BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Neumegen and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2018-014 (8 May 2018)

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Wendy Palmer
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Paula Rose
Dated
Complainant
  • Max Neumegen
Number
2018-014
Broadcaster
MediaWorks Radio Ltd
Channel/Station
More FM # 5

Summary

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

A segment on Polly & Grant for Breakfast featured the hosts reading out and discussing a list of countries referred to as ‘the last places on Earth with no internet’. The list was long and included countries such as India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Guatemala and Nicaragua. The list was evidently sourced from an online article that contained relevant information about the countries listed having internet user penetration rates of less than 20%. That information was omitted during the broadcast, and created an impression that the countries listed had no internet. The Authority nevertheless did not uphold a complaint under the accuracy standard. The Authority noted that the accuracy standard only applies to news, current affairs or factual programming and found that it did not apply to this light-hearted, entertainment-based programme. The Authority noted that, while the information broadcast was incorrect, the hosts’ discussion of the relevant countries did not contain the malice or invective required to encourage discrimination or denigration, or undermine widely shared community standards.

Not Upheld: Accuracy, Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration  


Introduction

[1]  A segment on Polly & Grant for Breakfast featured the hosts reading out and discussing a list of countries described as ‘the last places on Earth with no internet’. The list was long and included countries such as India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

[2]  The hosts appeared confused and sceptical about some of the countries on the list, saying:

Polly: The India one is a bit weird.
Grant: So is the Indonesian one.
Polly: Maybe they beam it in from somewhere else or something.
Grant: That’s weird.
Polly: Yeah that is weird, but apparently.

[3]  The list appears to have come from an online Telegraph article dated 14 November 2017 (two days before the broadcast), titled, ‘The last places on Earth with no internet’. The article states that the countries on the list have ‘a user penetration rate of less than 20 per cent. Which means that fewer than one in five of its residents can access the internet because of a lack of infrastructure.’1

[4]  Max Neumegen complained that the broadcast was inaccurate and misled the audience as the hosts stated that the countries on the list had ‘no internet’ at all. Mr Neumegen also complained that the list and the way the list was read out during the broadcast degraded the countries on the list. Mr Neumegen said he tried to phone More FM at the time of broadcast to alert them that what they were saying was incorrect, without success.

[5]  The issues raised in Mr Neumegen’s complaint are whether the broadcast breached the accuracy, good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[6]  The item was broadcast on 16 November 2017 on More FM. 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 broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[7]  The accuracy standard (Standard 9) 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 being significantly misinformed.

The parties’ submissions

[8]  Mr Neumegen submitted:

  • The hosts did not clarify that the countries on the list have a user penetration rate of less than 20 per cent. This is materially different to stating the countries listed have no internet at all.
  • The list was read by the host (Polly) as a statement of fact which was materially inaccurate.
  • There was no reference in the broadcast to the source of the list or any other information contained in the Telegraph article.
  • Just because a programme is not seen as ‘news’ does not mean that programme should not be subject to the accuracy standard.

[9]  MediaWorks submitted that, although the segment in question was presented as factual, Polly & Grant for Breakfast is not a factual broadcast as envisioned by this standard.

Our analysis

[10]  The accuracy standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programming. News and current affairs programmes or items will usually be readily identified, taking into account what audiences would reasonably expect to be news and current affairs.2 Factual programmes are non-fiction programmes which contain information that audiences might reasonably expect to be authoritative or truthful, such as documentaries. These can be distinguished from programmes which are wholly based on opinions or ideas.3

[11]  Polly and Grant are experienced radio hosts who are renowned for their light-hearted, entertainment and magazine-style content in their various shows, rather than being an authoritative source of news or fact. The Authority has previously found that similar shows do not amount to news, current affairs or factual programming for the purposes of this standard.4 Considering the long-established audience expectations of Polly and Grant as entertainment hosts and the nature of the breakfast show, we find the broadcast in question did not amount to news, current affairs of factual programming and therefore the accuracy standard is not applicable.

[12]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint.

[13]  However, while we are unable to uphold the complaint under the accuracy standard due to the genre of the broadcast, we recognise that, by not providing the important context from the article – namely that the countries listed have ‘a user penetration rate of less than 20 per cent’ – the segment had the potential to mislead listeners. We acknowledge that the hosts endeavoured to present the information in a light-hearted, incredulous tone, expressing doubt about the list. However, while it may not have been intentional, the language was loose and some listeners may have been misled. Broadcasters ought to take care when presenting apparently fact-based information in an entertainment context.

Did the broadcast breach any other broadcasting standards?

[14]  Mr Neumegen also raised the good taste and decency (Standard 1) and discrimination and denigration (Standard 6) standards in his complaint.

[15]  Mr Neumegen submitted that reading the list of countries and misrepresenting the nature of their internet accessibility was degrading to the countries listed, people who live there or have spent time there, More FM and the radio broadcasting community as a whole.

[16]  The hosts incorrectly stated that the countries listed have ‘no internet’. We acknowledge that this incorrect statement and the hosts’ discussion of specific countries may be seen as dismissive and offensive by some people or communities with ties to the countries listed. However, the broadcast did not amount to hate speech and lacked the malice or invective required to find a breach of the discrimination and denigration standard. Nor did it meet the threshold of undermining widely shared community standards.

[17]  Accordingly, we do not uphold the complaint under the good taste and decency or discrimination and denigration standards.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
8 May 2018 

 


Appendix

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

1     Max Neumegen’s formal complaint – 29 November 2017
2     MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 18 January 2018
3     Mr Neumegen’s referral to the Authority – 6 February 2018
4     MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 2 March 2018


1 ‘The last places on Earth with no internet’, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/lists/the-last-places-on-earth-with-no-internet/ (The Telegraph, 14 November 2017)

2 Commentary – Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18

3 As above

4 See for example: BL and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2017-025 and BC and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2014-128