BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Wakeman and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2004-154

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • Peter Wakeman
Number
2004-154
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – Te Karere – Eye to Eye – Marae – all items concerning emergence of the Māori Party or the by-election in Te Tai Hauauru – complainant was candidate for Te Tai Hauauru seat – when appeared on Te Karere complainant’s words were translated into te reo Māori – allegedly in breach of law and order standard as contrary to Bill of Rights Act – complainant’s candidacy received minimal coverage from other TVNZ news and current affairs – allegedly in breach of balance, accuracy, fairness and programme information standards.

Findings
Standard 2 (law and order) – broadcasting in te reo Māori does not raise issue of broadcasting standards – not upheld

Standards 4 (balance) and 6 (fairness) – complainant argued that as candidate for Te Tai Hauauru seat was automatically entitled to significant news and current affairs coverage – assumption incorrect – content of news and current affairs programmes dictated by editorial considerations – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – complainant identified no inaccuracies in programmes complained of – not upheld

Standard 8 (programme information) – not relevant to complaint – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Factual Background

[1] Peter Wakeman stood as an independent candidate in the 2004 by-election in the Te Tai Hauauru electorate, which was required following the resignation of the Hon Tariana Turia from the Labour caucus.

[2] Mr Wakeman polled fourth of six candidates in the by-election, receiving 80 votes. He came in behind another independent, Tahu Nepia (183 votes), Dun Mihaka of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (197 votes) and Tariana Turia (7,256 votes).

Broadcasts, Complaints, and TVNZ’s Response

[3] Mr Wakeman complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about a total of seven programmes shown on TV One. All of his complaints concerned either the coverage of the by-election on TV One or the coverage given to the emergent Māori Party.

[4] Mr Wakeman complained about the following programmes:

One News, 15 June 2004

[5] This contained an item on the forthcoming by-election. The item noted that five candidates were opposing Ms Turia, and played a very brief clip of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate, who predicted that Ms Turia would easily win. Mr Wakeman alleged that the item breached Standard 4 (balance) of the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice, in that:

  • only one candidate was interviewed
  • Tariana Turia was pictured, with the comment that she was the presumed winner
  • it discriminated on the basis of race as only Māori candidates were shown
  • TVNZ was attempting to influence the course of the by-election.

[6] TVNZ declined to uphold this complaint on the basis that the content of the item was dictated by the newsworthiness of the candidates, and that there was no obligation on TVNZ to provide equal coverage to all candidates.

  • Te Karere, 15 June 2004.

[7[ This item focussed on the launch of the Māori Party. Mr Wakeman alleged that the item breached Standard 4 (balance) of the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice, in that it:

  • showed pictures of Tariana Turia, but not pictures of other candidates
  • showed the Māori party free phone number.

[8] TVNZ declined to uphold this complaint on the basis that the focus of the item was the launch of the Māori party, and that the free-phone number was only included as a powerpoint backdrop when Dr Pita Sharples was shown speaking. 

One News, 20 June and 9 July 2004; Eye to Eye, 1 July 2004; Marae, 4 July 2004; and Te Karere, 7 July 2004.

[9] One News on 20 June contained an item on the latest Colmar Brunton opinion poll (in relation to national politics, not the by-election) which featured the Māori party for the first time

[10] on 9 July contained an item on the likely position of the Māori party in relation to prospective coalition parties following the next general election

[11 ] Eye to Eye contained a discussion among presenter Willie Jackson, MP John Tamihere, the Māori Party’s co-leader Pita Sharples, political commentator Chris Trotter and National Business Review journalist Deborah Hill Cone, focussing largely on the likely extent of Tariana Turia’s predicted majority in Te Tai Hauauru

[12] Marae contained, in the “P?nui” (announcements) section at the end of the show, an announcement that the launch of the Māori Party would take place the following weekend, and gave the 0800 number for the party

[13] Te Karere contained an item on Peter Wakeman and his campaign for the Te Tai Hauauru seat.

[14] Mr Wakeman alleged that the above items breached Standard 2 (law and order), Standard 4 (balance), Standard 5 (accuracy), Standard 6 (fairness) and Standard 8 (programme information) of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. In particular, he alleged the programmes:

  • breached the balance standard by effectively covering only one party standing in the by-election (the Māori Party)
  • breached the law and order standard, as he was not given the right to express his political position on the programme, contrary to the Bill of Rights and because his words were not allowed to remain un-translated on Te Karere (referring to Guideline 2a)
  • breached the balance standard as TVNZ appeared to be camouflaging the fact that he was a Labour party member, as the Labour party had not formally put up a candidate in the by-election
  • breached the accuracy standard as the programmes did not mention that he was standing in the by-election
  • breached the fairness standard as Māori candidates were given more coverage than Pakeha
  • breached the programme information standard as TVNZ was favouring the Māori party (guideline 8d).

