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Parlane and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2018-075 (14 November 2018)

Dated

14th November 2018

Number

2018-075

Programme

Drive

Channel/Station

Radio Live

Broadcaster

MediaWorks Radio Ltd

Summary

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

The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a RadioLIVE Drive show, which discussed the issue of property managers or landlords asking to see the bank statements of prospective tenants. The Authority found the broadcast did not breach any of the broadcasting standards raised by the complainant, noting the broadcast included a range of viewpoints from the hosts, interviewees and listeners who phoned into the programme. The broadcast discussed a legitimate issue and was in line with audience expectations for the programme and for talkback radio. The Authority therefore found no actual or potential harm that might have outweighed the important right to freedom of expression.

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


The broadcast

[1]  During RadioLIVE’s Drive show on 8 August 2018, host Ryan Bridge and guest host Lynda Hallinan discussed the issue of property managers or landlords asking to see the bank statements of prospective tenants. This was prompted by a property manager’s comment to a Government committee that she routinely asked to see the bank statements of prospective tenants.

[2]  This topic was discussed in the broadcast during interviews with representatives from the Property Investors’ Federation and Renters United, and in a panel discussion. A number of listeners also phoned in to the show and expressed a range of viewpoints on the issue.

The complaint

[3]  James Parlane complained the broadcast breached the balance, accuracy, law and order, discrimination and denigration, good taste and decency, programme information, violence, privacy and fairness standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  Mr Parlane submitted:

  • Ms Hallinan commented that prospective tenants should ‘photoshop’ their bank statements to deceive potential landlords, encouraging listeners to break the law.
  • Ms Hallinan attempted to cast landlords generally in a bad light and discriminated against them throughout the broadcast, which was 'irresponsible’ and resulted in an unbalanced broadcast. 
  • Ms Hallinan said, ‘We’ve been talking about the whole landlord and tenant situation. Every accommodation supplement that is not actually paid to a beneficiary, you know, that goes to the landlord, so we’re actually subsidising them too.’ This was misleading, unbalanced and inaccurate as accommodation supplements are not paid by WINZ to landlords. They are paid to tenants as part of any benefit they may be entitled to. 

The broadcaster’s response

[5]  In response to the complaint, the broadcaster submitted:

  • Some listeners may have disagreed with some of the views expressed, but there was nothing unacceptably challenging in the broadcast.
  • The broadcast was appropriately scheduled and did not contain any material that required the use of an audience advisory.
  • The broadcast did not contain a portrayal or discussion of violence.
  • Ms Hallinan’s ‘Photoshop’ remark was clearly tongue-in-cheek rather than a genuine recommendation to listeners to break the law.
  • The broadcast did not encourage discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community.
  • The broadcast included a wide variety of points of view in relation to the topic.
  • The material Mr Parlane identified as misleading or inaccurate was clearly identifiable as analysis, comment or opinion, which the accuracy standard is not intended to prevent.
  • No breach of privacy or fairness was identified in the broadcast.

The standards

[6]  Mr Parlane raised a total of eight broadcasting standards in his complaint. When we assessed his complaint, we found the balance, accuracy and law and order standards to be the most relevant, so we have focused our decision on those standards. The remaining standards raised are addressed briefly at paragraph [22] below.

[7]  The balance standard (Standard 8) aims to ensure that competing arguments are presented to enable viewers to form their own informed and reasoned opinion about controversial issues of public importance.

[8]  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. Guideline 9d states that talkback programmes will not usually be subject to the accuracy standard.

[9]  The intent behind the law and order standard (Standard 5) is to prevent broadcasts that encourage viewers to break the law, or otherwise promote, glamorise or condone criminal activity.

Our findings

[10]  Our starting point is that we recognise the importance of the right to freedom of expression, which includes both the broadcaster’s right to present information and ideas to the public, and the audience’s right to receive that information. We weigh the value of the broadcast item, as well as the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, against the level of actual or potential harm that might be caused by the broadcast, either to an individual or to society or the audience generally.

[11]  The discussion of property managers asking prospective tenants for their bank statements explored a legitimate issue and carried public interest. Across the broadcast as a whole the discussion was presented in a balanced manner and allowed a wide range of views to be aired. For the reasons outlined below, we have not identified any actual or potential harm arising from the broadcast which justifies restricting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

Balance

[12]  Mr Parlane’s primary concern under this standard is that Ms Hallinan depicted landlords in a negative light throughout the broadcast which made the broadcast unbalanced. Mr Parlane submitted ‘the problem is with delinquent tenants not paying rent’.

