Sheerin and MediaWorks TV Ltd - ID2017-022 (26 April 2017)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Bronwyn Sheerin
BroadcasterMediaWorks TV Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
A Newshub bulletin featured five separate items which the complainant considered related to the United States. The Authority declined to determine a complaint about the ‘sheer volume’ of news stories from the US, finding it raised matters of editorial discretion and personal preference rather than broadcasting standards.
Declined to Determine: Balance, Programme Information
 Bronwyn Sheerin complained to MediaWorks about the ‘sheer volume’ of news items from the US. She referred to a Newshub bulletin featuring five separate items which she considered related to the United States (US).
 The issue is whether the complaint raises matters of broadcasting standards which can properly be determined by this Authority.
 The programme was broadcast at 6pm on 26 February 2017 on Three. The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Does the complaint raise any issues of broadcasting standards which can properly be determined by this Authority?
 Ms Sheerin submitted that ‘when we receive news from one particular country, then there is [a] lack of balance. I want to know news from other countries, not just the US’. She considered that ‘the US has nothing to do with us’, and there should be more news stories from the United Kingdom, as ‘they are our cultural heritage and should be treated in the same way as Māori news’.
 The broadcaster advised Ms Sheerin that her complaint was ‘not upheld’, on the grounds that ‘the selection of news stories that make up a bulletin is a matter of editorial discretion to which neither the balance standard nor the programme information standard apply,’ and ‘your complaint does not raise issues of broadcasting standards’.
 Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.
 In our view, Ms Sheerin’s concerns, which relate to the type of content that she considers should be included in news bulletins, raise matters of editorial discretion and personal preference. The Authority has previously recognised that these are not issues of broadcasting standards but are rather matters that fall within the control and responsibility of the broadcaster.1
 On this basis we consider it appropriate to decline to determine Ms Sheerin’s complaint. While we recognise that this may be an unsatisfactory outcome for the complainant, her concerns cannot be properly addressed under broadcasting standards, and are better directed to the broadcaster as feedback on its news bulletins.
 Given that the essence of the complaint concerned programme selection, which falls within the mandate of the broadcaster rather than this Authority, we consider it would have been appropriate for the broadcaster to address Ms Sheerin’s complaint as informal viewer feedback, rather than as a formal complaint under the Free-to-Air Television Code. In this case the broadcaster took the unusual step of advising Ms Sheerin that her complaint did not raise issues of broadcasting standards, but then proceeded to state that the complaint was ‘not upheld’ and advised Ms Sheerin of her right to refer her complaint to the Authority. This was a confusing step to take.
 It is important that broadcasters take care when responding to complaints which do not raise matters of broadcasting standards, as these cannot be considered by the Authority. Broadcasters have an important role to play in advising the public on what issues can be referred to the Authority. The Authority has issued guidance on the power to decline to determine complaints,2 and we encourage broadcasters to make use of that guidance in instances where a complainant’s concerns are not issues that can be dealt with under the broadcasting standards regime.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
26 April 2017
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Bronwyn Sheerin’s complaint – 27 February 2017
2 MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 27 March 2017
3 Ms Sheerin’s referral to the Authority – 28 March 2017
4 Ms Sheerin’s further comments – 7 April 2017
1 See section 5(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 and Malcolm and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-018
2 Guidance: BSA Power to Decline to Determine a Complaint, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 63