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Waqanivala and Radio Voqa Kei Viti Aotearoa - 2017-046 (28 November 2017)

Summary

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

During a Gospel Hour programme on Radio Voqa Kei Viti Aotearoa, a Fijian language station, the announcer used the term ‘iTaukei’ in her greetings to listeners, which the broadcaster submitted referred to the indigenous Fijian population in New Zealand and elsewhere overseas. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the term ‘iTaukei’ meant ‘owner’ in English (and therefore referred to New Zealand Māori), and that use of this term caused division and unrest amongst the station’s Fijian listeners. The Authority found that, while the announcer’s use of the term may be seen by some as divisive and politically-charged, it was not offensive, incorrect or discriminatory to an extent that would justify the Authority intervening and finding a breach of broadcasting standards, and as a result limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. The Authority however reminded the broadcaster of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, which did not occur in this case.

Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy, Fairness  


Introduction

[1]  During a Gospel Hour programme on Radio Voqa Kei Viti Aotearoa (Radio VKV), a Fijian language station, the announcer used the term ‘iTaukei’ in her greetings to listeners, which the broadcaster submitted referred to the indigenous Fijian population in New Zealand and elsewhere overseas. For example, an independent English translation of the broadcast provided to the Authority reads:

…Time for listening to Gospel singing this evening is moving on. I know that [iTaukei] indigenous Fijians living permanently in Aotearoa and in other parts of the world are enjoying this programme.
…It is nearly 7 o’clock when listening to Gospel singing will end, to be followed by local news from New Zealand.
I hope that all [iTaukei] indigenous Fijians residing in Aotearoa and other parts of the world have enjoyed this new broadcasting service…
[Emphasis added]

[2]  Elisapeci Waqanivala complained that the term ‘iTaukei’ meant ‘owner’ in English, and therefore referred to Māori in New Zealand, rather than ‘indigenous Fijians’. She submitted that she sent private messages to the broadcaster via its Facebook page to ‘correct the error’ and the broadcaster subsequently published these comments on its own publicly viewable Facebook page, as well as another publicly viewable page, which was a breach of her privacy and resulted in her unfair treatment.

[3]  The issues raised in Ms Waqanivala’s complaint are whether the broadcast breached the good taste and decency, programme information, law and order, discrimination and denigration, balance, accuracy, privacy and fairness standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The complainant also raised concerns about the broadcaster’s actions in dealing with the complaint, which we discuss from paragraph [19] below.

[4]  The comments subject to complaint were broadcast during the 6pm Gospel Hour on 27 February 2017 on Radio VKV 87.9FM. In making its determination on this complaint, the members of the Authority have read an independent translation of the broadcast complained about, the parties’ submissions on that translation, and the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority was also provided with a recording of the broadcast in Fijian.

Did the broadcaster’s use of the term ‘iTaukei’ breach broadcasting standards?

[5]  Ms Waqanivala raised a number of concerns both about this broadcast and also about the way in which the broadcaster dealt with her concerns, primarily in posting her private messages to public Facebook pages (we have considered this issue below at [19]). The key issue raised in Ms Waqanivala’s complaint in relation to the broadcast material is whether Radio VKV’s use of the term ‘iTaukei’, to refer to indigenous Fijians in New Zealand, was consistent with broadcasting standards.

[6]  In our view, the good taste and decency and law and order standards are most relevant to Ms Waqanivala’s concerns. As Ms Waqanivala has raised similar issues under these standards, and the same contextual factors and other considerations are relevant to our assessment, we have addressed them together.

[7]  The purpose of the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) is to protect audience members from viewing or listening to broadcasts that are likely to cause widespread undue offence or distress, or undermine widely shared community standards. In a radio context, the standard is usually considered in relation to offensive language, sexual material, or violence.

[8]  The purpose of the law and order standard (Standard 5) is to prevent broadcasts that encourage audiences to break the law, or otherwise promote criminal or serious antisocial activity.1 The standard is concerned with broadcasts that actively undermine, or promote disrespect for, the law or legal processes.

