BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Boyce and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2000-091

Members
  • J Withers
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • Simon Boyce
Number
2000-091
Programme
Nine to Noon
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
National Radio

Complaint
Nine to Noon – interview with Dr Brian Edwards – broadcast did not distinguish between fact and opinion – RNZ’s editorial integrity and independence challenged

Findings
Principle 6 – no standards issues raised – vexatious – decline to determine

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

An interview by presenter Kim Hill of Dr Brian Edwards was broadcast on Nine to Noon on National Radio on 18 February 2000.

Simon Boyce complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, that the broadcast did not distinguish clearly between fact and opinion and that RNZ had not ensured that editorial independence and integrity had been maintained. He contended that the interviewer had been involved in the negotiations about Dr Edwards’ programme, and had commented on whether Dr Edwards’ political role was compatible with his job as radio presenter.

Mr Boyce contended that he had not received any response from RNZ within 20 working days. Accordingly, he referred the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

A response from RNZ was subsequently received by Mr Boyce, in which RNZ maintained that the interview was factual and accurate. RNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to determine the complaint.

Decision

The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the item and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

An interview by presenter Kim Hill of Dr Brian Edwards was broadcast on Nine to Noon on National Radio on 18 February 2000.

Mr Boyce complained to RNZ that the broadcast breached Guidelines (c) and (d) to Principle 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. Those provisions read:

Principle 6

In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

Guidelines

6c  Factual reports on the one hand, and opinion, analysis and comment on the other, shall be clearly distinguished.

6d  Broadcasters shall ensure that the editorial independence and integrity of news and current affairs is maintained.

According to Mr Boyce, RNZ was "compromised" because of discussion about the interviewer’s alleged role in Dr Edwards’ contract negotiations, and her questioning of whether his role as a media adviser to Helen Clark was compatible with his presenting a radio show.

Mr Boyce referred his complaint to the Authority on 22 March 2000, as he believed he had not received a response from RNZ within the 20 working day time period contemplated by s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act.

According to Mr Boyce, after he had referred the complaint to the Authority, he received RNZ’s response to the complaint.

In its response, RNZ said that it was not clear how the broadcast of information about Dr Edwards’ contract negotiations could lead to a breach of either of the nominated guidelines. As to information about Dr Edwards’ media advisory role, RNZ commented that what was broadcast was factual and accurate and did not test the independence or integrity of a news or current affairs programme.

RNZ also commented that, as both the interviewer and the interviewee were experienced broadcasters:

Had there been any suggestion that anything said was not truthful or accurate, a challenge could have been issued immediately by either party.

RNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

Mr Boyce wrote to the Authority on 27 March 2000 with submissions on RNZ’s reply. He reiterated his complaints that the interviewer was not independent of the negotiations about Dr Edwards’ programme, and said that RNZ’s editorial independence was compromised by Dr Edwards’ political involvement. He also complained that he had not been notified of RNZ’s response to his complaint within 20 working days after it had been received.

In its response to the Authority, RNZ maintained that it had notified Mr Boyce of its decision within 20 working days of its receipt of the complaint. As to the substance of the complaint, RNZ maintained that Mr Boyce had dealt with matters which did not raise broadcasting standards issues.

First it commented that it had not indicated that it did not want to have to reply to Mr Boyce’s complaints, saying that it took seriously its responsibilities under the Broadcasting Act.

Secondly, in relation to Mr Boyce’s complaint that RNZ had not maintained the independence of its broadcast, RNZ contended that it was quite possible for its presenters to have been involved in the subject of an interview and for independence to be maintained at the same time. In this situation, RNZ submitted:

The independence of the programme was maintained in two ways, first by the honesty of the programme and second by the scrutiny of Dr Brian Edwards who, as well as being a recognised and very able interviewer in his own right, was a party to the events being discussed.

RNZ then commented that it had treated the complaint very seriously, but that "an in depth analysis of the matters raised" had not found anything to suggest that the complaint should be upheld.

In Mr Boyce’s final comment, he asked the Authority to define precisely what was meant by editorial independence, noting that, in his view, comments made by the interviewer were apparently in line with RNZ’s views. Furthermore, he maintained that RNZ’s editorial independence was compromised because of Dr Edwards’ advisory role in the Labour party. Mr Boyce said he believed RNZ’s Chief Executive Officer had said that this was an inappropriate position for a broadcaster.

Mr Boyce also disagreed with what he said was RNZ’s assertion that Nine to Noon’s interviewer was honest, alleging that he had personal experience to suggest that both the programme’s interviewer and producers were deceitful.

The Authority considers that this complaint raised no matters of broadcasting standards. Mr Boyce’s complaint evidenced neither any blurring between fact and opinion, nor any lack of editorial independence in relation to the interview.

Furthermore, the Authority considers that Mr Boyce’s complaint was both trivial and vexatious. Accordingly, having considered all the circumstances, it declines to determine the matter under s.11(a) of the Broadcasting Act.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to determine the complaint under s.11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

The Authority may award costs against the complainant under s.16(1) and (2) where, in its opinion, a complaint was frivolous or vexatious or one which ought not to have been made. It invited submissions from the parties in relation to such costs. RNZ sought payment of its costs in processing the complaint. Mr Boyce submitted that the Authority had not previously warned him in a decision that costs could be awarded against him, and contended that such action would be designed to prevent him from making further complaints.

The Authority has found that no broadcasting standards issues were raised by this complaint. The complainant has put both the broadcaster and the Authority to considerable expense in dealing with a complaint which, in the Authority’s view was vexatious and ought not to have been made. The Authority has now brought the matter of its power to impose costs to the complainant’s attention. It will use that power should it receive a vexatious complaint from him in future.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Rosemary McLeod
Member
27 July 2000

Appendix

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

1.     Simon Boyce’s Complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd – 21 February 2000
2.    RNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 21 March 2000
3.    Mr Boyce’s Letter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 22 March 2000
4.    Mr Boyce’s Referral to the Authority – 27 March 2000
5.    RNZ’s Response to the Authority – 27 April 2000
6.    Mr Boyce’s Final Comment – 2 May 2000
7.    Mr Boyce’s Submission on Penalty – 18 May 2000
8.    RNZ’s Submission on Penalty – 6 June 200