partisan’ towards the Palestinian perspective, as reasonable efforts were made to include the Israeli perspective: Bolot, Finlay and Gautier and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2013-008