The parties’ submissions

[9]  Ms Waqanivala submitted that:

  • The independent translation of the broadcast was crude, as ‘iTaukei’ did not mean indigenous Fijian but ‘owner’.2 The term was therefore only relevant to Māori or tangata whenua in New Zealand, and indigenous Fijians could not claim the term.
  • Radio VKV was known in the community to be ‘a propaganda mouthpiece for [the] Bainimarama Ffp Regime’. As such, it was creating division and could ‘incite antagonisms and political unrest’ amongst indigenous Fijian listeners in New Zealand.

[10]  Radio Voqa Kei Viti submitted that:

  • The presenter considered she had the right to use the word iTaukei, as she regarded herself as ‘an indigenous person of my country Fiji’.
  • It used this word to refer to the indigenous Fijian population in New Zealand, and those abroad tuning into the livestream platform.
  • It was ‘not a scapegoat of a particular political party’ and was ‘neutral like all broadcasting platforms’.
  • ‘We have never wanted to take the place of the tangata whenua the indigenous Māori here in Aotearoa’.

Our analysis

[11]  Having regard to publicly available information, it appears to us that the use of the term ‘iTaukei’, and particularly the process by which this term was adopted in Fiji, may be seen as controversial and divisive.3 We understand that in 2010-11, the Bainimarama government passed a military decree that all citizens of Fiji would be called ‘Fijians’, while indigenous Fijians would be called ‘iTaukei’.4 This has been carried into Fiji’s Constitution, which states that ‘All citizens of Fiji shall be known as Fijians’,5 and in its preamble states:6

WE, THE PEOPLE OF FIJI,
RECOGNISING the indigenous people or the iTaukei, their ownership of iTaukei lands, their unique culture, customs, traditions and language…

[12]  A Fijian-English Dictionary compiled by Ronald Gatty defines ‘iTaukei’ as ‘native Fijian’, ‘owner of some thing’ and ‘Fijian native (of a place)’, and states that ‘the word has become a polite way of referring to Fijians’.7 The dictionary also states that:8

The new term iTaukei may refer only to officially registered Fijians. iTaukei dredre hardline iTaukei, belligerent in politics, asserting rights of Fijians versus Indians, Europeans and other ethnic/racial groups… As a modernism, the word has come to include all native Fijians who own native land.

[13]  However, in this case, the term was used briefly during the announcer’s greetings to listeners during a Gospel Hour broadcast, featuring hymns and gospel music. In our view, the greetings were innocuous, and appear to have been used for the purpose of promoting the station and thanking listeners for tuning in, rather than any form of political commentary. We are satisfied that the use of the term in the context of a Gospel Hour programme, comprising mainly music, did not promote antisocial or illegal behaviour in breach of the law and order standard, or actively encourage discrimination or division amongst Fijian listeners.

[14]  Further, the term iTaukei is set out and defined in Fiji’s constitution and appears to be used in various online news items and media outlets in Fiji, as well as in government (for example, the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs). We do not consider iTaukei would be received as offensive by, for example, Māori listeners, and the presenter identifies as iTaukei and considers she is entitled to refer to her listeners in this way. We therefore do not consider that use of this term would have caused widespread undue offence or undermined widely shared standards of good taste and decency, at a level in breach of Standard 1.

[15]  While listeners may debate the meaning of the term, or disagree with the adoption of the term for political reasons, we do not consider the use of the term on this occasion could be considered offensive, incorrect or discriminatory at a level which would justify the Authority intervening and finding a breach of broadcasting standards, and limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. We acknowledge the important role community and foreign language broadcasters play in New Zealand, and the value of broadcasts presented in listeners’ own languages.

[16]  For these reasons we do not uphold the complaint under the good taste and decency and law and order standards.

Was the broadcast in breach of any other broadcasting standards?

