Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2016-005 (12 May 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Allan Golden
Programme2015 Reeves Memorial Lecture
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand National
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The featured speaker of the 2015 Reeves Memorial Lecture, broadcast by Radio New Zealand, was a prominent former New Zealand politician. The Authority declined to determine a complaint alleging that the choice of speaker was ‘improper’ because she was ‘very corrupt’, on the basis that it was vexatious. The complainant continues to refer complaints of a similar nature to the Authority which do not warrant determination.
Declined to Determine: Controversial Issues, Accuracy, Fairness, Responsible Programming
 The featured speaker of the 2015 Reeves Memorial Lecture, broadcast by Radio New Zealand, was a prominent former New Zealand politician.
 Allan Golden complained that the ‘adulation’ of the speaker contained in the programme was ‘improper’ because she was ‘very corrupt’. He alleged this breached the controversial issues, accuracy, fairness and responsible programming standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The issue is whether Mr Golden’s concerns raise issues of broadcasting standards of a level which warrants the Authority’s determination.
 The item was broadcast on 27 November 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.
Does the complaint raise any issues which warrant the Authority’s determination?
 Mr Golden alleged that the ‘prime motivation behind [the] “lecture” [was] to increase [the speaker’s] mana to minimise the possibility of legal proceedings being taken against her for corruption’.
 RNZ submitted that Mr Golden’s complaint did not raise any issues of broadcasting standards, and invited the Authority to consider imposing a fine on Mr Golden for ‘what can only be described as the repetitive misuse of the complaints process’.
 Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. The policy behind section 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are, in the end, sustained by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted in having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.1
 A ‘vexatious’ complaint is one which has been instituted without sufficient justifying grounds.2 The Authority is usually reluctant to label a complaint vexatious, but has previously held that when a complainant refers numerous complaints about the same issue, even though their earlier complaints have been dismissed with comprehensive reasoning, the repeated complaints were vexatious.3
 Mr Golden’s main concern appears to be RNZ's choice of interviewee, against whom he made numerous serious allegations. He is not concerned with the content of the interview, but with a matter of editorial discretion. Mr Golden has previously made a number of similar complaints to this Authority that did not raise matters of broadcasting standards.4 In our decision on one of those complaints, we warned Mr Golden that these complaints were ‘bordering on vexatious’.5 Despite this he continues to refer similar complaints that do not fall within the ambit of broadcasting standards and accordingly cannot be determined.
 For these reasons we decline to determine the complaint on the basis it is vexatious.
 Regarding RNZ’s invitation to impose a ‘fine’ on Mr Golden, we do not intend to do so on this occasion. We note that the Authority’s empowering legislation allows only for awards of costs between the parties, and not fines.6 In other words, costs awards are designed to recompense a party, rather than to penalise any party. We remind Mr Golden that should he continue to submit complaints of a similar nature, it may be open to the broadcaster to request reimbursement of reasonable costs incurred in dealing with his complaints.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
12 May 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Allan Golden’s formal complaint – 3 December 2015
2 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 December 2015
3 Mr Golden’s referral to the Authority – 14 January 2016
4 RNZ’s response to the Authority – 17 February 2016
5 Mr Golden’s final comment – 2 March 2016
6 RNZ’s final comment – 7 March 2016
1 Practice Note: Section 11 powers to decline to determine a complaint (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2013)
5Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2013-028