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Short and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2016-040C (19 October 2016)

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose

Complainant

  • Lee Short

Dated

19th October 2016

Number

2016-040C

Programme

Seven Sharp

Channel/Station

TV ONE

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

A Seven Sharp item discussed the reasons that outgoing New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd was not seeking re-election. These included that Mr Judd had suffered abuse and become ‘deeply unpopular’ because of his campaign to increase Māori representation on the New Plymouth District Council, in particular by proposing that a Māori ward be established on the Council. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item lacked balance and was misleading by failing to accurately present the perspective of the New Plymouth public who were opposed to Mr Judd’s proposed reforms. While it was framed primarily as a profile piece on Mr Judd, the item’s discussion of the proposed Māori ward triggered the requirement for balance. Sufficient balance was provided by Mr Hosking in both the item itself and in a follow-up item, as he gave the alternative viewpoint that a specific Māori ward may be undemocratic. While several of the reporter’s statements could be seen to conflate the issues about representation, the surrounding statements clarified what was being discussed so viewers would not have been misled. In the context of the item, these statements did not reach the threshold for breaching the accuracy standard.

Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  A Seven Sharp item discussed the reasons that outgoing New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd was not seeking re-election. These included that Mr Judd had suffered abuse and become ‘deeply unpopular’ because of his campaign to increase Māori representation on the New Plymouth District Council (the Council), in particular by proposing that a Māori ward be established on the Council.

[2]  Lee Short, on behalf of Democracy Action, complained that the item lacked balance and was misleading. He alleged that the item failed to present and accurately convey the perspective of the majority of the New Plymouth public who were opposed to Mr Judd’s proposed reforms.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the balance and accuracy standards as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast on TV ONE on 5 May 2016. The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The item

[5]  The Seven Sharp item was introduced by presenter Toni Street as follows:

It’s the reason why Mayor Andrew Judd is stepping down that will shock you. It’s to do with racism, abuse and trying to do what Judd thinks is right even if it’s deeply unpopular...

[6]  The item began with Mr Judd reading out what people have said to him over the time of his Mayoralty, including:

  • ‘Māori don’t need any special treatment they just need to be more like us.’
  • ‘If I’d have known you supported all this Māori stuff I would never have voted for you.’
  • ‘Enjoy your one term as our mayor fella.’

[7]  Mr Judd also stated he was removed as the patron of a club and uninvited from community events.

[8]  The reporter explained, ‘Andrew Judd is a Pākehā who gets abused by other Pākehā for liking Māori.’ Mr Judd said he was abused in the community and that was when he decided to ‘hide’ his family and not take them to public events.

[9]  A member of the New Plymouth public was then interviewed, saying, ‘when you have the Mayor being spat on, who is a Pākehā, by Pākehā, it’s pretty awful’. The reporter and Mr Judd then confirmed this story, saying:

Reporter: [Name] is right – Andrew Judd was spat on by a woman in the supermarket, right in front of his kids.

Mr Judd: Firstly I was shocked, and [my kids] were looking at me a little bit fearful, so we left.

[10]  Mr Judd and the reporter then had the following exchange:

Mr Judd: My name is Andrew Judd and I am a recovering racist...

Reporter: He says he was a racist when he became Mayor three years ago.

Mr Judd: I spent most of my life deflecting. I said I wasn’t a racist – ‘gosh, we’ve got a Treaty, we’re paying them out. What’s wrong with them? They are the ones with the problem. They don’t get over it. They don’t want to improve themselves.’ I’m sick of it, they’re all in jail. Never ever did I say, ‘have I bothered to learn anything in the Māori world?’ I’d grab a haka as if I owned it. I didn’t even understand it, couldn’t even say it properly...

[11]  The reporter explained how Mr Judd’s role in a Treaty settlement regarding Council land had in turn affected his mayoralty:

It got [Mr Judd] thinking about how Māori weren’t represented on his Council. He suggested a Māori member on Standing Committees; the Council voted against this. Then he suggested a Māori Ward (that’s one Māori seat on the 14-member Council), that was passed but many Councillors didn’t attend the vote. Now a large part – a large, vocal part – were outraged at the thought of Māori getting onto the New Plymouth District Council. So Grey Power forced a petition, which forced a referendum, and 83% of New Plymouth voters voted ‘No’ to any Māori at the Council table. Now this result mirrors similar votes all around New Zealand. The push for Māori representation made Andrew Judd deeply unpopular.

