BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Keane and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2017-054 (9 August 2017)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Paula Rose
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
Dated
Complainant
  • Brett Keane
Number
2017-054
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 featured an interview with the manager of teacher practice at the Education Council. The interview discussed the Council’s drug testing of teachers and its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cannabis use, and referred to a recent finding of misconduct against a New Zealand teacher who refused to undergo a drug test. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item ‘pushed’ marijuana use by teachers. The item did not promote the use of illegal drugs or condone the behaviour of the teacher referred to. Rather, it offered a robust examination of the Council’s methods of drug testing teachers and its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cannabis use. In this context the item did not encourage listeners to use illegal drugs or otherwise undermine law and order. The item also did not contain any material which had the potential to adversely affect any child listeners. 

Not Upheld: Law and Order, Children’s Interests  


Introduction

[1]  An item on Morning Report featured an interview with the manager of teacher practice at the Education Council (the Council). The interview discussed the Council’s drug testing of teachers and its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cannabis use, including by reference to a recent finding of misconduct against a New Zealand teacher who refused to undergo a drug test.

[2]  Brett Keane complained that the item amounted to ‘relentless pushing of [marijuana] use by a teacher’.

[3]  The issue raised in Mr Keane’s complaint is whether the broadcast breached the law and order and children’s interests standards as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The item was broadcast at approximately 7.15am on Radio New Zealand National. The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Did the broadcast encourage listeners to break the law, or otherwise promote, condone or glamorise criminal activity?

[5]  The purpose of the law and order standard (Standard 5) is to prevent broadcasts that encourage listeners to break the law, or otherwise promote criminal or serious antisocial activity.1 The standard is concerned with broadcasts that actively undermine, or promote disrespect for, the law or legal processes. It does not stop broadcasters from discussing or depicting criminal behaviour, even if they do not explicitly condemn that behaviour. Nor does the standard prevent genuine criticism of laws or their enforcement.2

The parties’ submissions

[6]  Mr Keane submitted that the item advocated drug use and treated the law with contempt.

[7]  RNZ submitted:

  • The item did not ‘push’ marijuana use, but rather attempted to draw a distinction between what happens in a teacher’s private life and the example they set in front of students.
  • The interviewer did not condone or support the behaviour of the teacher in question.
  • The item did not promote or encourage criminal behaviour, namely the use of illegal drugs.

Our analysis

[8]  We do not consider that the item promoted illegal drug use or condoned the behaviour of the teacher referred to. Rather, the interview offered a robust examination of the Council’s methods of drug testing of teachers and its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cannabis use. The interviewer posed the question whether teachers should be expected to be role models at all times, including when they are not responsible for students. The Council’s response, that ‘teachers getting involved in the use of prohibited drugs is not great… teachers are supposed to be role models for our students’ and ‘society does say that it is illegal behaviour and we don’t expect our teachers to be modelling this type of behaviour’, was clearly included throughout the five and a half minute item. In this context, we do not think the item in any way encouraged listeners to use illegal drugs or otherwise undermined law and order.

[9]  This item discussed important societal issues and carried high value in terms of the right to freedom of expression. Our task is to weigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and the audience’s right to receive ideas and information, against the level of actual or potential harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast. For the reasons set out above, we have not identified any harm arising from the item which would justify limiting freedom of expression in this case.

[10]  Accordingly we do not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

Did the broadcaster adequately consider children’s interests?

[11]  The children’s interests standard (Standard 3) states that broadcasters should ensure children can be protected from broadcasts which might adversely affect them.

The parties’ submissions

[12]  RNZ submitted that Morning Report is not broadcast at a time recognised as a children’s listening zone, so this aspect of the complaint could be taken no further.

[13]  Mr Keane submitted that the item dealt with ‘a person with a duty of care for children’ and that it was irrelevant whether Morning Report was during a children’s listening zone.

Our analysis

[14]  The children’s interests standard is designed to protect children when viewing and listening to broadcasts.3 When we assess a complaint under this standard, we are concerned with the effect of a broadcast on child members of the audience. Our understanding of Mr Keane’s complaint is that his concerns relate to the care of children generally, rather than to the impact of the item on any child listeners. Therefore this aspect of Mr Keane’s complaint falls outside the scope of the broadcasting standards regime.

[15]  However, we note for completeness that we are satisfied that the item did not breach the children’s interests standard. While the item was broadcast at approximately 7.15am during children’s normally accepted listening times,4Morning Report is not targeted at child listeners and the item did not contain material which would adversely affect children. A level of sophistication and maturity was required to comprehend the item’s discussion about drug use and drug testing of teachers, and this was unlikely to be understood by, or appeal to, children.

[16]  We therefore do not uphold the complaint under Standard 3.

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

 

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

Peter Radich
Chair
9 August 2017  

 

Appendix

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

1      Brett Keane’s formal complaint – 12 May 2017
2      RNZ’s response to the complaint – 12 June 2017
3      Mr Keane’s referral to the Authority – 20 June 2017
4      RNZ’s response to the Authority – 27 June 2017

 


1 See, for example, Keane and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-082

2 Commentary: Standard 5 – Law and Order, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 15

3 Commentary: Standard 3 – Children’s Interests, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 13

4 Definitions, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 9