The Authority has not upheld a complaint that an interviewee’s language, broadcast during an item on Morning Report on 10 December 2018, was violent and inappropriate. The item reported on the declining memberships of sports clubs in New Zealand and featured an interview with the Club Captain of a tennis club. The interviewee commented that the tennis courts were so empty ‘you could… fire a machine gun and hit no one.’ The Authority noted that the right to freedom of expression allows individuals to express themselves in their own words, provided this does not cause undue harm. In this case, the comment made by the interviewee was brief, was not overly graphic or targeted at a particular individual or group, and was not intended to be taken literally. Taking into account contextual factors, such as the adult target audience of Morning Report and RNZ National, the broadcast was unlikely to unduly distress or disturb listeners, or any children that might have been listening, and was not so graphic as to require an audience advisory for violent content.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that the use of the term ‘booted out’, in reference to the Speaker of the House, Hon Trevor Mallard, ejecting the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Simon Bridges, from the House, was inaccurate. The Authority found there was no reason to suggest the broadcaster did not make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcasts complained about. The Authority found that the use of terms such as ‘booted out’ and ‘kicked out’, in reference to Members of Parliament who have been ordered by the Speaker of the House to leave the House, is common in New Zealand and therefore its use was unlikely to mislead or misinform listeners.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
A complaint about an interview between Kim Hill and Rt Hon Winston Peters regarding the relationship between New Zealand First and the Labour Party was not upheld. The complainant submitted the interview was unbalanced because Kim Hill’s interviewing of Mr Peters was ‘biased, rude and condescending’. The Authority found that, while Ms Hill asked Mr Peters challenging and critical questions, Mr Peters had a reasonable opportunity to put forward his competing point of view. Given the level of public interest in the interview, Mr Peter’s position and his experience with the media, the Authority also found Ms Hill’s interview style did not result in Mr Peters being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
A complaint from Seafood New Zealand Ltd (Seafood NZ) about an interview between Morning Report host Guyon Espiner and Dr Russell Norman of Greenpeace was not upheld. Dr Norman and Mr Espiner discussed Greenpeace’s view that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) had been ‘captured’ by the fishing industry, and why MPI has not prosecuted anyone for under-reporting whiting catches, with reference to a leaked MPI report from 2012. While RNZ acknowledged the interview did not meet its internal editorial guidelines, as it should have at least acknowledged the views of other stakeholders, the Authority did not find any breach of broadcasting standards. The Authority found the interview was unlikely to mislead listeners as it was clear that the interview comprised Dr Norman’s and Greenpeace’s opinions and analysis. The Authority noted that, although the interview was clearly presented as being from Greenpeace’s perspective, Mr Espiner did challenge Dr Norman during the interview, and another broadcast later the same day contained comment from both Seafood NZ and MPI. The Authority emphasised the importance of holding central government departments to account in a way that is balanced and fair, and concluded that in this instance the broadcaster achieved this and did not breach broadcasting standards.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Morning Report reported that, over the past ten years, reported firearm theft has increased by 35%, and through the comments of three interviewees considered whether the increase of firearm theft is related to issues around their safe storage and registration. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item breached standards of balance and fairness. The Authority found the item provided sufficient balance through multiple alternative points of view that enabled listeners to form their own opinion on the topic. The fairness standard cannot be applied to licenced firearm owners as they are not an ‘organisation’ for the purposes of the standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
An item on Morning Report reported on and discussed the introduction of ACT MP David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill 2017 to Parliament. The broadcast featured excerpts from speeches made during the first reading of the Bill, comments from RNZ’s political commentator and an interview with Mr Seymour. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that statements made by Mr Seymour that ‘[assisted dying is] becoming normal around the world’ were inaccurate. The Authority emphasised the importance of freedom of political expression and the high threshold required to justify limiting that expression. It found that the statement complained about was clearly distinguishable as Mr Seymour’s analysis and opinion, rather than a statement of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. Additionally, alternative viewpoints on the Bill were presented during the item so listeners would not have been misled.