BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McGuckian and The Radio Network Ltd - 2014-088

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Frank McGuckian
Newstalk ZB
Newstalk ZB

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

A Newstalk ZB news bulletin reported on the Pope meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the number of victims cited was inaccurate. The broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the item’s accuracy by obtaining the figure from a United Nations report.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness


[1]  A Newstalk ZB news bulletin reported on the Pope meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse. The newsreader said the meeting was ‘a gesture aimed at expressing [the Pope’s] closeness to the tens of thousands of people abused by priests around the world’. The report was broadcast on Newstalk ZB on 5 July 2014.

[2]  Frank McGuckian complained that the news item was inaccurate in stating there were ‘tens of thousands’ of abuse victims, because only around 3000 abuse cases had been handled over the past decade. He considered this was unfair to the Catholic Church.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy and fairness standards as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the item inaccurate?

[5]  The accuracy standard (Standard 5) 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 receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[6]  TRN maintained that it obtained the figure of ‘tens of thousands’ of victims from a recent United Nations (UN) report on clerical abuse in the Catholic Church.

[7]  Having reviewed the UN report, we are satisfied that the news item accurately reported the contents of that report, which was released several months before this meeting between the Pope and victims took place. The report says:

The Committee… expresses deep concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic Church… whereby clerics have been involved in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide. The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, nor taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have enabled the continuation of sexual abuse by clerics and impunity for the perpetrators.2 [our emphasis]

[8]  We are satisfied the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the item was accurate, by relying on findings released by the UN. The figure of ‘tens of thousands’ of abuse victims was also widely reported in other media following the release of the report. We also note that rates of abuse are rarely certain or definitive, given the large number of cases that go unreported.

[9]  We therefore decline to uphold the accuracy complaint.

Was the item unfair to the Catholic Church?

[10]  The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. Programme participants and people referred to in broadcasts have the right to expect that broadcasters will deal with them justly and fairly, so that unwarranted harm is not caused to their reputation and dignity.3

[11]  Having found that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure the item’s accuracy by relying on the UN report, we cannot find any unfairness to the Catholic Church. We also note the broadcaster’s assertion that ‘the news report was demonstrating what the Pope was doing to address this issue within the church. The fact he was meeting with abuse victims is positive.’

[12]  We decline to uphold the fairness complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority



Peter Radich
25 September 2014


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

1            Frank McGuckian’s formal complaint – 6 July 2014

2            TRN’s response to the complaint – 9 July 2014

3            Mr McGuckian’s referral to the Authority – 22 July 2014

4            TRN’s response to the Authority – 4 August 2014

1Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd

, Decision No. 2010-036

2‘Concluding observations on the second periodic report of the Holy See’, at paragraph 43 (United Nations, Committee on the Rights of the Child, 25 February 2014)

3Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014