BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Rice and SKY Network Television Ltd and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2014-083

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Stephen Rice
Prime and TV ONE

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

Items broadcast on Prime News and ONE News used the terms ‘train’ and ‘carriage’. The Authority declined to determine complaints the items contained inaccurate use of railway terminology on the basis they were trivial, and the Authority has previously declined to determine complaints from Mr Rice on the same issue.

Declined to Determine: Accuracy


[1]  A Prime News item and promo broadcast on 28 February 2014, reported that KiwiRail's DL locomotives had been found to contain asbestos, and referred to ‘train’ and ‘carriage’. A ONE News item broadcast on 27 May 2014, reported on a train that derailed and crashed into a stop-block, and referred to ‘carriage’.  

[2]  Stephen Rice complained about the inaccurate use of railway terminology, and specifically the use of ‘train’ and ‘carriage’ instead of ‘locomotive’ in the Prime News item, and ‘carriages’ instead of ‘passenger cars’ in the ONE News item.

[3]  The issue is whether the complaint raises any broadcasting standards issues which warrant our determination.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the ONE News broadcast complained about, and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. SKY was unable to locate the relevant Prime News broadcast, but for the reasons expressed below this does not affect our determination.

Does the complaint raise any broadcasting standards issues which warrant our determination?

[5]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. The policy behind section 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are, in the end, sustained by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted in having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.1

[6]  Mr Rice argued, in regard to the Prime News item, ‘A locomotive is not a train. Locomotives only haul or propel them. No “trains” or “carriages” appear to be involved in this asbestos scare’. In regard to the ONE News item, he said, ‘As the train involved was not locomotive-hauled but consisted only of Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) Train “Passenger Cars” which do not meet the criteria… of being locomotive hauled or propelled… the “carriages” terms should not have been used’.

[7]  We consider it appropriate to decline to determine Mr Rice’s complaints under section 11(a) on the basis they are trivial. The use of the terms ‘train’ and ‘carriage’ instead of ‘locomotive’, and ‘carriage’ instead of ‘passenger car’, would not have materially altered viewers’ understanding of the stories, namely, an asbestos scare and train derailment. The news is a tool for mass communication and the use of common language serves this purpose.

[8]  We also note that Mr Rice has previously made a number of unsuccessful complaints to this Authority about the alleged inaccurate use of railway terminology in news items.2 If he continues to make such complaints he should be aware that the broadcasters may request an order for costs against him. In future, we are likely to decline to determine repeat complaints about railway terminology not only on the basis they are trivial, but also on the basis they are vexatious, because our findings here and in previous decisions ought to put Mr Rice on notice of the likely outcome of these complaints.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Peter Radich

3 December 2014


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

Prime News complaint

1                 Stephen Rice’s formal complaint about Prime News – 13 March 2014

2                 Mr Rice’s referral to the Authority, on basis of no response from SKY – 13 June 2014

3                 SKY’s response to the Authority – 8 July 2014

4                 Mr Rice’s final comment (including attachments) – 1 September 2014

5                 Further comment from Mr Rice – 12 September 2014

6                 SKY’s final comment – 17 September 2014

ONE News complaint

1                 Mr Rice’s formal complaint (including attachments) about ONE News – 13 June 2014

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

3                 Mr Rice’s referral to the Authority (including attachments) – 4 August 2014

4                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 3 September 2014

1Practice Note: Section 11 powers to decline to determine a complaint (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2013)

2See, Rice and SKY Network Television Ltd, Decision No. 2011-009; Rice and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2008-078 and Rice and The Radio Network Ltd, Decision No. 2008-062