Cumin and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2015-020
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- David Cumin
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand National
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
Afternoons featured an interview with the author of a recently published book about life in Scandinavia. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that a statement in the introduction to the interview that two people were killed at a free speech forum in Copenhagen was inaccurate because one of the victims was killed at a synagogue. The segment was not news, current affairs or a factual programme to which the accuracy standard applied. In any event, the statement did not constitute a material inaccuracy in the context of the item as a whole.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
 Afternoons featured an interview with the author of a recently published book, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia.
 David Cumin complained that a reference in the introduction to the interview to 'the recent killing of two people at a free speech forum in Copenhagen' was incorrect as only one person was killed at the free speech forum and the other person was killed while working as a security guard at a synagogue.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The item was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National on 2 March 2015. The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?
 The accuracy standard (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. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1
 Mr Cumin argued that while his complaint may be seen to be about a minor inaccuracy, not acknowledging that one of the victims was killed while guarding a synagogue suggested that RNZ was being dismissive of anti-Semitic attacks. He considered that the inaccuracy was material as there was discussion about the multicultural nature of Nordic countries and some of the political tensions around this topic. Mr Cumin maintained that the topics discussed constituted current affairs programming and so was required to be accurate.
 RNZ acknowledged that the comment was inaccurate for the reason given by Mr Cumin, but argued that it was a minor inaccuracy that was peripheral and would not have affected listeners' understanding of the interview. RNZ also questioned whether the accuracy standard applied to the segment, as it was a magazine-style interview with an author exploring some of the notions put forward in his recent book. It considered the interview comprised social commentary on life in Scandinavian countries rather than a news-orientated style of programme.
 We agree with both parties that the introductory statement was inaccurate for the reasons given by the complainant. However, we do not consider that the item constituted news, current affairs or factual programming to which the accuracy standard applied. Afternoons is described by RNZ as offering a variety of content, moving 'from magazine listening in the early afternoon to full-on current affairs in drive time'.2 This particular segment comprised an interview with the author of a recently published book which offered social commentary and analysis. Although the interview briefly touched on recent events in Scandinavia, this was in the context of the author's views on how these events reflected current attitudes in the region.
 Nor do we think that the introductory statement amounted to a 'material point of fact' to which the standard applied. The shootings in Copenhagen were given as a recent example of some of the wider issues discussed in the book, but were only briefly mentioned and were not fundamental to the main dialogue with the author. The statement would not have materially affected listeners' understanding of the interview as a whole.
 Accordingly we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 5.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
15 July 2015
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 David Cumin's formal complaint – 3 March 2015
2 RNZ's response to the complaint – 23 March 2015
3 Mr Cumin's referral to the Authority – 28 March 2015
4 RNZ's response to the Authority – 11 May 2015
5 Mr Cumin's final comment – 15 May 2015
6 RNZ's confirmation of no further comment – 20 May 2015
1 Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036