The list below contains our recently published decisions, with the latest at the top.
On 29 July 2017 the complainant raised with the Authority a complaint he had made to RNZ which he considered was outstanding, regarding the use of te reo Māori greetings and closings by presenters on RNZ National. The broadcaster had not accepted the complaint as a formal complaint under the Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook. The Authority therefore did not have jurisdiction to accept the complainant’s referral. The Authority further noted that, even if the complaint referral had been validly made, it would have found the content of the complaint to be trivial and vexatious, and would have declined to determine it.
An item on Newshub reported on Waitangi Day events around New Zealand, including Bill English’s first Waitangi Day as Prime Minister and his phone call with US President Donald Trump. The item also featured comment on English’s attendance at Waitangi Day celebrations in Auckland, rather than at Waitangi. Comment was provided by Mr English, as well as political editor Patrick Gower, who said: ‘Waitangi Day celebrations will go on the road… away from Waitangi, away from the cauldron that is Te Tii Marae’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item reflected the Government’s desire to control the image of, and de-politicise, Waitangi Day. The Authority acknowledged the national significance of Waitangi Day, and the views of the complainant as to how it should be celebrated. However, it found that Mr English’s and Mr Gower’s comments did not amount to material points of fact in the item, being analysis or commentary on the events of the day. This was a generally straightforward news item reporting on key events during Waitangi Day, and did not purport to provide in-depth commentary on historic controversies canvassed by the complaint.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
A radio play, Playing with Fire, was broadcast on RNZ National on 22 and 26 February 2017, around the time of the Port Hills fires in Christchurch. The play followed a family as they were evacuated from their home in rural Canada due to a forest fire. The focus of the story was the struggling relationship between married couple Judy and Arnold, and its effect on their son, Daniel (who was described as having learning difficulties). The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the broadcast of this play, around the time of the Port Hills fires, was in poor taste. Programme selection and scheduling decisions were ultimately at the discretion of the broadcaster, and the Authority recognised the high value of the fictional work in terms of the right to freedom of expression. The Authority noted that while the play featured one scene that might have been challenging for listeners affected by the fires, this scene was brief and clearly sign-posted, and did not reach the threshold necessary to find a breach the standard.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
A RNZ News bulletin reported on the NZ Police Association’s view that a recent spate of Police shootings was the result of ‘too many firearms getting into the wrong hands’. During the bulletin, the presenter said: ‘The Association’s President… says more than 20,000 firearms, including semi-automatic military weapons, are stolen or sold to offenders each year.’ The Authority upheld a complaint that the presenter’s reference to more than 20,000 firearms being stolen or sold to offenders was inaccurate. According to the Police Association, the President should have been quoted as saying ‘over 50,000 firearms enter the country each year, a number of which are stolen or sold to offenders’. While the broadcaster attempted to correct the quote in the online version of the story after the broadcast, the amendment did not correct the error, and in the Authority’s view RNZ’s audience was misled as a result.
A campaign clip for the National Party (an election programme for the purposes of the Election Programmes Code) was broadcast on TVNZ 1 on 28 August 2017. The clip featured a group dressed in blue running through New Zealand landscapes, who passed another group of four wearing red, green and black shirts with their legs tied together and struggling. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the election programme breached the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice and was misleading on the grounds it implied that National was only a single party in Government. The election programme did not imitate any existing programme, format or identifiable personality as envisaged by the misleading programmes standard in the Election Programmes Code. In any event, the election programme was clearly promoting a party vote for the National Party and viewers understand that election programmes by their nature are authorial advocacy and designed to promote the party’s vision, should it be elected. In these circumstances, the Authority did not consider viewers would have been misled. The Authority also emphasised the importance and value of political expression, particularly in the lead up to a general election.
Not Upheld: Misleading Programmes