BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Francis and TV3 Network Services Ltd - 2002-023

Members
  • P Cartwright (Chair)
  • B Hayward
  • R Bryant
  • J H McGregor
Dated
Complainant
  • G S Francis
Number
2002-023
Programme
3 News
Channel/Station
TV3

Complaint
3 News item about New Zealand First party convention – Winston Peters described as having "once again played the race card" – inaccurate – unjust and unfair – item lacked balance and impartiality

Findings
Standard G1 – not inaccurate to state Mr Peters played the "race card" – no uphold

Standard G3 – item acknowledged right of Mr Peters and his supporters to express their opinions – no uphold

Standard G4 – Mr Peters not dealt with unjustly or unfairly – no uphold

Standard G6 – item not lacking in balance, impartiality or fairness – no uphold

Standard G7 – no deceptive programming practice – decline to determine

Standard G13 – no uphold

Standard G14 – no uphold

Standard G19 – editing did not distort views – no uphold

Standard G20 – views fairly presented – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

[1] An item on 3 News broadcast on 2 September 2001 at 6.00pm reported on the New Zealand First party convention being held in Tauranga. Party leader Winston Peters was referred to as having "once again played the race card to the party faithful".

[2] G S Francis complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that it was inaccurate to state that Mr Peters was playing a "race card". She complained that Mr Peters had been treated unjustly and unfairly, and that the item was neither balanced nor impartial.

[3] TV3 declined to uphold the complaint, stating that Mr Peters was well known for his previous statements regarding immigrants to New Zealand, and that his comments could legitimately be called "playing the race card again". The item was not unbalanced, it said.

[4] Dissatisfied with TV3’s response, Mrs Francis referred the 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 the item complained about, and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Programme

[6] An item on 3 News broadcast on 2 September 2001 at 6.00pm reported on the New Zealand First party convention being held in Tauranga. It was introduced as follows:

Winston Peters once again played the race card to the party faithful in Tauranga today. The leader of New Zealand First told delegates that people who immigrate here must expect to sign up to this country and its laws.

[7] The item went on to report that Mr Peters had also "pulled a few wine-box bogies out from under the bed". A reporter then asked members of the public and people on the streets and at the beaches around Tauranga whether they knew that the conference was on.

The Complaint

[8] G S Francis complained to TV3 Network Services Ltd, the broadcaster, that the programme breached a number of broadcasting standards. Mrs Francis complained that:

  • it was inaccurate to state that Mr Peters was playing a "race card";
  • Mr Peters had been "singled out and called racist" for having an opinion on immigration, when the subject was topical for other politicians, and on talkback and in letters to the editor;
  • the item had not treated Mr Peters justly or fairly because it had taken items out of context;
  • the item was not balanced, impartial or fair because the introduction "set the tone of ‘racism’ and there was no acknowledgment of the main concern, that we should be New Zealanders first and foremost and our own ethnic groups second";
  • the item had been selectively edited so as to omit or distort relevant facts;
  • the item had portrayed older people as mentally deficient;
  • although individual snippets were accurate, the overall effect of the item was neither objective nor impartial.

[9] Mrs Francis enclosed a letter to the editor, several newspaper articles, and a speech given by Chris Trotter at the conference in support of various points made in her letter of complaint. She said many people relied on television for their news, and therefore "news editors [had] a grave responsibility on their hands".

The Standards

[10] TV3 assessed the complaint against standards G1, G3, G4, G6, G7, G13, G14, G19 and G20 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Standards, as nominated by the complainant.

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, the first six standards require broadcasters:

G1  To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

G3  To acknowledge the right of individuals to express their own opinions.

G4  To deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to in any programme.

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

G7  To avoid the use of any deceptive programme practice in the presentation of programmes which takes advantage of the confidence viewers have in the integrity of broadcasting.

G13  To avoid portraying people in a way which represents as inherently inferior, or is likely to encourage discrimination against, any section of the community on account of sex, race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation or the holding of any religious, cultural or political belief. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely-held opinion in a news or current affairs programme, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a humorous, satirical or dramatic work.

The other three standards read:

G14  News must be presented accurately, objectively and impartially.

G19  Care must be taken in the editing of programme material to ensure that the extracts used are a true reflection and not a distortion of the original event or the overall views expressed.

G20 No set formula can be advanced for the allocation of time to interested parties on controversial public issues. Broadcasters should aim to present all significant sides in as fair a way as possible, and this can be done only by judging every case on its merits.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[11] Under standard G1, TV3 responded that Mr Peters was well known for his previous statements regarding immigrants to New Zealand. Referring to Mr Peters’ comment at the conference that "we are sick to death of people who come here, who immediately want to re-establish their culture in our country", the broadcaster said this could legitimately be called "playing the race card again".

[12] In relation to standard G3, TV3 said the item did not refer to Mr Peters as "racist". The term "race card", it said, referred to Mr Peters’ statement and his "long-term focus on immigrants in his speeches".

[13] In relation to the aspect of the complaint that TV3 had not dealt justly and fairly with Mr Peters, the broadcaster said:

It is impractical in a news item to relay everything that has been discussed, however this short item managed to touch upon Mr Peters’ comments on the wine box, trebling exports, immigrants, and the quality of media reporting. The [Standards] Committee finds that the quotes used fairly portray[ed] Mr Peters’ feeling on these subjects.

