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Galbraith and The Radio Network Ltd - 2003-039

  • J H McGregor
  • Tapu Misa
  • R Bryant
  • David Galbraith
The Radio Network Ltd
89.8 ZM

ZM 89.8 comments made about "iwi television" and the Karaka Yearling Sales – racial overtones – denigratory

Principle 7 and Guideline 7a – high threshold not reached – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision


[1] Comments made by the host of an afternoon programme were broadcast on ZM 89.8 on Wednesday 29 January 2003 between 5.00–6.00pm. The comments related to "iwi television" and the Karaka Yearling Sales.

[2] David Galbraith complained to The Radio Network Ltd, the broadcaster, that the comments had racial overtones and were unacceptable.

[3] In response, TRN stated that no racial overtones could be detected in the host’s comments and declined to uphold the complaint.

[4] Dissatisfied with TRN’s decision, Mr Galbraith 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.


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

The Programme

[6] During the afternoon programme, broadcast on ZM 89.8 between 5.00–6.00pm on Wednesday 29 January 2003, comments relating to "iwi television" and the Karaka Yearling Sales were broadcast.

[7] In relation to "iwi television", the host noted that it ["iwi television"] had been given a "top up" by Government and remarked, "that’s a surprise". He then solicited assistance to obtain "iwi television’s" telephone number and observed that "it doesn’t appear to exist" and "let’s hope they have a phone".

[8] In relation to the Yearling Sales, the host suggested that $50k would be a good price for the programme’s toy horse, which was chestnut brown and 10cm tall. When advised that the horse had been ejected from the ring the host said "Don’t put down the brown".

The Complaint

[9] Mr Galbraith complained to TRN that the comments had racial overtones and, as such, were unacceptable.

The Standards

[10] TRN assessed the complaint under Principle 7 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. The Principle, and relevant Guideline, reads:

Principle 7

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.


7a  Broadcasters will not portray people in a manner which encourages denigration of or discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender, race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation; or as the consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement does not extend to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual; or

ii) a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion; or

iii) by way of legitimate humour or satire.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[11] TRN stated that the host provided facts about "iwi television" and simply followed it up by offering some advice. In the broadcaster’s view none of the comments could be construed as racist.

[12] The broadcaster also observed that the reference to the station’s "toy" horse was appropriate with it being ejected from the ring and was independent of the comments about "iwi television".

[13] TRN determined that there were no racial overtones to the commentary and declined to uphold the complaint.

The Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

[14] In Mr Galbraith’s opinion the broadcaster failed to grasp the "underlying attitude and manner of the broadcast in question". He considered that the broadcaster’s proposition that the presenter was merely stating the facts, was incongruent with the content and context of the comment.

[15] Mr Galbraith contended that the presenter was particularly condescending in his verbal tone and manner when commenting about "iwi television" services receiving additional money from Government.

[16] He also reiterated his view that the comment relating to "iwi television" and the Karaka Yearling sales were associated and, together, implied an underlying deficit, first in Māori television, and second in the colour brown.

The Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[17] In TRN’s opinion, the presenter was entitled to offer his point of view on "iwi television", and stated further that, "he [the host] is entitled to give some advice to iwi services".

[18] TRN concluded that the presenter had not used the opportunity to "highlight Māori failing".

[19] In TRN’s view, the segments relating to "iwi television" and the Karaka Yearling Sales were independent of each other and it declined to uphold either aspect of the complaint.

The Authority’s Determination

[20] The Authority has noted previously that a high threshold applies before a broadcast contravenes Guideline 7a of Principle 7. The portrayal has to be such that it encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, a section of the community. In the Authority’s view, the comments complained about fell short of such encouragement.

[21] In reference to the host’s initial remarks about "iwi television", the Authority notes the ill-informed nature of the comment. It assumes that the host was referring to the Māori Television Service ("MTS"), not "iwi television" which does not exist as a government funded entity.

[22] In the Authority’s opinion the off-hand comment about MTS was not only puerile, but it was also wrong. While it considers that the comment was probably intended to point out yet another Māori failing, the Authority finds that the requisite threshold was not reached.

[23] In respect of the subsequent comment about the station’s "toy" horse, the Authority accepts that it was not connected to the initial comment about MTS and therefore, declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

[24] The Authority observes that to find a breach of broadcasting standards on this occasion would be to apply the Broadcasting Act 1989 in such a way as to limit freedom of expression in a manner which is not reasonable or demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society (s.5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). As required by s.6 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Authority adopts an interpretation of the relevant standards and applies them in a manner which it considers is consistent with and gives full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Dr Judy McGregor
15 May 2003


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

  1. Mr Galbraith’s Complaint to The Radio Network Ltd – 30 January 2003
  2. TRN’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 19 February 2003
  3. Mr Galbraith’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 21 February 2003
  4. TRN’s Response to the Authority – 7 March 2003