BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2015-017

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Allan Golden
Number
2015-017
Programme
Morning Report
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio New Zealand National

Summary

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

An item on Morning Report discussed Mark Lundy's retrial for the murder of his wife and daughter. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item incorrectly inferred that Mr Lundy had actively been seeking increased life insurance on the day the murders occurred, and that this was unfair. The item was a straightforward report of the latest evidence given at trial and the item as a whole clarified the meaning of its opening statements.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Law and Order, Responsible Programming


Introduction

[1]  An item on Morning Report discussed Mark Lundy's retrial for the murder of his wife and daughter. The item reported that 'Mark Lundy's retrial has been told that he tried to increase his family's life insurance just hours before his wife and daughter were hacked to death'.

[2]  Allan Golden complained that the item inferred that Mr Lundy had actively been seeking increased life insurance on the day the murders occurred which was misleading and unfair.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the law and order, accuracy, fairness and responsible programming standards as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. In our view the accuracy and fairness standards are most relevant so we have focused our determination accordingly. We briefly address the remaining standards at paragraph [18] below.

[4]  The item was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National at 7.43am on 12 February 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.

Jurisdictional matter

[5]  Mr Golden initially also complained about a news item broadcast on Radio New Zealand National at 7am on 12 February 2015. In its response to the complaint RNZ said it had carefully reviewed the headlines to, and the content of, the 7am news bulletin and there was no reference to Mr Lundy's retrial. In his referral to the Authority Mr Golden revised his complaint to be about the news bulletin at 7.30am on the same day. However this occurred outside of the statutory timeframe, which requires formal complaints to be lodged with the broadcaster within 20 working days of the original broadcast.

[6]  We are therefore limited to considering the one broadcast that was correctly identified in the original complaint – the Morning Report item broadcast at 7.43am.

Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[7]  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

[8]  Mr Golden argued that the item inferred that Mr Lundy had been seeking additional life insurance cover on the day of (or the day immediately preceding) the murder of his wife and daughter. In fact, Mr Golden said, the evidence given by the witness was that it was Mr Lundy's recounting of the matter which took place that day. He noted that from the start of the retrial life insurance proceeds had been advanced as Mr Lundy's motive for the alleged murders, and so considered there was a greater responsibility on the news media to report these matters accurately.

[9]  RNZ disagreed with the implications Mr Golden drew from the wording of the item. It argued it was very clear from the audio of the witness giving evidence at the trial, which was played during the item, that Mr Lundy had discussed the issue of applying for increased insurance cover the afternoon prior to the murders being committed.

[10]  We acknowledge that when taken in isolation, the opening statement that 'Mark Lundy's retrial has been told that he tried to increase his family's life insurance just hours before his wife and daughter were hacked to death' had the potential to mislead listeners in the manner alleged. However the item immediately clarified this opening statement, saying:

[Mark Lundy] is said to have told someone that he wanted to increase the policies to one million dollars each. The comment was made during Mr Lundy's visit to QA Joinery the day before his wife and daughter were found dead in their Palmerston North home in 2000.

[11]  In addition, the item broadcast extended audio of the evidence given by the witness at trial so listeners were able to hear for themselves the details of the evidence given on this point.

[12]  In this context, we do not consider that the item as a whole was inaccurate or misleading and we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 5.

Was Mr Lundy treated unfairly?

[13]  The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.

[14]  Mr Golden argued that by incorrectly inferring that Mr Lundy had sought increased life insurance cover the day of the murders, RNZ sought to embellish what the court was told, which could lead more people to believe Mr Lundy was guilty.

[15]  We do not consider that the item was in any way unfair to Mr Lundy. It was a straight news report of the Crown's arguments and the latest evidence given at trial. We do not agree that the item engaged in any 'subtle manipulation' of the evidence that would influence listeners to think that Mr Lundy was guilty, particularly as the item included audio of the evidence.

[16]  Accordingly we decline to uphold the complaint under Standard 6.

Did the item breach any other broadcasting standards?

[17]  In his original complaint the complainant also raised the law and order and responsible programming standards, though he did not make specific arguments under these standards. The broadcaster did not explicitly address these standards in its response.

[18]  We find that the law and order and responsible programming standards were either not applicable or not breached because:

  • The broadcast did not encourage listeners to break the law or promote or condone criminal activity (Standard 2); and
  • The item did not raise any matters of responsible programming (Standard 8).

[19]  We therefore decline to uphold these aspects of the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
16 June 2015

 

Appendix

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


1      Allan Golden's formal complaint – 12 February 2015
2      RNZ's response to the complaint – 10 March 2015
3      Mr Golden's referral to the Authority – 22 March 2015
4      RNZ's response to the Authority – 23 April 2015

 


1 Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036