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Mahdavi and CanWest Radioworks Ltd - 2007-074

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Babak Mahdavi
Radio Live news
Radio Live
Standards Breached

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio Live – reference to the Arabian Gulf in a news report – allegedly inaccurate

Principle 6 (accuracy) – use of the term Arabian Gulf inaccurate – upheld

No Order

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  During a news item broadcast on Radio Live on 9 April 2007, a reporter used the term “Arabian Gulf” when reporting that a British service woman had been freed after being held hostage for 13 days in Iran.


[2]   Babak Mahdavi complained to CanWest RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the body of water which separates the Iranian Plateau from the Arabian Peninsula was officially named the “Persian Gulf”, and therefore it was inaccurate to refer to it as the Arabian Gulf.

[3]   The complainant pointed out that the New Zealand government, as well as the United Nations (UN), used the term Persian Gulf as the official name of this particular body of water.


[4]   RadioWorks assessed the complaint under Principle 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

Principle 6 Accuracy

In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   CanWest maintained that listeners would not have been misled by the use of the name Arabian Gulf, because it accurately identified the geographical area being referred to in the report. As a result, it declined to uphold that the item was in breach of Principle 6.

[6]   However, the broadcaster stated that it had circulated the complainant’s material to its radio and television newsrooms.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s decision, Mr Mahdavi referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[8]   The complainant argued that the broadcaster had contradicted itself by agreeing with him that the use of the term Arabian Gulf was not technically correct, but then declining to uphold his complaint. He reiterated his arguments put forward in his original complaint.

Authority's Determination

[9]   The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Principle 6 (accuracy)

[10]   The complainant provided the Authority with a UN working paper on geographical names, which states that the official name for the body of water in question is the Persian Gulf. The Authority is of the view that the UN is a credible and reliable source of information for geographical place names, and it notes that CanWest has not provided any information to support the use of the term Arabian Gulf.

[11]   Based on the UN report, the Authority concludes that it was inaccurate to refer to that body of water as the “Arabian Gulf”. Accordingly, the Authority upholds the accuracy complaint.

Bill of Rights

[12]   For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority records that it has given full weight to the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and taken into account all the circumstances of the complaint in reaching this determination. For the reasons given above, the Authority considers that its exercise of powers on this occasion is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.


For the above reasons the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by RadioWorks of an item on Radio Live on 9 April 2007 breached Principle 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[13]   Having upheld the complaint, the Authority may make orders under sections 13 and 16 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not intend to impose an order on this occasion. Although CanWest declined to uphold the complaint, the Authority considers that the action taken by the broadcaster in circulating the complainant’s material on the term Persian Gulf to its radio and television newsrooms was appropriate and sufficient in all the circumstances.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
25 September 2007


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

1.            Babak Mahdavi’s formal complaint to RadioWorks – 6 April 2007
2.           RadioWorks’ decision on the formal complaint – 3 July 2007
3.           Mr Mahdavi’s referral to the Authority – 30 July 2007
4.           RadioWorks’ response to the Authority – 6 August 2007