[12]  Mr Judd commented on the reaction he had received from his constituents, including ‘a man dressed in a Nazi uniform coming up to see me’. The reporter also said that ‘other Mayors avoided [Mr Judd] at local government meetings’.

[13]  Mr Judd then stated he would not seek re-election because of the challenges and public backlash he had received as Mayor.

[14]  The item concluded with Mr Judd saying, ‘We need to look after our indigenous people. If we can’t do that, how on earth are we going to grow and become this multicultural country we say we’re going to be?’

[15]  After the item, presenter Mike Hosking commented:

Sad to say – I’d never personally attack him, obviously – but he’s completely out of touch with middle New Zealand. There’s nothing wrong with Māori representation on Councils because any Māori who wants to stand for a Council is more than welcome to do so. And you can sell your message and if you’re good enough, you’ll get voted on – simple as that.

[16]  Presenter Toni Street and Mr Hosking then had the following exchange:

Ms Street: Well, clearly the big issue here was his message wasn’t sold before he was elected, and that was the big problem, wasn’t it.

Mr Hosking: If you want to push like representation, specific and artificial representation on Māori Councils, what you do is you go and say, ‘vote for me because this is what I stand for’.

Ms Street: Beforehand.

Mr Hosking: And if you get elected, then you got elected and you’ve got a mandate – simple as that.

[17]  Mr Hosking also interviewed Mr Judd in a follow-up item, broadcast during Seven Sharp on 9 May 2016. The two discussed Mr Judd’s view that there needed to be better Māori representation on councils, why he took this position, and why he considered the options councils currently had for achieving better Māori representation were limited.

Preliminary issue – scope of complaint

[18]  In his original complaint Mr Short explicitly nominated the balance standard. He also complained that several of the reporter’s statements were ‘completely inaccurate’.

[19]  TVNZ considered Mr Short’s complaint under the balance standard only, but nevertheless addressed his concerns regarding the inaccuracy of the reporter’s statements in its response.

[20]  The Authority’s established approach to the issue of the scope of complaints and their determination has been to accept jurisdiction over standards raised either explicitly or implicitly in the original complaint (or, conversely, to decline jurisdiction to consider a standard where it was not raised either explicitly or implicitly in the original complaint).1 In our view, Mr Short implicitly raised the accuracy standard in his original complaint, and we have proceeded to consider his complaint under both the balance and accuracy standards.

Was the item sufficiently balanced?

[21]  The balance standard (Standard 8) 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 viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.

The parties’ submissions

[22]  Mr Short argued that TVNZ failed to make reasonable efforts to present the perspective of the majority of the New Plymouth public who were opposed to Mr Judd’s proposed reforms. He said that, while the item’s introduction indicated that the issue was being presented from the sole perspective of Mr Judd, ‘that is no excuse for omitting the opposing viewpoint, particularly where the story in other respects intended to be a serious examination of the issues of Māori representation in New Plymouth’. Mr Short considered that the item did not elucidate the perspective of the voting majority, namely that Māori seats would represent unequal democratic rights, and framed those who hold that perspective as ‘bigoted, prejudicial and discriminatory’. He stated he was unaware of a single representative from the other side of the debate to Mr Judd being interviewed by the broadcaster during the period of current interest.

[23]  TVNZ accepted that the issue of a Māori ward on the Council was a controversial issue of public importance. It considered that significant viewpoints on this issue were broadcast within the period of current interest, including during a follow up Seven Sharp item in which Mr Hosking interviewed Mr Judd, and in a subsequent ONE News item.2

[24]  TVNZ argued that the viewpoint that Mr Short considered was omitted was given in the form of commentary from Mr Hosking in both the original and follow up Seven Sharp item. It referred to the following statement from Hugh Johnson, who initiated the public campaign against the proposed Māori ward which forced the referendum, and submitted that it was essentially the viewpoint expressed by Mr Hosking:

I believe we are one country, one lot of people, not divided. The Māori seats in Parliament separates the Parliament and we don’t need to spread it out into the local government area. It’s as simple as that. If you wanted to get voted on council, you go through one voting system.

