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Hector and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2018-020 (21 May 2018)

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
  • Wendy Palmer

Complainant

  • Martin Hector

Dated

21st May 2018

Number

2018-020

Programme

The Panel

Channel/Station

Radio New Zealand National

Broadcaster

Radio New Zealand Ltd

Summary

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

An item on The Panel featured an interview with the Prime Minister’s partner and regular guest on the programme, Clarke Gayford. The interview focused on the Prime Minister’s recent pregnancy announcement and parenthood. At the beginning of the interview, Mr Gayford was introduced as the ‘Prime Minister’s partner’. The complainant submitted that the broadcast was inaccurate and misleading because Mr Gayford should have been introduced as the Prime Minister’s ‘publicist’. The Authority declined to determine the complaint on the basis it was frivolous and trivial and did not reach the threshold for being considered under the accuracy standard.

Declined to Determine: Accuracy 


Introduction

[1]  An item on The Panel featured an interview with the Prime Minister’s partner and regular guest on the programme, Clarke Gayford. The interview focused on the Prime Minister’s recent pregnancy announcement, advice on parenthood Mr Gayford had received including from members of the Labour Party, and Mr Gayford’s future as a father. At the beginning of the interview Mr Gayford was introduced as ‘the Prime Minister’s partner, Clarke Gayford, joining us from the Labour Party retreat in Martinborough…’

[2]  Martin Hector complained that the way Mr Gayford was introduced was inaccurate. Mr Hector submitted that, as Mr Gayford directly publicises the Prime Minister through media outlets in New Zealand and overseas, he should have been introduced during the broadcast as the Prime Minister’s ‘publicist’, before being referred to as her partner.

[3]  In its response to the complaint, RNZ submitted that it was clear that Mr Gayford had been invited to speak on the programme regarding the Prime Minister’s pregnancy, so it was reasonable to introduce him as her partner. Most of the discussion which followed focused on the discussion of the Prime Minister’s pregnancy at the Labour Party’s strategic meeting, rather than any other aspect of the meeting, the broadcaster said.

[4]  The issue we have considered is whether the complaint raises matters of broadcasting standards which can properly be determined by this Authority.

[5]  The item was broadcast on 22 January 2018 on RNZ National. The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Does the complaint raise any issues of broadcasting standards which can properly be determined by this Authority?

[6]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. The policy behind section 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are, in the end, sustained by broadcasters and by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted in having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.1

[7]  A ‘frivolous’ complaint is one which is not serious or sensible, and is unworthy of being treated in the same way as a complaint which has some merit.2 A ‘trivial’ complaint is one which is of little or no importance and is at such a level not to justify it being treated as a serious complaint.3 A ‘vexatious’ complaint is one which has been instituted without sufficient justifying grounds.4

[8]  The accuracy standard is only concerned with ‘material points of fact’. There is no evidence that the broadcaster misled listeners by referring to Mr Gayford as the Prime Minister’s partner, which is correct. The complainant’s concerns about how Mr Gayford ought to be portrayed by media do not reach the threshold for being considered under the accuracy standard. The substance of the interview was about the Prime Minister, and we consider that the complaint about the introduction was trivial.

[9]  We therefore find there are insufficient grounds to treat this as a serious substantive complaint, and we decline to determine the complaint under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, on the basis it is frivolous and trivial.

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

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
21 May 2018  

 

Appendix

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

1      Martin Hector’s formal complaint – 22 January 2018
2      RNZ’s response to the complaint – 13 February 2018
3      Mr Hector’s referral to the Authority – 15 February 2018
4      RNZ’s confirmation of no further comment – 16 March 2018


1 Guidance: BSA power to decline to determine a complaint, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, pages 63-64

2 As above

3 As above

4 As above