[15] TVNZ declined to uphold these complaints on the basis that the content of its news and current affairs programmes was a matter of editorial discretion.  It noted that TVNZ continued to cover national politics during the course of the by-election and that the launch of the Māori party was a key development at this time.  It noted that it was perfectly valid to discuss the Māori party independently from the by-election.

[16] TVNZ also observed that factual programmes are different from the “free time” given to political parties before a general election, and that news and factual programmes continued to be governed by normal editorial considerations.  They stated, “The candidate creates the news; television is the ‘messenger’ that reports it.”

Interlocutory Matters

[17] Mr Wakeman, after referring his complaints to the Authority, made two requests. First, he requested the Authority to exercise its powers under section 12 of the Broadcasting Act to require production of all the following material:

  • all by-election coverage on TV One from 16 May to 11 July 2004, including Te Karere, Breakfast, Midday, One News, Holmes, Tonight, Eye to Eye and Marae
  • all by-election coverage on Radio New Zealand and Māori Television from 16 May to 11 July 2004
  • a record from TVNZ of all the telephone calls he made to TVNZ
  • copies of all correspondence between him and TVNZ
  • copies of the transcripts TVNZ obtained from other media that complained about TVNZ’s coverage of the by-election, including talkback radio
  • media releases and conversations from all candidates, parties and the government concerning the by-election, the polling booths, and “policy”
  • copies of the teletext news that was displayed on page 102
  • all coverage of the Māori Party and its formation.

[18] Second, Mr Wakeman requested the Authority to convene a formal hearing to hear all of his complaints.

[19] In an interlocutory decision dated 4 November 2004 (Decision No. ID2004-154), the Authority declined Mr Wakeman’s requests for the production of additional material and for a formal hearing. 

Standards

In making his complaint, Mr Wakeman cited standards 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8 from the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice, as well as a number of guidelines.  The standards read:

Standard 2 Law and Order

[20] In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the maintenance of law  and order.

Standard 4 Balance

In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

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.

Standard 6 Fairness

In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Standard 8 Programme Information

Broadcasters are responsible for ensuring that programme information and structure does not deceive or disadvantage the viewer.

Referral to the Authority

[21] Mr Wakeman was dissatisfied with TVNZ’s responses and referred his complaints to the Authority.  He reiterated his views that the coverage of the by-election in the programmes he complained of was partial for unduly favouring the Māori candidates at his expense.  He also reiterated his view that his right to freedom of expression was abrogated in that his interviews were translated into Māori when broadcast. 

[22] In his referral Mr Wakeman also alleged that the broadcast breached standards of good taste and decency, but as this issue did not form part of his original complaint to TVNZ, the Authority was unable to consider it. 

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[23] TVNZ made only brief submissions in response to the referral, seeking only to stress that the content of news items and current affairs programmes such as Marae and Eye to Eye is dictated by editorial considerations, and that news and current affairs programmes are different from the free-time allocated to candidates by the Electoral Commission.

Authority's Determination

[24] The members of the Authority have viewed tapes of the broadcasts complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.  The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

One News, 15 June

Standard 4 (Balance)

[25] Mr Wakeman complained that this item was unbalanced as only one candidate (from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party) was interviewed, and Tariana Turia of the Māori Party was pictured. 

[26] The Authority does not uphold this aspect of Mr Wakeman’s complaint.  While the by-election was an issue of public importance, the issue addressed by this item was not one of any controversy.  The item simply reported on the upcoming poll in a factual and neutral manner, and did not present a controversial perspective on this issue requiring balancing comment. 

[27] The Authority also notes that the balance requirement does not demand that every person involved with an issue be mentioned or interviewed.  Accordingly, this aspect of the complaint is not upheld.

Other matters

[28] Mr Wakeman also complained that the item was discriminatory as it portrayed only Māori candidates and that TVNZ was attempting to influence the course of the by-election.  There is no evidence to suggest that TVNZ’s actions in this respect were discriminatory or that it was attempting to influence the outcome and accordingly this aspect of the complaint does not require further consideration by the Authority.

Te Karere, 15 June

Standard 4 (Balance)

[29] Mr Wakeman complained that this item was unbalanced as it showed pictures of Tariana Turia, but not other candidates, and showed the Māori Party free-phone number.

[30] The Authority does not uphold this complaint.  The focus of this news item was the launch of the Māori Party, a significant political issue in New Zealand.  As with the above complaint, while the issue was undoubtedly one of public importance, the factual report on the launch of the party was not of itself a controversial issue requiring balance. 

One News, 20 June & 9 July 2004
Eye to Eye, 1 July 2004
Marae, 4 July 2004
Te Karere, 7 July 2004

Standard 2 (maintenance of law and order)

[31] Mr Wakeman asserted that the above broadcasts breached Standard 2 (law and order) of the Free-to-Air Code.  Mr Wakeman’s assertions were based on his view that the broadcasts had breached the freedom of speech provisions in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, in that:

  • He was denied the right to express his political views on the programmes, which were instead focussed on the Māori party; and
  • In relation to Te Karere, he was denied the right to express himself in English.