Our analysis

[25]  The item as a whole was primarily framed as a profile piece on Mr Judd, detailing from his perspective his experiences being on the Council and as Mayor, and his reasons for deciding not to seek re-election. That being said, we agree that the issue of a proposed Māori ward on the New Plymouth District Council, which in turn raised issues about representation in a democratic society, was a controversial issue of public importance which was discussed during the course of the item. While obviously a controversial issue in New Plymouth which ignited much debate, resulting in a referendum, this issue also caused public discussion around the country. The specific incident in New Plymouth did not solely relate to Mr Judd’s personal journey, but also raised broader issues around Māori representation on local councils generally (which the presenters commented on at the end of the item).

[26]  In our view, taking into account the nature of this item as a profile piece, adequate balance was provided on these issues.

[27]  Mr Hosking’s comments at the end of the item, as well as his comments and challenging of Mr Judd’s views on Māori representation in the follow-up Seven Sharp item, in essence gave the view that the complainant considered the item was lacking – that a specific Māori ward may be undemocratic.

[28]  At the end of the original item, Mr Hosking referred to Mr Judd as pushing for ‘specific and artificial representation’ and stated that there was nothing wrong with Māori representation on Councils because ‘any Māori who wants to stand for a Council is more than welcome to do so’.

[29]  During the follow up item, Mr Hosking further questioned Mr Judd as follows:

What is wrong with plain old democracy? That in a country of freedom that if you are Māori, Pacific Island, man, woman, tall, short – whatever – you can stand for a publicly elected body if you want; there is nothing stopping you.

[30] Mr Hosking then referred to the debate about Māori seats in Parliament, saying, ‘The beauty of the MMP system was there is no falseness to it; there is no quota system based on race. It’s an open system which allows undisputedly better representation’. He concluded that ‘democracy is democracy and you either like it or you don’t’.

[31]  We are also satisfied that the item made it clear that Mr Judd’s position on Māori seats was not shared by the vast majority of locals and Mr Judd himself was ‘deeply unpopular’ as a result of his views. The reporter emphasised that 83 per cent voted against the establishment of a Māori ward, and detailed the abuse and criticism Mr Judd had received in light of his views. This indicated to viewers that there was an alternative perspective held in New Plymouth countering Mr Judd’s support for a Māori ward, which was further articulated by Mr Hosking. We think this was adequate in the circumstances.

[32]  For these reasons, we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 8.

Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[33]  The accuracy standard (Standard 9) 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 being significantly misinformed.

The parties’ submissions

[34]  Mr Short considered the reporter’s statements below were inaccurate, misleading and a ‘gross misrepresentation of the views of those opposing Mr Judd’:

  • ‘Now a large part – a large, vocal part – were outraged at the thought of Māori getting on the New Plymouth District Council.’
  • ‘83 per cent of New Plymouth voters voted “no” to any Māori at the Council table.’
  • ‘Andrew Judd is a Pākehā who gets abuse from other Pākehā for liking Māori.’

[35]  Mr Short argued that there is already Māori representation on the Council and there is no proposal to prevent more Māori standing under the existing ward regime. He considered that the item confused ‘legitimate disagreement in regards to the fairest democratic representation (ie, whether exclusive Māori based wards are appropriate, justified or consistent with the principles of democracy) with like/dislike for Māori’. Mr Short’s submission was that any ‘outrage’ was at the thought of unequal democratic rights, not at Māori on the Council.

[36]  TVNZ provided the following evidence to support the statement that ‘a large part’ of the New Plymouth public ‘were outraged’ at Mr Judd’s proposal:

  • Over 4,000 registered voters signed a petition against the Māori ward, forcing a binding referendum.
  • A public forum on the proposed Māori ward was moved from the Council to the city's theatre because of a backlash from voters.
  • Letters to the editor and social media posts were ‘filled with disgust’ at the thought of a Māori ward.
  • Local residents provided anecdotal evidence to this effect.
  • Mr Judd testified to the quantity and ferocity of abuse he received.

