BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Page and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-186

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Paul Page
Number
2004-186
Programme
Holmes
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Holmes – studio discussion between presenter Paul Holmes, Pastor Brian Tamaki from the Destiny Church and Georgina Beyer MP – reaction to the street march in which Destiny Church members protested against the proposed Civil Union Bill – allegedly inaccurate and unfair

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – nothing inaccurate in item – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – item fair to all parties involved – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] Holmes on TV One on 24 August 2004 at 7pm included a studio discussion involving the presenter, Pastor Brian Tamaki from the Destiny Church and Georgina Beyer MP.

[2] The discussion concerned the street march through Wellington the previous day in which Destiny Church members protested against the proposed Civil Union Bill. The church members had worn identical black garments, raised their fists in protest and chanted “enough is enough”.

Complaint

[3] Paul Page complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item had breached broadcasting standards relating to accuracy and fairness. He found it “totally unacceptable” that the presenter had asked whether either of the interviewees had seen any similarities between the march and the Nuremberg rallies.

[4] The complainant contended that the reason for wearing identical black shirts could have been because “most members of the Destiny Church are Māori” and they were simply exercising a “sense of order” similar to Māori dance groups. Mr Page also took issue with comparisons between the marchers raising clenched fists and the Nazi salute. He observed that Dr Martin Luther King had used a raised clenched fist during peaceful demonstrations.

[5] Mr Page considered that it was also unacceptable for the presenter to have questioned Brian Tamaki about his income and the funding for his “million dollar house”. The presenter had suggested that Mr Tamaki’s wealth came from the tithe on members of his congregation. The complainant argued instead that the funds may have come from independent businesses run by Mr Tamaki and his brothers, and asked the broadcaster to provide proof that he had obtained the funds for his house from the tithe.

[6] Mr Page was also concerned about what he perceived to be a “lack of questions pertaining to Ms Beyer’s comments” and asked whether this meant that the presenter and the broadcaster agreed with them. He said:

The lack of presentation of this interview and the lack of an impartial and objective nature raises questions pertaining to both Mr Paul Holmes and also TVNZ.

Standards

[7] Standards 5 and 6 and Guidelines 6a, 6d and 6g of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. They provide:

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.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Guidelines

6a  Care should be taken in the editing of programme material to ensure that the extracts used are a true reflection, and not a distortion, of the original event or the overall views expressed.

6d  Broadcasters should acknowledge the right of individuals to express their own opinions.

6g  Broadcasters should avoid portraying persons in programmes in a manner that encourages denigration of, or discrimination against, sections of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, or occupational status, or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs. This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material which is:

i) factual, or

ii) the expression of genuinely held opinion in news, current affairs or other factual programmes, or

iii) in the legitimate context of a dramatic, humorous or satirical work,

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[8] In its response to the complainant, TVNZ maintained that the debate was appropriate and a matter of public interest given the “unusual nature of the street march”. With regard to the complainant’s concerns about comparisons to the Nuremberg rallies, the broadcaster said that the event was:
…a stage-managed piece of street theatre which, in the minds of anyone with a passing knowledge of 20th century European history, must have brought to mind the early activities of the “brown shirts” of the Nazi Party in its formative years.

[9] TVNZ said that the “worrying imagery the marchers conveyed” had not been imagined by Holmes or by TVNZ, but was reflected in media coverage and letters to major newspapers. Nobody had said that the marchers were Nazis or that their salutes were Nazi salutes, but TVNZ added:

What was disturbing was the likeness between the Wellington march and those seen in Germany in the early thirties. The highly organised nature of the march, the absence of spontaneity or individuality among the marchers, and their visual appearance touched what is still a raw nerve among many people around the world. TVNZ said that Mr Tamaki was asked about these matters during the interview and he had been given a full opportunity to respond.

[10] The broadcaster noted that Mr Tamaki had never denied that his personal wealth came from the tithe, and that he had again asserted his right to tithe members of his congregation during the debate. TVNZ considered that it was legitimate to raise this matter given that:

…his congregations are generally drawn from people who can less afford to give 10 percent of their income to the Church than would be the case in more orthodox Christian communities (most of which do not share Mr Tamaki’s interpretation of the tithe).

