BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - ID2017-062 (16 October 2017)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
Dated
Complainant
  • Allan Golden
Number
ID2017-062
Programme
This Way Up
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio New Zealand National

Summary

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

A segment on RNZ National’s programme This Way Up, titled ‘Why Women Live Longer’, featured an interview with a science journalist about her latest book. In the introduction to the segment, the programme presenter referred to the average life expectancy of men and women in New Zealand born in 2016. Mr Golden complained to the broadcaster under the accuracy standard that the references to life expectancy did not take into account quality of life. The Authority declined to determine the complaint on the basis that it was frivolous and trivial, and concerned matters of personal preference rather than matters of broadcasting standards that can be addressed under the Radio Code.

Declined to Determine: Accuracy 


Introduction

[1]  A segment on the RNZ National programme This Way Up featured an interview with a science journalist about her latest book. The segment was titled, ‘Why Women Live Longer’. The programme presenter introduced the segment by referring to the life expectancy of men and women in New Zealand, saying:

Here in New Zealand the average life expectancy for a boy born last year is 91 years, but you can expect to live up to 93 if you were a girl born in 2016. It’s clear that women can expect to live longer than men. …So why? Well it’s one of the questions science journalist [name] tries to answer in her book…

[2]  The remainder of the interview focused on the topics explored in the book, including findings relating to differences in men’s and women’s immune systems, their upper body strength, and hunting and gathering techniques.

[3]  Allan Golden complained that ‘life expectancy’ was incorrectly defined by referring to specific ages, when the programme should have referred to other factors such as quality of life. He also considered the segment was ‘an excuse for an author featured to air her flawed female superiority views’.

[4]  The issue is whether the complaint raises matters of broadcasting standards which can properly be determined by this Authority.

[5]  The segment was broadcast at 12.50pm on 1 July 2017 on Radio New Zealand. The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Does the complaint raise any issues of broadcasting standards which can properly be determined by this Authority?

The parties’ submissions

[6]  Mr Golden submitted that, ‘While an operating heart is critical to the current existence of a human life it does not constitute such a life to any meaningful extent other than perhaps the obligation to provide care to the person.’ He therefore considered that in referring to the life expectancy of New Zealand men and women, the programme should have discussed quality of life rather than defining death and the end of a person’s life by reference to specific ages.

[7]  The broadcaster submitted that the figures quoted in the introduction to the segment were appropriately sourced from Statistics New Zealand, and that the remainder of Mr Golden’s complaint concerned matters outside of the broadcast and outside of the standards regime.

[8]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that 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

[9]  A ‘frivolous’ complaint is one which is not serious or sensible, and is unworthy of being treated in the same way as a complaint which has some merit.2 A ‘trivial’ complaint is one which is of little or no importance and is at such a level not to justify it being treated as a serious complaint.3 A ‘vexatious’ complaint is one which has been instituted without sufficient justifying grounds.4

[10] In our view, Mr Golden’s complaint is based primarily on his own opinions of how life and death should be defined, and therefore how a person’s life expectancy ought to be defined. He also perceived the broadcast as presenting women as superior because they have a longer life expectancy.

[11]  That the complainant holds different views on how life expectancy ought to be measured, and that he disagreed with the chosen subject matter, are not issues of broadcasting standards that can properly be addressed under the Radio Code. The majority of the complaint did not relate to the content actually broadcast.

[12]  We do not consider there are sufficient grounds to treat this as a serious substantive complaint. We consider the complaint to be frivolous and trivial, and we do not wish to see broadcasters’ or the Authority’s resources in particular wasted on complaints that have no foundation.

[13]  For these reasons we decline to determine the complaint under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the above reasons the Authority declines jurisdiction to accept the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
16 October 2017  

 

Appendix

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

1     Allan Golden’s original complaint – 3 July 2017

2     RNZ’s response to the complaint – 25 July 2017

3     Mr Golden’s referral to the Authority – 10 August 2017

4     Mr Golden’s further comments – 31 August 2017

 


1 Guidance: BSA power to decline to determine a complaint, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, pages 63-64

2 As above

3 As above

4 As above