[14] As for the aspect of the complaint that the item was unbalanced because it did not acknowledge Mr Peters’ main concern that "we should be New Zealanders first and foremost and our own ethnic groups second", TV3 responded:

The second part of the introduction which said "The leader of New Zealand First told delegates that people who immigrate here must expect to sign up to this country and its laws" addresses the issues you claim were omitted.

[15] Under standard G7, the broadcaster disagreed that "selective editing" had been used, "other than for the need for brevity". In its view, the "concise nature of the narrative" and the quotes used had not distorted Mr Peters’ intent.

[16] With regard to the complainant’s contention that the "overall effect" had been neither objective nor impartial, TV3 reiterated its view that the tone of the item had accurately reflected Mr Peters and his opinions on them.

[17] Under standard G19, TV3 reiterated its view that the "race card" comment and Mr Peters’ own words were an accurate reflection of what occurred.

[18] With regard to standard G20, TV3 said the item was a brief summation of the New Zealand First conference, not an in-depth look at the issues of immigration and race relations in New Zealand. It said the short descriptions were used by the reporters to "accurately convey a feeling for the obviously large amount of discussion that took place".

The Complainant’s Referral to the Authority

[19] In her referral, Mrs Francis stressed that she was not complaining as a party member defending party politics, but as a student of media ethics. She said her concern was that, as so many people used television news as their only source of information, it was "vital for the welfare of this country" that news reports be fair and accurate.

[20] Mrs Francis said:

TV3’s statement that their coverage had to be brief ignored the fact that a proportion of the time on air was spent interviewing people on beaches and in the streets asking whether they knew the convention was on, which hardly seemed to be newsworthy.

[21] She said those who supported minor political parties had a genuine reason for doing so, and it was "arrogant" for the media to think its own opinions were "superior or more virtuous". Mrs Francis referred to a speech given at the conference by Chris Trotter, and to various media articles, in support of her arguments. She said:

I would like to see TV news editors and presenters reminded of their obligations to the country and reminded that they are not there to attempt to influence public opinion. They are there to present accurate and unbiased news. No changes will be made if they are allowed to be judge and jury of their own actions.

The Authority’s Determination

[22] Standard G1 requires broadcasters to be truthful and accurate on points of fact. Mrs Francis complained that it was inaccurate to state that Winston Peters was playing the "race card". In order to determine whether there has been a breach, the Authority must first consider whether the statement complained about was a "point of fact" as envisaged by the standard. In its view, the statement was an angled introduction to a news story which summarised Mr Peters’ wide-ranging speech. It does not consider that it was inaccurate to describe the issues Mr Peters raised at the conference in this manner, and accordingly it declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[23] The Authority also does not uphold the standard G3 aspect of the complaint. It considers that by broadcasting the item complained about, TV3 was acknowledging the right of Mr Peters and his supporters to express their opinions.

[24] Standard G4 requires broadcasters to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to in any programme. In the Authority's view, there was nothing unfair about the manner in which Mr Peters was treated in the item. The item reported that the conference was taking place, and included excerpts from Mr Peters' presentation. The Authority concurs with TV3 that the quotes used fairly portrayed Mr Peters' views on various subjects. It also notes that the item did not refer to Mr Peters as racist. Accordingly, it finds standard G4 was not breached.

[25] Mrs Francis complained that the item lacked balance, impartiality and fairness because the introduction "set the tone of racism" and the item did not acknowledge the "main concern, that we should be New Zealanders first and foremost, and our own ethnic groups second". As already discussed, in the Authority's view the item did not portray Mr Peters as racist. In addition, the Authority considers the item fairly presented the views expressed at the conference. It declines to uphold the standard G6 aspect of the complaint.

[26] Standard G7 requires broadcasters to avoid using deceptive programme practices which take advantage of the confidence viewers have in the integrity of broadcasting. The Authority can see no evidence of any "deceptive programme practice" as contemplated by the standard, and it finds that standard G7 is not relevant. It declines to determine this aspect of the complaint.

[27] Under standard G13, the complainant suggested that the item presented New Zealand First supporters as inferior, and older people as "mentally deficient". The Authority does not agree. In its view, nothing in the item presented New Zealand First supporters, or older people, as "inherently inferior". Nor did the item portray New Zealand First supporters, or older people, in a manner likely to encourage discrimination against them, as would be required for a breach of standard G13. The Authority declines to uphold that aspect of the complaint.

[28] For the reasons already discussed in relation to standards G1 and G6, the Authority declines to uphold the aspect of the complaint that the item breached standard G14.

[29] The Authority declines to uphold the aspect of the complaint that the item breached standard G19 because it does not consider the item was edited in such a way as to distort the views expressed.

[30] Finally, in relation to standard G20, the Authority concurs with TV3 that the item was not intended as an in-depth look at immigration issues or race relations in New Zealand. In the time available in a brief news item, the Authority considers the item fairly presented the views expressed. It declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[31] In reaching its decision not to uphold the complaint, the Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards would be to interpret the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to place too great a limit on the broadcaster’s statutory freedom of expression in s.14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Cartwright
Chair
7 March 2002

Appendix

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

  1. Mrs G S Francis’ Formal Complaint to TV3 Network Services Ltd – 7 September 2001 (and attachments)
  2. TV3’s Response to the Mrs Francis – 16 October 2001
  3. Mrs Francis’ Referral to the Authority – 24 October 2001 (and attachments)
  4. TV3’s Response to the Authority – 21 December 2001