The broadcaster acknowledged the complainant’s point that Mr Tamaki’s wealth could have come from a prosperous family. However, it noted that Mr Tamaki has “consistently and openly credited his lifestyle to the collection of the tithe”.

[11] Responding to the complainant’s concern that Georgina Beyer MP had not been sufficiently questioned about her point of view, TVNZ maintained that the presenter had asked “searching questions of both his guests”.

[12] The broadcaster stated that no breach of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice had occurred. It could find no inaccuracies in the item which would contravene Standard 5 (accuracy).

[13] TVNZ also found no breach of Standard 6 (fairness) because both guests had been “given every opportunity to express their genuinely held opinions”. Referring to the guidelines for Standard 6, TVNZ argued that there had been no denigration or discrimination of Christians (Guideline 6g). Because the debate was live, it said, there had been a true reflection of the overall views expressed (Guideline 6a).

Referral to the Authority

[14] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Page referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. Mr Page maintained that there had been an “attack” upon the Destiny Church, and advanced the idea that it could have been politically motivated given that “this Church is going into politics”.

[15] The complainant alleged that a rally for better race relations earlier that week was more akin to a Nazi rally than this march given that violence had broken out, and asked why that rally had not received the same attention by the broadcaster.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[16] In its response to the Authority, TVNZ denied that the item was a “political attack” on the Destiny Church. The debate was prompted, it said, by issues arising from the march held in Wellington the previous day.

[17] The broadcaster also argued that the complainant was incorrect in stating that the Destiny Church is going into politics. It stated that the church and the political movement have been “scrupulous in maintaining their separate identities”.

Authority's Determination

[18] The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Accuracy

[19] In his complaint to the broadcaster the complainant appeared to suggest that it was incorrect to state that Pastor Tamaki’s apparent wealth was derived from a tithe on his congregation.

[20] The Authority notes that the complainant did not refer to this matter in his referral to the Authority and it is thus unclear as to whether he wished the issue to be considered.

[21] In any event, there is no substance to this aspect of his complaint. When directly questioned by the presenter, Pastor Tamaki justified the practice of tithing his congregation by reference to the Bible, and in no way denied that his wealth arose from this tithe. Accordingly, there is no basis on which to find that the presenter’s statements were inaccurate. This aspect of the complaint is not upheld.

Fairness

[22] In his referral to the Authority, the complainant alleged that the item amounted to a political attack on the Destiny Church. The Authority has seen no evidence to suggest that this was the case, and therefore does not intend to address this issue further.

[23] Nor does the Authority consider that the broadcast was unfair to Pastor Tamaki or the Destiny Church. In his original complaint, the complainant emphasised his view that it was “unacceptable” to compare the Destiny Church’s march on Parliament with the Nuremberg rallies. But in the view of the Authority, this is not what the broadcast did. Instead, the presenter noted one widely reported public perception of the march – that it had similarities to the Nuremberg rallies – and asked Pastor Tamaki to comment in relation to this. Far from being unfair, the presenter was inviting Pastor Tamaki to respond to a criticism of Pastor Tamaki and his congregation. In this manner, the item in fact provided a public platform for Pastor Tamaki to present his position.

[24] Overall, in the view of the Authority, the item was a relevant discussion on the Civil Union legislation, based around the diametrically opposed views of two high profile people. During the discussion each party was given a fair and reasonable opportunity to contribute, and each took good advantage of this opportunity to forcefully state their views. While Pastor Tamaki was asked some challenging questions about his position on the legislation, he was given a fair opportunity to respond.

[25] For the above reasons, the Authority considers that no issue of unfairness arises, and thus the item did not breach Standard 6 of the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice.

 

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
28 January 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Paul Page’s formal complaint – 24 August 2004
  2. TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 6 October 2004
  3. Mr Page’s referral to the Authority – 25 October 2004
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 November 2004