BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Baxter and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2004-125

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Mark Baxter
Number
2004-125
Programme
Nine to Noon
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
National Radio

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
National Radio – Nine to Noon – joint interview with organiser of anti-racism march in Christchurch and leader of National Front – complainant alleged that interview on National Radio gave National Front credibility and legitimacy – item allegedly unbalanced and unfair as National Front not legitimate commentator on immigration issues

Findings
Principle 4 (balance) – programme presented both sides of debate – not upheld

Principle 5 (fairness) – programme not unfair to identifiable person – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] During Nine to Noon on 10 May 2004 the presenter (Linda Clark) conducted a joint interview with the organiser of an anti-racism march in Christchurch, Mr Lincoln Tan, and the organiser of a National Front counter-march, Mr Kyle Chapman. The interview, which was conducted following the marches that had taken place on 8 May, also covered each person’s respective views on immigration generally.

Complaint

[2] Mark Baxter complained to Radio New Zealand, the broadcaster, that the programme breached the principles of balance and fairness in that interviewing the National Front as part of a joint interview was “a serious distortion of balance and fairness”, as it gave the National Front credibility and legitimacy. Mr Baxter complained that neither racism nor the National Front should be given such credibility.

Principles

[3] RNZ assessed the complaint under Principles 4 and 5 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. These principles state:

Principle 4
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Principle 5
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4] RNZ rejected the assertion that the programme was unbalanced. It noted that “both ends of the spectrum” were presented in the one programme, and that the interviewer challenged the position adopted by both interviewees.

[5] In relation to the issue of fairness, RNZ also rejected the complaint. It stated that a review of the programme demonstrated that the questioning put to both interviewees, and in particular to Mr Chapman of the National Front, enabled listeners to make up their own mind as to whether the respective positions were credible. RNZ also noted that the interviewer put to Mr Chapman that the National Front stood for certain principles, and that this was rejected by Mr Chapman. RNZ concluded:

By way of robust questioning and an extended interview, each side was given more than adequate opportunity to put their positions. In the end it is up to the listener to determine the relative merit and credibility of the positions that are put forward.

Referral to the Authority

[6] Mr Baxter was dissatisfied with RNZ’s response, and referred the matter to the Authority. In his letter of referral, Mr Baxter reiterated the following points:

  • The National Front – whom he referred to as “Nazis” – should not be given media coverage “in the context of credibility, especially on issues such as immigration.”
  • Simply giving two parties the opportunity to speak does not ensure a programme’s balance or fairness.
  • The National Front does not represent one end of the spectrum on immigration, but is instead “a small, extreme and irrelevant organisation”.

Authority's Determination

[7] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Principle 4 (Balance)
[8] The Authority does not uphold that part of the complaint alleging that the programme was unbalanced. While the Authority agrees that the issue of immigration is a controversial issue of public importance, it is of the view that the joint interview did, for the following reasons, provide the balance required by Principle 4 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice:

  • Mr Tan, the organiser of the anti-racism rally, presented in a coherent and persuasive manner his views on the value of immigration and the harm caused by discriminating against people solely on the basis of their race.
  • Mr Chapman presented a contrary view, to the effect that immigrants to New Zealand should assimilate to New Zealand culture and therefore that only immigrants from European countries should be permitted.
  • Each interviewee was given an opportunity to present his views, and to respond to points made by the other. The interview clearly presented two differing views on the subject of immigration. Regardless of the merits of each position, the listener was left with the clear understanding that there exists a spectrum of opinion in relation to the issue of immigration.

[9] The Authority also notes that the more outspoken and contentious of Mr Chapman’s views were challenged by the interviewer.

[10] In these circumstances, enough was done to satisfy the requirement of balance in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

Principle 5 (Fairness)

[11] The Authority does not uphold the part of the complaint alleging that the programme was unfair.

[12] Principle 5 requires broadcasters to deal justly and fairly with persons taking part or referred to. As there is no identifiable person or persons to whom the programme was allegedly unfair, the Authority considers that Principle 5 does not apply to the broadcast and accordingly does not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[13] The Authority notes that while Mr Baxter was obviously concerned at the coverage given to the National Front, this of itself could not justify limiting the right of either that organisation, or the broadcaster, to present its point of view. It is the very nature of a free and democratic society in which freedom of expression is valued – and enshrined in legislation – that people and organisations with all manner of political and social views are allowed to express those views.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Tapu Misa
Member
30 September 2004

Appendix

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

  1. Mark Baxter’s Formal Complaint to Radio New Zealand – undated
  2. RNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 9 June 2004
  3. Mr Baxter’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 23 June 2004
  4. Radio New Zealand’s Response to the Authority – 15 July 2004