BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2012-093

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Allan Golden
Number
2012-093
Programme
Checkpoint
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio New Zealand National

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Checkpoint– item allegedly contained comments from Radio New Zealand’s economics reporter – allegedly in breach of accuracy, fairness and responsible programming standards

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy), Standard 6 (fairness) and Standard 8 (responsible programming) – broadcaster unable to locate any segment which matches the comments identified by the complainant – Authority therefore unable to assess broadcasting standards against those comments – Authority declines to determine the complaint in all the circumstances under section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Introduction

[1]  Allan Golden made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd (RNZ) about a news item broadcast between 4pm and 5.30pm on 11 July 2012. He believed that RNZ’s economics reporter made comments to the effect that:

…if any significant risk taking was to be borne with particular investments… then it was desirable to do it early in the piece… so there was plenty of time for the remainder of the fund to be used to catch up and make good any losses incurred with respect to those particular investments.

[2]  Mr Golden considered that this “argument has no validity whatsoever and is misleading the public in the delicate matter of what investing is all about”.

[3]  RNZ maintained that its economics reporter had not made any comments during the times identified by Mr Golden, but noted that around 5.23pm audio was aired of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund Chief Executive commenting on the volatility of financial markets globally. It also located an item from 6.04pm which was spoken by its economics reporter.

[4]  The broadcaster has provided us with two recordings which it considered most closely matched Mr Golden’s description of the comments he heard. We have also read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. Having listened to the recordings, neither bears much, if any, similarity to the comments identified by Mr Golden.

[5]  The issue for us is whether we can properly determine Mr Golden’s complaint, given that RNZ has been unable to identify a broadcast which corresponds directly with the time specified, or the comments to which he objected, as outlined in the complaint.

Can the Authority determine the complaint in the absence of a recording which fits the complainant’s description of the broadcast?

[6]  Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 (the Act) allows us to decline to determine a complaint if we consider that in all the circumstances it should not be determined.

[7]  We are satisfied that RNZ has gone to considerable lengths to try and identify the relevant broadcast segment complained about by Mr Golden. RNZ twice reviewed all of the broadcast material from between 4pm and 5.30pm on 11 July 2012, which was the timeframe specified by Mr Golden. It found only one relevant item, from 5.23pm, as follows:

Newsreader:   The New Zealand Superannuation Fund says falling global equity markets have
                      cut returns. The Fund, which was set up to help fund future superannuation
                      payments, reported declines of four-and-a-half percent in May, when stock
                      markets tumbled on the back of heightened concerns about Europe’s debt
                      problems. The Fund’s Chief Executive [name] says the result isn’t surprising
                      given the long term investors’ heavy weighting toward global stocks.

CE:                 What you’ve seen over the month of May obviously is the ongoing volatility
                      that’s happening in financial markets globally. It’s been, in fact, the year as
                      a whole, it’s been a real rollercoaster.

[8]  RNZ then reviewed material broadcast later in the evening, and provided another segment from 6.04pm which it considered could have been the item complained about (as it contained voice audio from the economics reporter identified by the complainant). That item was as follows:

Newsreader:   The New Zealand Superannuation Fund has had its worst month for
                      investment returns in nearly a year. The Fund, which was set up to help
                      pay for national super from 2030, lost 940 million dollars in May as global
                      share markets took a dive. Our economics correspondent [name] reports.

Reporter:        It was the second successive month of negative returns for the Super Fund
                      in its worst monthly performance since August last year when global share
                      markets were also hit hard. The Fund has lost 300 million dollars so far this
                      financial year, losing money in six out of the past eleven months, and is down
                      nearly a billion dollars from its March peak of 19.4 billion dollars. In a statement
                      it says a recovery in global share markets in June means it expects to end the
                      year where it started. The Fund has earned 5.8 billion [dollars] since it was
                      set up in 2003 for a 6.8 percent annual return, or 1.6 percent above its target
                      rate of return.

[9]  Plainly, neither of these items matches the content described in the complaint. In his final comments, Mr Golden suggested that RNZ also review content from earlier in the day on 11 July 2012.

[10]  Under the Act, formal complaints must relate to a specific broadcast. If an individual wishes to make a formal complaint and have it formally answered by a broadcaster, that person must be able to provide sufficient details to allow the broadcaster to locate and review the broadcast, in order to properly answer the complaint. It is possible that in this case Mr Golden has misheard the comments, or was mistaken about the date or time of the broadcast.

[11]  Either way, we are not in a position to assess the broadcasting standards raised by Mr Golden in relation to the comments he believes he heard, and which he believes breached standards. A determination as to whether broadcasting standards raised in relation to a specific programme were breached necessarily requires careful consideration not only of the exact words used in the broadcast, but also the overall tone of the programme and any relevant contextual factors.

[12]  In these circumstances, we have no choice but to decline to determine the complaint in accordance with section 11(b) of the Act.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
4 December 2012

Appendix

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

1           Allan Golden’s formal complaint – 12 July 2012

2          RNZ’s response to the complaint – 7 August 2012

3          Mr Golden’s referral to the Authority – 11 August 2012

4          RNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 September 2012

5          Mr Golden’s final comment – 21 September 2012