[13]  We first asked ourselves whether this segment of the Drive show amounted to ‘news, current affairs or factual programming’, which triggered the requirements of the balance standard. In our view it did not fall within this category. The programme was clearly a talkback segment and was analogous to ‘programmes which are wholly based on opinions or ideas’, which are generally not considered news or current affairs.1 While the host and callers discussed topical issues, listeners would not have expected a balanced or authoritative examination of these issues, in the context of the robust, opinionated talkback environment.

[14]  In any event, we note the broadcast contained a wide range of views on the issue of whether landlords should have access to prospective tenants’ bank statements, including comments that were supportive of landlords. For example:

  • ‘But if the bank statements show whether you’ve been paying rent on time or not at a previous property that might be pertinent to whether you get the house.’ (Ryan Bridge, host)
  • ‘…you’ve got this very expensive asset that you’re letting somebody into and it’s very difficult once a tenant’s in to get them out…’ (Property Investors’ Federation)
  • ‘I think it’s a good idea, because first of all they can see that you can pay the rent by the outgoings… I’ve always taught my kids the rent’s got to come first.’ (caller)

[15] Accordingly we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

Accuracy

[16]  As noted above, talkback programmes will not usually be subject to the accuracy standard.This is because the very nature of a talkback show is that it largely comprises opinions shared by the hosts and callers, and opinions (as opposed to statements of fact) are not subject to the accuracy standard.3

[17]  Listeners would not have expected the views shared as part of this broadcast to be authoritative or subject to standards of accuracy, and we find the accuracy standard did not apply here. Ms Hallinan’s comment that ‘every accommodation supplement that is not actually paid to a beneficiary, you know, that goes to the landlord…’ was one comment within a lengthy discussion focused primarily on the issue of prospective tenants providing bank statements. Her comment was unlikely to affect the audience’s understanding of the discussion of this topic as a whole.

[18]  Therefore we do not uphold the complaint under this standard.

Law and Order

[19]  The complainant’s concern under this standard is with Ms Hallinan’s comment, ‘[W]e were sort of thinking Photoshop, just quietly. Just Photoshop it up and make it look good,’ which he considered actively promoted illegal behaviour and encouraged audiences to falsify their bank statements.

[20]  Ms Hallinan’s comment was a brief, tongue-in-cheek joke made in passing. It was prompted by a caller’s suggestion that prospective tenants asked to provide bank statements could request from the bank a statement showing only automatic payments for rent, rather than all of their outgoing expenses, which the hosts remarked was ‘very smart’. The comment did not exceed audience expectations of talkback radio and did not actively encourage listeners to break the law or promote criminal activity, in the context.

[21]  We therefore do not uphold the law and order complaint.

Remaining standards raised

[22]  We have summarised below our findings in relation to the other standards raised in Mr Parlane’s complaint, and the reasons these standards were either not applicable or not breached:

  • Discrimination and Denigration: Landlords are not a recognised ‘section of the community’ for the purposes of this standard. In any event, Ms Hallinan’s comments were made as part of a legitimate discussion and were not made with the required ‘high level of condemnation’ necessary to find a breach of this standard.
  • Good Taste and Decency: While some listeners may not have agreed with comments made during the broadcast, nothing in the broadcast was likely to cause widespread undue offence considering audience expectations of talkback radio as a forum for challenging and robust debate.
  • Programme Information: In the radio context, this standard is concerned with providing audience advisories where broadcast content is likely to be outside audience expectations. The material complained about did not go beyond expectations and did not require an advisory.
  • Privacy: Mr Parlane did not identify any individual whose privacy he believed was breached.
  • Fairness: This standard only applies to individuals or organisations taking part or referred to in a broadcast. Mr Parlane has not identified any person or organisation as being the subject of any unfairness arising from the broadcast. It cannot be applied to landlords as a group of people.

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


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judge Bill Hastings
Chair
14 November 2018 


Appendix

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

1     James Parlane’s formal complaint – 11 August 2018
2     MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 7 September 2018
3     Mr Parlane’s referral to the Authority – 10 September 2018
4     MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 21 September 2018


1 Guideline 9d

2 Guideline 9d

3 Guideline 9a