[32] The Authority notes that while section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act protects an individual’s right, within reason, to freely express themselves, it does not give an individual the right to demand television air-time.  The contents of news and current affairs programmes are dictated by editorial considerations, independent of outside pressures.

[33] Second, te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand.  No issue of broadcasting standards arises in respect of a programme simply because it is broadcast in te reo Māori. 

[34] For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

Standard 4 (balance)

[35] Mr Wakeman’s concerns around the issue of balance again focus largely on the imbalance in the coverage afforded to the Māori Party, on the one hand, and him, on the other. 

[36] The balance standard requires that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, significant perspectives are presented.  This does not require broadcasters to give equal news coverage to all candidates standing in a political election. 

[37] In the present case Mr Wakeman has not suggested that these programmes discussed controversial issues of public importance on which he offered a significant perspective that the broadcaster failed to present.  His argument is based solely on the fact that the Māori Party received significant news and current affairs coverage in the lead-up to the by-election, while he did not.  In the view of the Authority that, of itself, does not amount to an issue of broadcasting standards.

[38] Mr Wakeman also suggested that the programmes breached the balance standard in that TVNZ was attempting to “camouflage” the fact that he was a Labour party member, as the Labour party did not stand a candidate.  There is no evidence to support Mr Wakeman’s assertion in this respect and accordingly the issue does not need to be considered further. 

[39] For the above reasons, the Authority does not uphold the balance aspect of the complaints.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[40] Although Mr Wakeman alleged breaches of the accuracy standard, he has provided no evidence of inaccuracies in any of the items.  The only submission he has made on the issue is a brief reference to a news item broadcast on 17 May 2004 which allegedly omitted to include reference to him as a contender for the Te Tai Hauauru seat.  However, that was not one of the programmes complained about and accordingly is not relevant to the assessment of his complaint.

[41 As Mr Wakeman has provided no evidence of inaccuracies in the items, the Authority does not uphold that aspect of his complaint.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[42] Mr Wakeman has alleged that unfairness arose through the Māori candidates being given more “in depth” coverage during the campaign for Te Tai Hauauru.  In his complaint, Mr Wakeman appeared to allege that the balance of the coverage was determined along racial lines, and that he was disadvantaged by virtue of him being Pakeha.

[43] Mr Wakeman’s complaint is predicated on his assumption that in putting himself forward as a candidate for the Te Tai Hauauru seat, he was automatically entitled to receive the same degree of media coverage as other candidates.  As discussed above, that is not the case.

[44] Furthermore, there is no evidence to support his assertion that as a Pakeha he was the subject of discrimination.

[45] For these reasons, this aspect of the complaint is not upheld.

Standard 8 (programme information)

[46] Mr Wakeman referred to Guideline 8d of the Free-to-Air Code (which prohibits collusion between broadcasters and “contestants”) implying that his campaign has been disadvantaged by collusion between TVNZ and the Māori Party.  This assertion was unsupported with any evidence, other than a seemingly unrelated assertion that TVNZ used archived footage of him.

[47] The Authority notes that Guideline 8d is not intended to apply to political elections, but is instead intended to prevent predetermining the outcome of television entertainment contests.  For this reason, the Authority does not uphold this aspect of the complaint. 

 

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaints.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
18 February 2005

Appendix

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

1    Peter Wakeman’s first formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd – 16 June 2004

2   Mr Wakeman’s second formal complaint to TVNZ – 6 July 2004

3   Mr Wakeman’s third formal complaint to TVNZ – 22 July 2004

4   TVNZ’s acknowledgement of first formal complaint – 17 June 2004

5   TVNZ’s response to first formal complaint – 7 July 2004

6   TVNZ’s response to second formal complaint – 26 July 2004

7   TVNZ’s response to third formal complaint – 20 August 2004

8  Mr Wakeman’s first referral to the Authority – 3 August 2004

9   Mr Wakeman’s second referral to the Authority – 23 August 2004

10  Mr Wakeman’s additional letter to the Authority (relating to first referral) –
     4 August 2004

11  TVNZ’s response to the first referral – 18 August 2004

12  TVNZ’s response to the second referral – 9 September 2004

13  Mr Wakeman’s formal requests for production of additional material and formal
      hearing (relating to all complaints) – 1 September 2004

14  TVNZ’s submissions on Mr Wakeman’s requests for production of additional material
      and formal hearing (relating to all complaints) – 6 September 2004

15  Further correspondence from Mr Wakeman (relating to all complaints) –
      9 September 2004

16  Further correspondence from Mr Wakeman (relating to all complaints) –
     17 September 2004

17  Mr Wakeman's final comment – 2 February 2005