ten Hove and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2015-098 (1 March 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose
- Anton ten Hove
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand National
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
A segment on Worldwatch was introduced with the headline: ‘A provocative act by America in the South China Sea’. The item later went on to explain, ‘China’s issued a terse statement aimed at the United States after an American destroyer sailed close to an artificial island in the disputed area of the South China Sea. China said the move was illegal and threatened its sovereignty’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the introduction to the item was misleading and unfair because it implied that the US was responsible for the escalation of tensions in the South China Sea when in fact China was acting provocatively. Reasonable listeners hearing the item as a whole would have understood the context in which the word ‘provocative’ was used and would not have been misled.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
 A segment on Worldwatch was introduced with the headline: ‘A provocative act by America in the South China Sea’. The item later went on to explain:
China’s issued a terse statement aimed at the United States after an American destroyer sailed close to an artificial island in the disputed area of the South China Sea. China said the move was illegal and threatened its sovereignty...
 The item continued to explain the issue and the controversies around territorial claims in the South China Sea, including statements from representatives of the US and China.
 Anton ten Hove complained that the headline referring to ‘a provocative act by America’ ‘implied the USA was the aggressor in this incident and that by its action was escalating matters’, when in fact China was acting provocatively with its territorial claims around the disputed islands.
 The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy and fairness standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The item was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National on 28 October 2015. The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Was the broadcast inaccurate or misleading?
 The accuracy standard (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. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1
 Mr ten Hove complained that, although the item in full ‘made it clear that China was the provocateur in this incident’, the headline to the item calling the US’s actions ‘provocative’ was ‘unfair and inaccurate’ because it was China which was acting ‘provocatively’. He said that the headline would have left listeners with the impression that the international community considered the US’s actions provocative, when in reality only China considered the actions provocative. RNZ argued that the headline ‘accurately reflected China’s reaction to America’s actions’.
 Given the geopolitical environment of the South China Sea, and China’s reaction to the US’s conduct, the actions of the US could reasonably be characterised as ‘provocative’, as could many similar actions by nations in the South China Sea. In any case, and as acknowledged by the complainant, reasonable listeners hearing the item as a whole would have understood the context in which the word ‘provocative’ was used and that it did not have an unduly negative connotation. We do not consider that listeners would have been misled by the headline.
 As a result we do not uphold the Standard 5 complaint.
Was any individual or organisation taking part or referred to in the broadcast treated unfairly?
 The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme.
 Mr ten Hove did not make specific arguments in relation to the fairness standard. RNZ argued that ‘it is difficult to see what harm has been caused to America as a result of this headline’, so the item was not unfair.
 As the US is not a person or organisation to which Standard 6 applies, we do not uphold this part of the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
1 March 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Anton ten Hove’s formal complaint – 28 October 2015
2 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 25 November 2015
3 Mr ten Hove’s referral to the Authority – 15 December 2015
4 RNZ’s response to the Authority – 22 December 2015
1 Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036