Burns and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-086
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Gerard Burns
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Two items broadcast on One News in respect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – no mention of occupation by Israel – West Bank described as “disputed” – allegedly unbalanced and inaccurate
Authority has no jurisdiction to accept referral
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 One News broadcast two items at 6pm on Monday 23 May 2005. The first item covered United States’ First Lady Laura Bush’s visit to Jerusalem, where the report noted she visited “Jericho, on the disputed West Bank”.
 The second item covered a visit by President Sharon of Israel to the United States, where he encountered opposition from Jewish groups to the planned withdrawal from Gaza by Israel.
 Serena Moran, on behalf of the Wellington Palestine Group, complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, in respect of both items. She noted that in the first item about Laura Bush, the reporter referred only to the “disputed West Bank”, and did not refer to the fact that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip were in fact occupied by Israel. Nor did the second item, she claimed, mention the fact of the occupation.
 TVNZ did not uphold the complaint, and stated that when reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was unnecessary to refer every time to the status of West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories”.
 Following receipt of TVNZ’s response, Gerard Burns, also on behalf of the Wellington Palestine Group, referred the complaint to the Authority.
 In its response, TVNZ queried the validity of the referral, noting that the original complainant was not the same person who had referred the complaint to the Authority.
 Following receipt of the referral, Ms Moran on behalf the Wellington Palestine Group informed the Authority that she intended to make a further referral of a complaint in respect of an identical issue. She accordingly requested that the Authority defer determination of this complaint so that the complaints could be considered together. The further referral was not made, and the Authority accordingly proceeded to consider this complaint.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Under section 8 of the Broadcasting Act 1989, a complainant may refer a complaint to the Authority where that complainant is dissatisfied with the action taken by the broadcaster. The Act is clear that the original complaint and the referral must be made by the same person.
 The Authority notes that the formal complaint to the broadcaster was made by a member of the Wellington Palestine Group, Ms Moran. The referral to the Authority was made by the Chair of that group, Mr Burns.
 Where complainants are clearly acting on behalf of a company or other corporate entity, it is permissible for different individuals to make the formal complaint and the referral, so long as it is clear that the company (or other legal entity) is the complainant. It is appropriate, for example, for the managing director to make a complaint on behalf of the company, and for the Chief Executive to make the referral, also on the company’s behalf.
 The Authority accepts that in the present case, the complainants intended to make both the complaint and the referral on behalf of the Wellington Palestine Group. The difficulty that arises, however, is that the Wellington Palestine Group is not a legal person. It is not a company, an incorporated society, a charitable trust, nor any other corporate legal entity. It is simply a group of individuals united by a common concern. Without such legal personality, the group has no standing to lodge a complaint with the Authority.
 In light of this, the only possible interpretation is that the original complaint and the referral were made by two separate individuals. That is not permissible under the Broadcasting Act, and accordingly the Authority is unable to accept referral of the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority determines that it has no jurisdiction to consider the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
22 February 2006
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
- Wellington Palestine Group’s formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 23 May 2005
- TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 23 June 2005
- Wellington Palestine Group’s referral to the Authority – 13 July 2005
- TVNZ’s response to the referral – 1 August 2005