Rupa and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2010-058
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Tapu Misa
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Dilip Rupa
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Close Up – programme asked viewers for their opinions on changing the New Zealand flag – showed five flag options – allegedly inaccurate
Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld
Standard 5 (accuracy) – not inaccurate on material points of fact or misleading – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on Close Up, broadcast on TV One at 7pm on Friday 5 February 2010, asked viewers for their opinions on changing the New Zealand flag. The programme ran a poll to determine viewers’ preferences for a proposed flag and provided them with five different options to choose from. The five options were:
- the current New Zealand flag
- the Tino Rangatiratanga flag
- the United Tribes flag
- a Silver Fern emblem flag
- a Dick Frizzel-designed flag.
 Close Up conducted a live studio interview with Māori party MP Hone Harawira, All Black Andy Ellis and art critic Hamish Keith. Each of the interviewees had differing perspectives on which flag New Zealand should adopt.
 At the end of the programme, the presenter delivered the results of the poll.
 Dilip Rupa made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the item had breached broadcasting standards.
 The complainant stated that TVNZ had displayed bias by “undermining New Zealand’s first national flag and secondly had displayed a marine flag of the National Flag on land...did not discuss how the first national flag was made”, and had referred to the first national flag as the United Tribes flag.
 Mr Rupa stated, “What the 1835 Sovereign New Zealand flag was replaced and when the 1902 flag became the national flag is a fact that TVNZ... have not discussed”. He considered the broadcaster had failed to properly inform viewers about the 1835 flag and its later replacement of the current national flag and that it should have included comment from “knowledgeable people who have information as opposed to an All Black with an uninformed opinion”.
 Standards 4 and 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:
Standard 4 Controversial Issues – Viewpoints
When discussing controversial issues of public importance in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant poni9ts of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
Standard 5 Accuracy
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/or
- does not mislead.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 TVNZ stated that the focus of the item was to consider the main flag options that were currently being discussed in the debate about whether to change the New Zealand flag. The aim, it said, was not to provide a history of any of the flags, but rather to simply present five different flags for the public to consider.
 The broadcaster argued that the item had not “undermined” New Zealand’s first national flag, and contended that no marine flags had been shown. It stated that the term “United Tribes flag” was widely used and was an accurate name for the flag in question and that “any previous names for this flag do not constitute material points of fact in this item”.
 TVNZ contended that the interviewee’s comments were genuinely held opinion, which they were entitled to convey. It declined to uphold the complaint that Standard 5 had been breached.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Rupa referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 We note that Mr Rupa referred to “section 4” in his complaint and assume that he intended to make a complaint under Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints). TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 (accuracy), and we agree that Mr Rupa’s complaint was more properly considered under that standard.
 For the sake of completeness, we have considered the complaint under both standards.
Standard 4 (controversial issues – viewpoints)
 Standard 4 states that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
 On this occasion, the Close Up item involved an opinion poll asking viewers and three studio interviewees for their perspectives on which of the five flags presented New Zealand should adopt. The programme clearly reflected only the opinions of those viewers who chose to participate in the opinion poll and the three interviewees; as such, it clearly did not purport to be a balanced discussion of a controversial issue of public importance.
 For this reason, we find that Standard 4 did not apply to the item and decline to uphold this part of the complaint.
Standard 5 (accuracy)
 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.
 Mr Rupa complained that TVNZ had displayed bias and omitted historical information about the flags (see paragraphs  and ). We note that the accuracy standard only applies to “material points of fact”. In our view, none of the points raised by Mr Rupa were material to the item. Furthermore, we consider that in the context of an item which was essentially an opinion poll, viewers would not have been misled by the omission of historical details about the flag options.
 Accordingly, we decline to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
6 July 2010
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Dilip Rupa’s formal complaint – 3 March 2010
2. TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 1 April 2010
3. Mr Rupa’s referral to the Authority – 22 April 2010
4. TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 20 May 2010