BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Rangihuna and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2005-134

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Terence Rangihuna of Te Araroa on behalf of
Number
2005-134
Programme
Frontier of Dreams
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Frontier of Dreams – history of New Zealand – first two episodes – stated that first migrants settled in New Zealand about 800 years ago – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – programme based on modern scholarship and the current understanding of scientific evidence – no inaccuracies – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] Frontier of Dreams is a television history of Aotearoa/New Zealand. The first broadcast, a double episode, was screened on TV One at 7.30pm on 24 September 2005. The first episode dealt with the history of New Zealand before settlement by humans which, it said, occurred about 800 years ago. While acknowledging that New Zealand might have been visited by humans earlier, the programme said the first migrants arrived about 800 years ago. This account was repeated in the second episode.

Complaint

[2] Terence Rangihuna of the Te Tangata Whenua Sovereign Council complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the first two episodes were inaccurate when it was said that the first settlers arrived from Polynesia about 800 years ago. He also complained about the third episode broadcast at 7.30pm on 1 October 2005 which, he said, repeated the same information.

[3] Mr Rangihuna said Te Tangata Whenua o Te Hapuoneone were the people who lived in New Zealand before the Polynesian immigration. He cited four sources to support his contention that New Zealand was occupied by the “original inhabitants” before the arrival of the migrants from Polynesia about 800 years ago.

Standards

[4] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5] Expressing respect for the complainant’s ancestral beliefs, TVNZ said that the story of New Zealand told in the Frontier of Dreams was based on modern scholarship and the current understanding of scientific evidence. The editorial group which had checked the script for accuracy, it added, included a leading Māori historian and an experienced Māori researcher. TVNZ wrote:

None of the specialists consulted by or interviewed for the series at any point suggested that, based on current scholarship, credence could be given to a scenario in which people resided in New Zealand prior to the Polynesian migration and were the real ancestors of Māori – or the “original sovereigns”, as you put it.

[6] Acknowledging that evidence uncovered in the future might give credibility to the claims, TVNZ said the “wealth and depth” of the evidence now available supported the thesis advanced in the series. It declined to uphold the complaint that the item was inaccurate.

[7] TVNZ noted that the statement to which objection was taken was not made in the third episode.

Referral to the Authority

[8] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Rangihuna on behalf of the Te Tangata Whenua Sovereign Council referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[9] Mr Rangihuna referred to a number of sites around New Zealand, including the Chatham Islands, of significance to Te Hapuoneone, and to recorded accounts of the Māori tradition of a pre-migration people known as Te Hapuoneone.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10] TVNZ acknowledged that the interpretation of history was constantly evolving as knowledge increased. However, the understanding contained in Frontier of Dreams reflected knowledge at the present time. It added:

We do not say that Mr Rangihuna is wrong. We simply say that at this stage his claims lack the credible evidence which diligent historical enquiry requires.

Authority's Determination

[11] The members of the Authority have viewed the episodes of the programme which were complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing. It notes that the issue was not mentioned in the third episode.

[12] The Authority considers that the first two episodes were not inaccurate. In reaching this determination, it records its respect for the complainant’s ancestral traditions but agrees with the arguments advanced by TVNZ. As TVNZ explained, the story told in Frontier of Dreams is based on modern scholarship and the current understanding of scientific evidence. As TVNZ also acknowledged, the interpretation of history is constantly evolving as new evidence becomes available.

[13] As the account contained in the programme was based on the current evidence and evaluated by a number of specialists, the Authority finds that it was not inaccurate.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
22 December 2005

Appendix

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

  1. Te Tangata Whenua Sovereign Council’s complaint (through Terence Rangihuna) to Television New Zealand Ltd – 1 October 2005
  2. Television New Zealand Ltd’s response to the formal complaint – 27 October 2005
  3. Te Tangata Whenua Sovereign Council’s referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority received 7 November 2005
  4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 10 November 2005