BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2004-124

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Allan Golden
Number
2004-124
Programme
Late Edition
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
National Radio

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
National Radio – Late Edition – item about 35th anniversary of moon landing – in referring to moon landing as matter of historical fact broadcast allegedly inaccurate, unbalanced and unfair as fact of moon landing not universally accepted

Findings
Moon landing has status as historical fact – RNZ entitled to refer to it as fact – declined to determine pursuant to section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] Late Edition, broadcast on National Radio on 21 July 2004, contained an item regarding the 35th anniversary of the first moon landing. The item was introduced as follows:

35 years ago this week NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Apollo II on the surface of the moon. It was an expedition that captured the world’s imagination and had viewers glued to their television screens. Three and a half decades later America is renewing its space programme. President Bush is vowing to once again send astronauts to the moon and beyond that to Mars. Harrison Schmidt was on the last manned mission to the moon in 1972. Linda Clark asked him about that day on June the 20th 1969 when man first stepped foot on the moon. …

Complaint

[2] Allan Golden complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the broadcast accepted the moon landing as a matter of historical fact. He noted in his complaint that “many dispute the factuality of this ‘event’ and are aware that its authenticity is becoming less and less certain with the passage of time.” Mr Golden maintained that the item was unbalanced, unfair and inaccurate.

Principles

[3] RNZ assessed the complaint under the principles nominated by the complainant, Principles 4, 5 and 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. These read as follows:

Principle 4
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Principle 5
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.

Principle 6
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

[4] RNZ declined to uphold the complaint, and noted that

… none of the standards [nominated by Mr Golden] were breached by the item. While some may doubt the authenticity of the event, it is fair to say that insufficient compelling evidence has been brought forward to debunk the widely accepted moment in history.

Referral to the Authority

[5] Mr Golden was dissatisfied with this response and referred his complaint to the Authority. In his referral, Mr Golden outlined his reasons for doubting the truth of the moon landing. He noted that in light of the doubt surrounding the event, RNZ should have noted that the landing was “not a verified event”.

Authority's Decision

[6] The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

[7] Under section 11 of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority has a discretion to decline to determine a complaint referred to it. There are two grounds on which the Authority may so decline:

(a) if the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or trivial; or

(b) if, in all the circumstances of the complaint the Authority considers it should not be determined.

[8] The Authority considers that Mr Golden’s complaint is one to which the second limb of section 11 can appropriately be applied and accordingly declines to determine the complaint.

[9] The Authority accepts that there exists a body of opinion to the effect that the moon landing was an American-devised hoax. The Authority considers, however, that no issue of broadcasting standards arises in respect of RNZ’s simple reference to the anniversary of an event that is globally recognised as a landmark historical achievement. Rightly or wrongly, the moon landing has status as historical fact and RNZ was entitled, in the Authority’s view, to mark its anniversary without referring to the views of those who disbelieve its occurrence.

[10] In light of the Authority’s view on this issue, there is nothing further to be gained by embarking on a more detailed analysis of the particulars of Mr Golden’s complaint alleging a breach of broadcasting standards.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint pursuant to section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Tapu Misa
Member
30 September 2004

Appendix

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

  1. Allan Golden’s Formal Complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd – email 22 July 2004
  2. RNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 6 August 2004
  3. Mr Golden’s Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 10 August 2004
  4. RNZ’s Response to the Authority – 16 August 2004