BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Grieve and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2018-027 (18 June 2018)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
Dated
Complainant
  • Robin Grieve
Number
2018-027
Programme
Saturday Morning
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio New Zealand National

Summary

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

During the Saturday Morning programme on RNZ National, Kim Hill interviewed Dr Don Brash about his views on the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand. At one point in the interview Ms Hill put to Dr Brash, ‘Is this a political position on your part? I mean, we know your political position, for example, which says that the government has no responsibility to address the overrepresentation of Māori in negative social stats’. Dr Brash asked Ms Hill when he had said that, to which Ms Hill replied, ‘I’m quoting you. I think it was about seven years ago’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Ms Hill’s statement was materially inaccurate. While Ms Hill’s reference to Dr Brash’s views may have been loose or approximate, overall it was not material to listeners’ understanding of the item as a whole, which focused on Dr Brash’s opinion about the use of te reo Māori without translation, particularly in RNZ broadcasting. Further, Dr Brash was given sufficient time during the 32-minute interview to rebut Ms Hill’s statement and to clarify his position. The Authority therefore found that the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression in this case.

Not Upheld: Accuracy  


Introduction

[1]  During the Saturday Morning programme on RNZ National, Kim Hill interviewed Dr Don Brash about his views on the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand. At one point in the interview Ms Hill put to Dr Brash, ‘Is this a political position on your part? I mean, we know your political position, for example, which says that the government has no responsibility to address the overrepresentation of Māori in negative social stats’. Dr Brash asked Ms Hill when he had said that, to which Ms Hill replied, ‘I’m quoting you. I think it was about seven years ago’. Dr Brash responded that he had no recollection of ever saying that.

[2]  Robin Grieve complained that Ms Hill’s statement regarding Dr Brash’s political position was inaccurate. Mr Grieve referred to a past speech by Dr Brash in which he expressed his preference for ‘equality under the law’ and his view that government policies were not working to improve the overrepresentation of Māori in negative social statistics. Mr Grieve also complained that Ms Hill’s inaccuracy painted Dr Brash ‘in a poor light’.

[3]  The issue raised in Mr Grieve’s complaint is whether the item breached the accuracy standard, as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast on 2 December 2017. The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the item inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  The accuracy standard (Standard 9) 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 being significantly misinformed.

[6] The accuracy standard applies only to material points of fact. Technical or unimportant points unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the item as a whole are not material.1

The parties’ submissions

[7]  Mr Grieve submitted:

  • Ms Hill stated emphatically that she was quoting Dr Brash. Mr Grieve was unconvinced by RNZ’s arguments that Ms Hill was referring to comments made by Dr Brash in 2006, and resulting publicity.
  • Mr Grieve provided a possible source for Ms Hill’s reference, Dr Brash’s speech One Law for All?, on 9 September 2011,2 and argued it was clear from this speech that Dr Brash did not believe the government had ‘no responsibility’ to address Māori overrepresentation in negative social statistics.
  • Ms Hill’s statement that she was ‘quoting’ Dr Brash was therefore misleading and inaccurate. Mr Grieve argued that this resulted in Dr Brash being painted in ‘a poor light’, negatively impacting on his reputation.

[8]  RNZ submitted:

  • Dr Brash’s One Law for All? speech was not the source of Ms Hill’s reference. Ms Hill was in fact referring to comments made by Dr Brash in 2006, and the surrounding media coverage of those comments.
  • In any event, as the interview progressed, Dr Brash returned to this issue and was able to enunciate his position in relation to government responsibility. As such, listeners were unlikely to be misled by Ms Hill’s reference.

Our analysis

[9]  This interview was focused on Dr Brash’s views around the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand, and particularly in RNZ broadcasting without translation.

[10]  In a brief comment during the interview, Ms Hill referred to comments she said Dr Brash had made in relation to the overrepresentation of Māori in negative social statistics, as well as surrounding media coverage of those comments. She summarised Dr Brash’s views expressed in that coverage for listeners and put this to Dr Brash for comment. In our view, Dr Brash was then given sufficient time, during the 32-minute broadcast, to rebut Ms Hill’s statement and to clarify his position.

[11]  In this context, we do not consider that Ms Hill’s statement amounted to a material point of fact under the standard or that it was misleading. While her reference may have been loose or approximate, it would not have affected listeners’ understanding of Dr Brash’s position on the issue of speaking te reo Māori, which was the focus of the interview.

[12]  We therefore do not consider the broadcast caused harm at a level requiring our intervention and any limitation on the right to freedom of expression would therefore be unwarranted.

[13]  For these reasons, we do not uphold the accuracy complaint.

[14]  While Mr Grieve expressly raised the accuracy standard in his complaint and in his referral, his submissions also imply that, as a result of the inaccuracy, Dr Brash was treated unfairly. For completeness, we note that we do not consider the alleged inaccuracy resulted in unfairness to Dr Brash, in breach of the fairness standard.3

[15]  As we have found above, Dr Brash was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to rebut Ms Hill’s statement and to explain his views to listeners during the item. While Ms Hill’s questioning was robust and the statement complained about may have only roughly summarised Dr Brash’s views, it did not go beyond what could reasonably be expected during a long-form interview with Dr Brash, given his position and his experience in dealing with media.


For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
18 June 2018

 


Appendix

The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1       Robin Grieve’s formal complaint – 22 December 2017
2       RNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 February 2018
3       Mr Grieve’s referral to the Authority – 7 March 2018
4       RNZ’s response to the referral – 3 April 2018
5       Mr Grieve’s final comments – 11 April 2018


1 Guideline 9b

2  One Law for All? Don Brash, Leader ACT New Zealand, Redwood Room, Bureta Park Motor Inn, 8 September 2011

3 See also a previous decision by the Authority’s on this broadcast, Cape and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2018-013, which considered the fairness standard.