BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Māori Television Service and CanWest RadioWorks Ltd - 2006-085

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
  • Māori Television Service
Radio Pacific
Radio Pacific

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio Pacific – host commented that Māori Television had complained to the BSA about comments he had made in an earlier broadcast – referred to Māori Television as “racist, separatist, and apartheid” – allegedly inaccurate and denigratory

Standard 6 (accuracy) – comments clearly opinion – not statements of fact to which accuracy standard applies – not upheld

Standard 7 (social responsibility) and guideline 7a (denigration) – Māori Television not “section of the community” to which denigration standard applies – comments not denigratory of Māori generally – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]  On 16 June 2006 on Radio Pacific at approximately 6.10am, the host John Banks commented that Māori Television had complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about comments he had made in an earlier broadcast. He said:

…I see that racist state-funded television broadcaster Te Karere has complained to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about me…

They’ve complained that I’ve described them as apartheid and they’ve complained that I’ve described them as racist. That’s Māori Television. So they’ve lodged a complaint with the Broadcasting Standards Authority against this world-famous broadcast for describing them what they are: racist, separatist, and apartheid. Funded by me. And that’s what I’ve said, and that’s the nature of the complaint.


[2]  Māori Television Service complained to CanWest RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the references to Māori Television as “racist, separatist, and apartheid” were inaccurate and denigratory. It contended that the broadcast had breached Principles 6 and 7 and guideline 7a of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.


[3]  CanWest assessed the complaint under the standards and guidelines nominated by the complainant. These provide:

Principle 6

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

Principle 7

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to be socially responsible.

Guideline 7a   

Broadcasters will not portray people in a manner which encourages denigration of or discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender, race, age, disability, occupational status, sexual orientation; or as the consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement does not extend to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i)          factual; or

ii)          a genuine expression of serious comment, analysis or opinion, or

iii)         by way of legitimate humour or satire.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]  CanWest did not consider that Principle 6 (accuracy) had any application to the complaint. It said that the host’s comments were not part of the presentation of news and current affairs, but were clearly the expression of his opinion in a Talk Radio setting.

[5]  Further, the broadcaster maintained that the host’s comments did not encourage denigration of or discrimination against Māori in general, or Māori Television in particular. The comments could not be termed “hate speech or vitriol”, it wrote.

Referral to the Authority

[6]  Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Māori Television referred its complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It cited a previous decision of the Authority (Decision No. 2005-016) in which the Authority had stated that talkback radio might amount to current affairs (and thus be subject to the accuracy standard) where the host makes “unqualified statements of material fact that set the basis for the discussion”.  It argued that the same principle applied in the present case.

[7]  Māori Television stated that the station did not operate apartheid policies, nor did it condone apartheid practices. Noting CanWest’s argument that the host’s comments did not amount to hate speech or vitriol, Māori Television submitted that they did not have to. Rather, it said, there only had to be a blackening of reputation. The complainant contended that the host had denigrated and maligned Māori Television and the Māori people, adding:

To persist in and perpetuate a lie that Māori Television is “racist”, “separatist” and “apartheid” could not be a worse blackening of reputation.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[8]  CanWest reiterated that the host’s audience expected him to express strong views vehemently. It contended that listeners to the programme would know the actual position of the Māori Television Service and “would not be misled by the expression of [the host’s] well known views on the funding of MTV”.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[9]  In relation to CanWest’s comments, Māori Television maintained that the host’s comments were inaccurate. Whether or not his audience expected and embraced his views was not the point, it wrote, and listeners would not necessarily know the actual position about Māori Television. The complainant asserted that listeners would be misled by the host’s “constant repetition of untrue facts”.

[10]  Māori Television contended that the host’s comments were not an expression of opinion, but amounted to unqualified statements of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. It also maintained that Māori Television was made up of 181 employees who should be regarded as a “section of the community” for the purposes of the denigration guideline in Principle 7. The complainant wrote that by portraying Māori Television as racist and apartheid, the host was encouraging denigration of Māori Television and the broader Māori community.

Authority's Determination

[11]  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)

[12]  The host’s comments on this occasion were a repetition of comments about Māori Television that he had made in an earlier broadcast. The Authority has determined a complaint from Māori Television about those comments (Decision No. 2006-056), and it made the following statements:

The Authority agrees with CanWest that the accuracy standard has no application to the comments complained of. As Māori Television noted in its submissions, the Authority has previously determined that a talkback programme amounts to “current affairs” when a host makes unqualified statements of material fact that set the basis for the discussion.  That did not happen in the present case. 

[13]  Similarly, the Authority considers that the host’s comments on this occasion – that Māori Television was “racist, separatist and apartheid” – were clearly identifiable as the host’s opinion, and contained no statements of unqualified fact. In these circumstances, the accuracy standard does not apply to the comments complained about. The Authority does not uphold this part of the complaint.

Principle 7 (social responsibility) and guideline 7a (denigration)

[14]  Guideline 7a is intended to protect “sections of the community” from denigration on account of their gender, race, age, disability, occupational status or sexual orientation, or as a consequence of their religious, cultural or political beliefs.  In Decision No. 2006-056 the Authority determined that, because Māori Television is a body corporate created by statute, it is not a “section of the community” as envisaged by guideline 7a. Accordingly, it does not enjoy the protection of the prohibition against denigration.

[15]  Māori Television also argued that the host’s comments were denigratory of Māori generally, given that the channel promotes Māori language and culture.  The Authority does not agree. While the host was critical of the decision to fund the channel with public money, his comments were directed at Māori Television as an organisation, rather than at Māori people generally.

[16]  For these reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the denigration complaint.

[17]  Although it has found no breach of the Radio Code on this occasion, the Authority records its view that the host’s comments were ill-informed and designed to offend. It expresses sympathy for Māori Television and its employees in this respect.


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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
27 November 2006


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

1     Māori Television Service’s formal complaint – 29 June 2006

2     CanWest’s decision on the formal complaint – 15 August 2006

3     Māori Television Service’s referral to the Authority – 21 August 2006

4     Further submissions from Māori Television Service – 22 August 2006

5     CanWest’s response to the Authority – 14 September 2006

6     Māori Television Service’s final comment – 25 September 2006