BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Beckett and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2010-181

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Michael Beckett
Number
2010-181
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio New Zealand National

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Afternoons with Jim Mora – discussion about dispute between unions and filmmakers in relation to the film The Hobbit – panel guest referred to John Key giving Warner Bros. 100 million dollars – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – programme consisted of commentary and opinion – panellist’s comments were clearly her opinion, not statements of fact – not inaccurate or misleading – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Broadcast

[1]   A “Panel” segment was broadcast during Afternoons with Jim Mora on Radio New Zealand National on the afternoon of 28 October 2010, in which the host discussed a number of topics with two guests. One of the topics was the dispute between unions and filmmakers in relation to the film The Hobbit, and the status of contractors compared with employees. During the one-hour segment, one of the guests made the following comments on the issue:

  • “Warner Bros. will be pinching themselves, they go into negotiations with John Key and he hands over, you know, a hundred million dollars and he changes the law...”
  • “...we’ve got enough money to give Warner Bros. a hundred million, we haven’t got enough to give teachers anything...”
  • “It better be a good film after all this... after our dear great leader has handed over the family silver and a hundred million dollars...”

Complaint

[2]   Michael Beckett made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the panellist’s references to the Prime Minister giving Warner Bros. 100 million dollars were inaccurate. He maintained that “it was widely reported elsewhere accurately that the Prime Minister had only given approximately 33 million [dollars] the day before as an extra incentive to Warner Bros.” and that “any other tax break etc provided to Warner Bros. had been in place long before that date.”

Standards

[3]   Standard 5 and guideline 5a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:

Standard 5 Accuracy

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/or
  • does not mislead.

Guideline 5a

The accuracy standard does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   RNZ argued that the “Panel” segment in Afternoons with Jim Mora was not news, current affairs or factual programming to which Standard 5 applied, as it consisted of comment and opinion. It considered that, even if the accuracy standard did apply, the panellist’s comment did not amount to “a material fact bearing on matters being discussed in the programme”.

[5]   RNZ maintained that, in any event, the references to 100 million dollars were accurate, noting that “other media had also used that figure based on briefing information provided by the Ministry of Economic Development (MED), which identified that about 65 million [dollars] was already available for the two Hobbit movies which, combined with the extra subsidies announced by the Prime Minister, constituted the figure of 100 million [dollars]”. It provided copies of two articles in support.

[6]   Accordingly, RNZ concluded that the programme was accurate, and it declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Beckett referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[8]   Noting RNZ’s argument that Standard 5 did not apply to the programme, the complainant argued that “at no point [was] it conveyed to the listener that facts presented on this programme may be incorrect and not subject to standards of accuracy”.

[9]   In response to RNZ’s argument that the comments were not material, Mr Beckett argued, “The fact under scrutiny was brought up early within the programme’s first segment and was considered important enough to be noted three times throughout the hour-long programme. It was used often in reference to the opportunity cost to the country. This subject matter of the New Zealand Government’s intervention to secure the filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand the day before was the predominate article of that programme.” The complainant therefore considered that “to misquote Government expenditure by almost three times what it was... on three separate occasions” was a material point of fact and was inaccurate in breach of Standard 5.

[10]   With regard to RNZ’s argument that other media had reported the figure of 100 million dollars, Mr Beckett maintained that those reports were also incorrect, and that this did not justify inaccurately reporting the figure. He noted that RNZ stated that MED had identified that 65 million dollars was already available, which he considered supported the point he made in his original complaint that “the 65 million was in place long before the Prime Minister did the deal the day before”. Accordingly, he maintained that the programme was inaccurate in referring to 100 million dollars, and was also inaccurate in its reporting of the information from MED.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[11]   RNZ reiterated its argument that the “Panel” segment was not subject to the accuracy standard “as by its nature it is a programme of comment and opinion”, and that in any case the reference to the figure of 100 million dollars was accurate.

Authority's Determination

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

[13]   Standard 5 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.

[14]   Standard 5 applies only to news, current affairs and factual programming. On this occasion, we agree with RNZ that the “Panel” segment clearly consisted of the host and his guests offering commentary and their personal opinions on various topics, and that therefore it was not a factual programme to which Standard 5 applied.

[15]   In any case, we consider that the comments complained about, relating to the figure of 100 million dollars, would have been understood by listeners to be in the context of the panellist offering her opinion, rather than making statements of fact (guideline 5a). In this context, we also find that the panellist was entitled to exaggerate the figure in order to convey her view that the Government may have overspent in its efforts to secure The Hobbit, while the funds could have been used elsewhere.

[16]   For these reasons, we decline to uphold the complaint that the programme was inaccurate or misleading in breach of Standard 5.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
22 February 2011

Appendix

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

1                  Michael Beckett’s formal complaint – 18 November 2010

2                 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 9 December 2010

3                 Mr Beckett’s referral to the Authority – 14 December 2010

4                 RNZ’s response to the Authority – 22 December 2010