BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Maka and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-062

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Melino Maka
Number
2007-062
Programme
Tagata Pasifika
Channel/Station
TV One

Tapu Misa declared a conflict and did not take part in the determination of this complaint.


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Tagata Pasifika– item reported on the Government’s Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme – allegedly unbalanced and inaccurate

Findings
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

Standard 6 (accuracy) – item would not have misled viewers – item did not purport to be an in depth discussion of the scheme – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]  An item on Tagata Pasifika broadcast at 11.05pm on 3 May 2007, reported on the announcement of the New Zealand Government’s Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (the RSE scheme). The report explained that the scheme was an attempt to address the lack of agricultural workers in some New Zealand regions by allowing approved employers to recruit staff from specified Pacific nations for seasonal work.

[2]   The item included brief commentary on the scheme by Dr Mary Anne Thompson who spoke about the pastoral care of workers, the Tongan Minister of Labour Lisiate’ Akolo, who commented on Tonga’s worker selection for the scheme and New Zealand’s Minister of Immigration David Cunliffe, who commented on overstaying.      

Complaint

[3]  On behalf of the Tongan Advisory Council, Melino Maka complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the report was unbalanced because it had only contained material that supported the RSE scheme, when in fact there were people and organisations that had concerns about the pastoral care of the workers while living in New Zealand. He argued that because the report had not contained any opposing viewpoints it had lacked independent coverage and editorial integrity.

[4]   The complainant maintained that in this instance Tagata Pasifika had “acted as a promotional unit for the Pacific division of the Department of Labour rather than an independent media organisation”, and that broadcasting standards had been breached as a result.       

[5]   Mr Maka also complained about several articles on TVNZ’s website that contained comments about him, which he considered were defamatory and that referred to the Tongan government’s support of the RSE scheme. g.      

Standards

[6]   TVNZ assessed Mr Maka’s formal complaint under Standards 4 and 5, and guidelines 4a and 5c of the Free to Air Television Code of Broadcasting. These provide:

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Guideline 4a

Programmes which deal with political matters, current affairs, and questions of a controversial nature, must show balance and impartiality.

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Guideline 5c

Broadcasters must ensure that the editorial independence and integrity of news and current affairs is maintained.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[7]   Dealing with a procedural issue first, TVNZ noted that Mr Maka had made the formal complaint as the Chair of the Tongan Advisory Council. TVNZ believed that it was “safer” to consider the complaint as having come from Mr Maka himself rather than the Council, because the broadcaster had no familiarity with that organisation, who it advised or who its members were. 

[8]   TVNZ argued that the item had not taken a subjective approach or presented the personal views of individuals working for the Department of Labour, but had explained what the scheme was and had provided information on it.

[9]   The broadcaster maintained that Tagata Pasifika carried the views of people who disagreed with various government policies, but that in this case the support for the RSE scheme was “all but unanimous in Pacific Island countries”. It maintained that to give space to a viewpoint that was critical of the scheme, but not significant in terms of representing a prominent dissenting voice, would have been as misleading as failing to include a significant viewpoint. It argued that no significant viewpoint had been missing from the item and that the main purpose of the item was to provide information on the scheme. Accordingly, it did not find a breach Standard 4.

[10]   TVNZ maintained that there were no inaccurate or untrue statements made in the item and it declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[11]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, Mr Maka referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 and reiterated his argument that the item was unbalanced.

[12]   Mr Maka argued that the process TVNZ had undertaken when considering his complaint was unfair. He maintained that the broadcaster should have contacted him if it had been unsure as to what the Tongan Advisory Council was or who its members were, and said he should have been given an opportunity to respond to that issue before TVNZ had completed its decision making process.

Authority's Determination

[13]   The members of the Authority have viewed 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.

Procedural Matters

[14]   The Authority notes that it does not have jurisdiction to deal with Mr Maka’s complaint regarding material contained on TVNZ’s website, as such material does not come within the definition of “broadcasting” in the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[15]   The Authority agrees with TVNZ that it was appropriate to consider this complaint as having been made by Mr Maka as an individual, as opposed to a complaint from the Tongan Advisory Council. The Tongan Advisory Council is not a legal entity and therefore has no standing to make a complaint under the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Standard 4 (balance)

[16]   Standard 4 requires that balance be provided when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. In the Authority’s view, the programme complained about did not discuss such an issue. The item did not purport to be an in-depth analysis or discussion of the RSE scheme. Rather, it was a news item reporting on the announcement of the scheme and it included comments from people who had attended the launch. Accordingly, the Authority finds that Standard 4 did not apply to the broadcast and it declines to uphold the balance complaint.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[17]   The accuracy standard requires news and current affairs and other factual programmes to be truthful and accurate on points of fact. The complainant has argued that the Tongan Advisory Council should have been approached for comment, and that viewers would have been misled into thinking that there had been only positive feedback about the scheme.

[18]   As discussed above, the Authority considers that the item simply reported on the announcement of the RSE scheme; it did not state that there was no opposition to the scheme. The Authority considers that viewers would not have been misled by the item in this respect. In these circumstances, the Authority finds that Standard 5 was not breached.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
29 October 2007

Appendix

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

1.           Melino Maka’s formal complaint – 12 May 2007
2.           TVNZ”s response to the formal complaint – 29 May 2007
3.           Mr Maka’s referral to the Authority – 23 June 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 16 August 2007