Burt and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2006-081
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Diane Musgrave
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Shirley Burt
ProgrammeNational Radio news item
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
National Radio – news item reported developments on the decision by the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board (NMDHB) to end its contract with the Nelson Diagnostic Laboratory – reported statement from the planning and funding general manager for the NMDHB that Medlab South had undertaken to employ all 42 current staff members – allegedly inaccurate
Principle 6 (accuracy) – did not make a statement of fact about re-employment – accurately reported the statement from the DHB representative – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 A news item broadcast on National Radio at midday on 8 June 2006 reported on the decision by the Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board (NMDHB) to end its contract with the Nelson Diagnostic Laboratory. The item said:
The DHB’s planning and funding General Manager, Sharon Kletchko, says Medlab South has undertaken to employ all 42 current staff members. She rejects criticism from the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists that the laboratory decision’s about money, not quality.
 Shirley Burt made a formal complaint about the item to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster. Ms Burt argued that it was inaccurate to state that the 42 staff at the Nelson Diagnostic Laboratory would be re-employed, as they had not been.
 The broadcaster assessed the complaint under Principle 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides:
In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 RNZ disagreed that Principle 6 (accuracy) had been breached. It observed that the item had quoted the NMDHB’s funding and planning general manager, and had acknowledged that another point of view existed by referring to the view of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.
 The broadcaster maintained that the broadcast was not inaccurate in its reporting of the official position of the NMDHB or Medlab South. Further, it noted that later bulletins had reported that both Medlab South and the NMDHB had stated that staff would continue to be employed, although a staff member advised that this had yet to be communicated to staff. RNZ did not uphold the complaint.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Ms Burt referred her complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. She stated that the 42 staff had still not been offered positions.
Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority
 In response, RNZ maintained that it had accurately reported what the spokesperson for the NMDHB had said about the matter. RNZ wrote:
It is unreasonable to expect RNZ to determine whether or not that which an official spokesperson says is true. It is however in the public interest, when important matters are being addressed, that the public be informed as to the official stance being taken by public servants.
 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.
 Principle 6 (accuracy) requires broadcasters to be truthful and accurate on points of fact in the presentation of news programmes. On this occasion, the Authority notes that the broadcaster did not state as a fact that all 42 staff would be re-employed. Rather, the news item accurately reported the NMDHB representative’s statement that Medlab South had undertaken to employ them.
 The Authority agrees with RNZ’s argument that it was entitled to inform the public about the official stance being taken by the NMDHB. Further, it notes that later news bulletins on National Radio reported that the position had yet to be communicated to staff. In these circumstances, the Authority finds that Principle 6 was not breached.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
19 October 2006
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
- Shirley Burt’s formal complaint – 13 June 2006
- RNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 17 July 2006
- Ms Burt’s referral to the Authority – 30 July 2006
- RNZ’s response to the Authority – 5 September 2006