[17]  Ms Waqanivala also submitted that this broadcast, and the broadcaster’s actions, were in breach of the programme information, discrimination and denigration, accuracy, balance, privacy and fairness standards. These standards were either not applicable, or were not breached, for the following reasons:

  • Programme Information: Guidance to this standard states that it will rarely apply to radio, except where the broadcast of an audience advisory may be appropriate.9 We do not consider that the Gospel Hour programme required an advisory.
  • Balance and Accuracy: These standards apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes. The Gospel Hour programme complained about was not a news, current affairs or factual programme; it primarily featured hymns and gospel music.
  • Discrimination and Denigration, Privacy and Fairness: Ms Waqanivala’s concerns under these standards primarily related to the broadcaster’s actions in posting her private messages to publicly viewable Facebook pages. We have dealt with this issue below at [19].

[18]  We therefore do not uphold the remaining aspects of Ms Waqanivala’s complaint. 

General comments

[19]  As we have noted above, Ms Waqanivala raised in her referral to the Authority her concerns about Radio VKV’s conduct in response to her original complaint. She submitted that:

  • Radio VKV’s response to her concerns (which were submitted privately on Facebook), was demeaning and intimidating.
  • The details of her Facebook conversation with the station were made public without her knowledge or consent, and despite her request that further correspondence be directed to her email address. She was publicly humiliated and treated unfairly as a result.
  • At the end of her conversation with the broadcaster, Ms Waqanivala asked that her concerns be treated as a formal complaint, which did not occur.

[20]  In response, Radio VKV accepted that it posted the conversation on Facebook and said it felt it was appropriate to let listeners know about Ms Waqanivala’s criticism. It offered to apologise to Ms Waqanivala, at a time and date as advised by the Authority.

[21]  The Authority does not have jurisdiction over social media platforms, such as Facebook, so we are unable to consider the Facebook content provided by Ms Waqanivala as part of her complaint referral.

[22]  However, we note that Part 2 of the Broadcasting Act 1989 outlines broadcasters’ obligations to receive and consider formal complaints about broadcasts. Sections 6 outlines that broadcasters have a duty to receive and consider formal complaints about any programme broadcast, where a complaint alleges the broadcaster has failed to comply with broadcasting standards. Section 7 requires broadcasters to respond to complaints in writing and to advise complainants of their right to refer complaints to the Authority if they remain dissatisfied.

[23]  All broadcasters must have in place a procedure for dealing with complaints and Radio VKV does not appear to have such a procedure. It is important that it urgently puts one in place in order to meet its broadcasting obligations under the Act. Authority staff will provide assistance to Radio VKV to ensure processes are in place and understood by the broadcaster’s staff and management.


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


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
28 November 2017  

 


Appendix

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

1       Elisapeci Waqanivala’s formal complaint – 1 and 2 March 2017
2       Radio VKV’s response to the complaint – 5 April 2017
3       Ms Waqanivala’s referral to the Authority – 24 May 2017
4       Ms Waqanivala’s further comments on her referral – 20 June 2017
5       Radio VKV’s response to the referral – 21 July 2017
6       Radio VKV’s further comments on the broadcast audio – 11 August 2017
7       Ms Waqanivala’s nomination of broadcast extracts – 24 September 2017
8       Ms Waqanivala’s translation of the extracts – 8 October 2017

Translation

9       Gospel Hour, Radio Voqa Kei Viti 87.9FM, broadcast on 27 February 2017
10     Ms Waqanivala’s comments on the translation – 26 and 27 October 2017
11     Radio VKV’s comments on the translation – 31 October 2017


 

1 See, for example, Keane and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-082

2 Citing Fijian Grammar by GB Milner M.A. (Cantab.), Ph.D. (London). The first draft of Fijian Grammar was examined in 1953 by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, renowned High Fijian Chief, lawyer and statesman.

3 See, for example, discussion here: 'Fijian' references replaced with 'i Taukei' by interim govt (ABC Radio Australia, 15 February 2012)

4 Decree on term Fijian could be imminent (RNZ, May 2010); Fijians, I-Taukei, Indians and Indo-Fijians - name changes by military decree (Pacific Media Centre, Wadan Narsey, February 2011)

5 Available to view here: http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Govt--Publications/Constitution.aspx, page 3

6 Above, page 1

7 Fijian-English Dictionary with notes on Fijian culture and natural history, Ronald Gatty, Suva, Fiji, 2009, page 259

8 As above

Guideline 2a