Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd - ID2018-005 (9 March 2018)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Paula Rose
- Wendy Palmer
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Allan Golden
ProgrammeMorning Report and Nine to Noon
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
Allan Golden complained about two segments broadcast on RNZ’s Morning Report and Nine to Noon programmes. The Authority declined jurisdiction to accept and consider the complaints. The Authority found it was open to the broadcaster to not accept these as valid formal complaints, on the grounds the complaints were based on the complainant’s own opinions of what the broadcasts should include, rather than raising issues of broadcasting standards.
 Allan Golden lodged two separate complaints with RNZ National about an item broadcast during Morning Report on 20 November 2017, and an item broadcast during Nine to Noon on 2 November 2017.
 The segment on Morning Report featured an interview with Associate Minister of Transport, Hon Julie Anne Genter, about New Zealand’s high road toll and the need for a crisis meeting to determine urgent government action that should be taken.
 Mr Golden complained to RNZ that various contextual factors could have been discussed to explain the high road toll. He submitted that the road toll figure of 329 referred to was ‘meaningless’ without also discussing factors such as population growth and foreign drivers on New Zealand roads.
 The segment on Nine to Noon featured an interview with an author regarding the failure of the official search party to find the plane MH370, which was believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean in 2014, and the mysteries surrounding the search.
 In relation to this item Mr Golden complained that there was no evidence to suggest the disappearance of the plane is a mystery. He submitted that there was a ‘logical conclusion’ which the broadcast should have suggested as a possibility, and outlined what he believed to be the obvious explanation for the plane’s disappearance.
 The broadcaster did not accept either of Mr Golden’s complaints as a valid formal complaint.
 The issue is therefore whether the Authority has jurisdiction to accept Mr Golden’s complaint referrals. The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Does the Authority have jurisdiction to accept and consider Mr Golden’s complaints?
 The jurisdiction of this Authority under the Broadcasting Act 1989 (the Act) is typically triggered when a complaint has been through the complaints procedure. That is where a complainant has lodged a valid formal complaint with the relevant broadcaster about whether a programme breached broadcasting standards, the broadcaster accepts and considers that complaint, and then it responds with a formal written decision advising the complainant of the outcome of their complaint.1
 Section 5(c) of the Act provides that ‘[c]omplaints based merely on a complainant’s preferences are not, in general, capable of being resolved by a complaints procedure’.
 In this case, Mr Golden lodged complaints with RNZ, arguing that the Morning Report and Nine to Noon segments did not address matters which he considered ought to have been included.
 RNZ did not accept Mr Golden’s complaints, stating that his concerns reflected his opinions about the programme content, rather than raising issues of broadcasting standards. It therefore rejected Mr Golden’s complaints on the basis they related only to matters of personal preference, citing section 5(c) of the Act.
 Regarding the Morning Report broadcast, in his referral to the Authority, Mr Golden submitted that the road toll number of 329 ‘is meaningless’ without referring to contextual factors. He complained that Hon Julie Anne Genter stated in the broadcast that she would put the road toll into context, and then failed to do so.
 Regarding the Nine to Noon broadcast, in his referral to the Authority, Mr Golden submitted that ‘the essence of this programme was that it was almost impossible to imagine what might have happened to this plane.’ However, he considered ‘fake stories’ about the searches for the plane had been generated ‘with the aid of corrupt governments’, to cover what he believed to be the ‘logical conclusion’.
 In relation to both complaints and the responses received from RNZ, Mr Golden submitted that the broadcaster is able to dismiss any complaint that it does not want to deal with by relying on section 5(c) of the Act.
 In our view, Mr Golden’s concerns are based solely on his own views and opinions of content that he considers should have been included in the segments.
 That Mr Golden has a different view to that of the interviewees, or RNZ which had editorial control of the broadcasts, does not amount to an issue of broadcasting standards that can be addressed under the Radio Code. We agree with the broadcaster that these are matters of personal preference.
 We therefore find RNZ was entitled to decline to accept Mr Golden’s correspondence as formal complaints. As no valid formal complaint was lodged with the broadcaster, we do not have jurisdiction to now accept the referrals of Mr Golden’s complaints.
 Mr Golden has made numerous complaints to this Authority raising issues of personal preference, which could not be determined by us,2 or raising complaints which we did not determine on the grounds that the complaints were frivolous and/or vexatious.3 In these cases we have provided detailed reasons for our various findings, to ensure that Mr Golden understands the scope of the broadcasting standards complaints system. Despite this, Mr Golden continues to refer similar complaints that do not fall within the ambit of broadcasting standards or which by their nature cannot be determined.
 In our most recent decision on a similar complaint from Mr Golden,4 we pointed out to the complainant that, if he continued to submit complaints of a similar nature, it may be open to the broadcaster to seek a cost order against him to reimburse the broadcaster for reasonable costs incurred in dealing with his complaints.
 In this case RNZ has submitted that a cost order ought to now be made against Mr Golden.
 This Authority has the ability to award costs against a complainant under section 16(1) and section 16(2)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 if, ‘in the opinion of the Authority, the complaint is frivolous or vexatious or one that ought not to have been made’. A vexatious complaint is one which has been instituted without sufficient justifying grounds (including, for example, where a complainant repeatedly refers complaints about the same issue, even though their earlier complaints have been dismissed and comprehensive reasons given).5
 However, in this case we have determined that no valid complaint was made under the Broadcasting Act, and that we do not have jurisdiction to accept Mr Golden’s complaints. Accordingly, as no valid complaint was made and our jurisdiction was not engaged, the power to award costs set out in section 16 is not available.
For the above reasons the Authority declines jurisdiction to accept the complaints.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
9 March 2018
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this matter.
1 Allan Golden’s complaint to RNZ – 22 November 2017
2 RNZ’s response to Mr Golden – 13 December 2017
3 Mr Golden’s referral to the Authority – 8 January 2018
4 RNZ’s response to the referral – 13 February 2018
Nine to Noon
5 Allan Golden’s complaint to RNZ – 28 November 2017
6 RNZ’s response to Mr Golden – 12 December 2017
7 Mr Golden’s referral to the Authority – 8 January 2018
8 RNZ’s response to the referral – 13 February 2018
1 The exceptions are privacy complaints and complaints about election programmes, which may be made directly to the Authority.
3 Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 gives the Authority the power to decline to determine a complaint which it finds to be trivial, frivolous or vexatious. For example, see: Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2017-062; Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-005; Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2015-010; Golden and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2015-002.
5 Guidance: BSA Power to Decline to Determine a Complaint, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 64