BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Burke and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-002

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • John Burke
Number
2004-002
Programme
Holmes
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
Holmes – comment that Ponsonby Rugby Club had produced the most All Blacks – inaccurate – TVNZ upheld complaint as technical breach of Principle 5 and apologised – action taken insufficient

Findings
Action taken sufficient – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision


Summary

[1] During a Holmes broadcast on TV One at 7.00pm on 25 August 2003, a reporter commented that Ponsonby Rugby Club had produced the most All Blacks. The statement was repeated later in the programme by the presenter.

[2] Mr Burke complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the statement was inaccurate.

[3] TVNZ upheld the complaint and apologised by letter to the complainant and members of his rugby club.

[4] Dissatisfied that TVNZ's action upon upholding the complaint did not include an on-air correction and apology, Mr Burke referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

[5] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of an excerpt from the programme complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Programme

[6] During a Holmes broadcast on TV One at 7.00pm on 25 August 2003, a reporter commented that Ponsonby Rugby Club had produced more All Blacks than any other. The statement was repeated later in the programme by the presenter.

Complaint

[7] Mr Burke complained to TVNZ, the broadcaster, that the statement was inaccurate. He maintained that the distinction belonged to his club, the University of Otago Rugby Club. He said that the reputation of the club had been damaged and that many members were offended.

Standards

[8] In view of the matters raised in the complaint, TVNZ assessed it under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Standard reads:

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[9] TVNZ upheld the complaint and apologised by letter to the complainant and members of the University of Otago Rugby Club.

[10] In its response to Mr Burke, TVNZ noted:

  • The information was reported in good faith and was supplied by the New Zealand Rugby Union.
  • The question of which club had produced more All Blacks was a matter of continuing debate.
  • It agreed that the University of Otago Rugby Club had more players selected as All Blacks. However, it maintained that Ponsonby had produced more test players and called this a “fine distinction”.

Complainant's Referral to the Authority

[11] Mr Burke was dissatisfied with TVNZ's response to his complaint. He said that TVNZ's written apology was “inadequate” and “ineffectual” and suggested that an on-air correction was justified. He also disputed TVNZ's assertion that the Ponsonby Rugby Club had produced more test players than the Otago University Rugby Club

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[12] TVNZ considered that an on-air correction was not warranted as the error of fact was “technical” and not “significant”. It submitted that the message that viewers would have taken was that the Ponsonby Rugby Club had produced the most test players, which it reiterated “seems to be the correct position”.

Complainant's Final Comment

[13] In his final comment Mr Burke submitted:

The statement was significant – the greatest accolade that could be afforded a New Zealand rugby club was for it to be described as the club that had produced more All Blacks than any other.

TVNZ's continued assertion that Ponsonby Rugby Club had produced the greatest number of test players was incorrect.

The Authority's Determination

[14] This complaint is about the adequacy of the action taken by TVNZ after it upheld Mr Burke's complaint. Mr Burke was dissatisfied that TVNZ had not apologised on-air for its error. TVNZ considered that the error was not sufficiently significant to warrant this action.

[15] The Authority notes that TVNZ privately apologised to the complainant and the Otago University Rugby Club for its error. In addition, it notes that the error was broadcast in August last year and there is no relevant immediate opportunity for correction. In all the circumstances, the Authority does not consider that it should order TVNZ to take any further action. It therefore declines to uphold the complaint.

[16] Nevertheless, the Authority notes that the subject matter of this complaint is of obvious importance to the complainant and to the Otago University Rugby Club. Having upheld the complaint, TVNZ provided no public clarity on the issue, despite being given comprehensive research by the complainant. In the Authority's view, the complainant's research clearly establishes that the Otago University Rugby Club has produced more All Blacks than any other rugby club. Accordingly, the Authority suggests that it would be appropriate for TVNZ to take this information into account in future, when an occasion arises in which it is relevant.

 

For the above reasons, the Authority does not uphold the complaint that the action taken by TVNZ was insufficient.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
26 February 2004

Appendix

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

1.    Mr Burke's Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd (plus attachments) –
      19 September 2003

2.    TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint – 22 October 2003

3.    Mr Burke's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 12 November 2003

4.    TVNZ's Response to the Authority – 26 November 2003

5.    Mr Burke's Final Comment – 11 December 2003