[37]  TVNZ further stated that the wording of the referendum was:

Do you want a Māori ward in the New Plymouth District Council? A Māori ward is a ward of Māori only constituents who elect a representative onto council. It is a Māori seat on Council like the five national Māori seats in Parliament. You must be on the Māori roll to vote for Māori seats.

[38]  TVNZ maintained that 83 per cent of New Plymouth voters said no to the proposed Māori ward, which it considered was ‘in essence saying no to Māori representation on the council’. It further noted that ‘many of the objections to the Māori seats were based on ethnicity’. For these reasons TVNZ considered the statements in the item were not inaccurate and would not have misled viewers.

Our analysis

[39]  We acknowledge that when taken in isolation, the reporter’s statements could be seen to imply general resistance to any Māori on the Council, rather than to the establishment of a Māori ward. This was a careless and loose explanation and, given the sensitive subject matter discussed, should have been avoided. However, when considered in context, we are satisfied the statements did not reach the necessary threshold for finding a breach of the accuracy standard.

[40]  As we have said in relation to balance, the item as a whole was primarily framed as a profile piece on Mr Judd, detailing from his perspective his experiences with being on the Council and as Mayor, and his reasons for deciding not to seek re-election. It was in this context that the proposed Māori ward on the Council was raised. The first two statements identified by Mr Short were made as part of a lengthy explanation about the proposed Māori ward and the corresponding referendum. The full explanation by the reporter was as follows:

It got [Mr Judd] thinking about how Māori weren’t represented on his Council. He suggested a Māori member on Standing Committees; the Council voted against this. Then he suggested a Māori Ward (that’s one Māori seat on the 14-member Council), that was passed but many Councillors didn’t attend the vote. Now a large part – a large, vocal part – was outraged at the thought of Māori getting onto the New Plymouth District Council. So Grey Power forced a petition, which forced a referendum, and 83% of New Plymouth voters voted ‘No’ to any Māori at the Council table. Now this result mirrors similar votes all around New Zealand. The push for Māori representation made Andrew Judd deeply unpopular.

[41]  In light of the preceding statements, we believe viewers would have understood that the ‘public outrage’ and the 83 per cent vote related to the proposed Māori ward, rather than to any Māori on the Council per se, and therefore would not have been misled.

[42]  As we have acknowledged above, while the reporter’s statements were careless, we are satisfied that there was sufficiently precise and accurate commentary surrounding these statements to mitigate any lapses. We recognise that in some cases, a reporter may simplify the subject matter – in this instance, local council referendums – in order to convey the message to viewers. We consider that in this case, in the context of a profile piece about Mr Judd for Seven Sharp, the reporter’s shorthand explanation did not reach the threshold for breaching the accuracy standard.

[43]  Regarding the reporter’s statement, ‘Andrew Judd is a Pākehā who gets abuse from other Pākehā for liking Māori,’ we agree with the complainant to the extent that this could be interpreted as conflating the issues discussed in the item, namely race (and negative treatment based on race) with issues of representation and democracy. However, we similarly consider that when taken in context, viewers would not be misled by this statement and it did not reach the threshold for finding a breach of the standard.

[44]  The item outlined a number of examples of the responses that Mr Judd has received from members of the public, which included insults and being spat on. For example, immediately before the reporter’s statement identified by the complainant, Mr Judd had repeated what a member of the public had said to him: ‘If I’d have known you supported all this Māori stuff I would never have voted for you.’ Statements such as this assisted viewers to understand why Mr Judd had attracted a negative reaction from some members of the public. As we have said, the item was primarily framed as a profile piece about Mr Judd and his experiences, and largely presented from his perspective. In this setting we do not consider the reporter’s statement was misleading.

[45]  Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint under Standard 9.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
19 October 2016

 

Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1      Lee Short ’s formal complaint – 18 May 2016
2      TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 20 June 2016
3      Mr Short ’s referral to the Authority – 15 July 2016
4      TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 24 August 2016

 

 

 


1 See, for example, Dunstan and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2015-052 at paragraph [7]; Morse and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2014-094 at [3]; and NZ Timber Preservation Council Inc and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-032 at [24].

2 Broadcast on 14 May 2016 on TV ONE.