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on Morning Report featured an interview between presenter Kim Hill and a seismologist from GNS Science, following a 4.3-magnitude earthquake the previous night. At the beginning of the interview, during a discussion of the seismologist’s initial reaction to the earthquake, Ms Hill said, ‘WTF’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the use of the term ‘WTF’ in this broadcast was unacceptable and a breach of the good taste and decency standard. The Authority found that, taking into account relevant contextual factors, including the nature of the programme, audience expectations of RNZ and Kim Hill, and the fact that the offensive word implied was not explicitly stated in the broadcast, the use of ‘WTF’ did not threaten community norms of taste and decency, or justify restricting the right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency
An item on Morning Report featured an interview with a Social Policy Advisor at the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), who discussed CAB’s experience assisting the public with income support applications to Work & Income New Zealand (WINZ). The Authority did not uphold a complaint from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) that this interview was unbalanced, unfair and inaccurate. The Authority found that because of the nature of the item – which comprised a brief interview with one individual, who approached a widely reported issue from a clearly identified perspective – audiences would not have expected to hear MSD’s response to the comments made. While the interviewee’s comments were critical, MSD could expect to be subject to scrutiny, and listeners were likely to be broadly aware of MSD’s position in relation to this issue. In this context, and given the nature of the item, listeners would not have been left with an unfairly negative impression of MSD, and the broadcaster was not required to seek comment in response. Finally, it was clear that the interviewee’s comments represented her own opinion, based on the experiences of CAB clients, which were not subject to the requirements of the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Accuracy
Allan Golden complained about two segments broadcast on RNZ’s Morning Report and Nine to Noon programmes. The Authority declined jurisdiction to accept and consider the complaints. The Authority found it was open to the broadcaster to not accept these as valid formal complaints, on the grounds the complaints were based on the complainant’s own opinions of what the broadcasts should include, rather than raising issues of broadcasting standards.
A segment on Morning Report discussed one Auckland individual’s challenge to Auckland Council to open a discussion about removing or altering a monument to Colonel Marmaduke Nixon in Ōtāhuhu. The item briefly summarised Colonel Nixon’s role in colonialism and in the Waikato land wars, including the invasion of Rangiaowhia. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item lacked balance and was inaccurate in its account of the events at Rangiaowhia. The Authority found the item did not purport to provide a comprehensive examination of what occurred at Rangiaowhia. Rather, the item focused on one individual’s challenge to the Council to consider removing or altering the monument. In this context, it was not required in the interests of either balance or accuracy to present alternative accounts of the historical events. The Authority noted that, following the item, alternative viewpoints were nevertheless acknowledged in further online coverage by RNZ.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
A segment on Morning Report discussed a press release by a named investment banking firm. The Authority declined jurisdiction to accept and consider a complaint that the programme ought to have disclosed certain alleged conduct by that firm. The Authority found the broadcaster was correct to not accept this as a valid formal complaint, as the complaint was based on the complainant’s own opinion of the firm rather than raising issues of broadcasting standards within the broadcast.
An item on Morning Report featured an interview with the manager of teacher practice at the Education Council. The interview discussed the Council’s drug testing of teachers and its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cannabis use, and referred to a recent finding of misconduct against a New Zealand teacher who refused to undergo a drug test. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item ‘pushed’ marijuana use by teachers. The item did not promote the use of illegal drugs or condone the behaviour of the teacher referred to. Rather, it offered a robust examination of the Council’s methods of drug testing teachers and its ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cannabis use. In this context the item did not encourage listeners to use illegal drugs or otherwise undermine law and order. The item also did not contain any material which had the potential to adversely affect any child listeners.
Not Upheld: Law and Order, Children’s Interests
In its Morning Report programme RNZ replaced the Pacific and Te Manu Korihi bulletins with ‘feature or lead stories’, including those with a Māori focus. The Authority declined to determine a complaint about this scheduling change, finding it raised matters of editorial discretion and personal preference rather than broadcasting standards.
Declined to Determine: Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming
Seven items on Morning Report contained references to greenhouse gas emissions, specifically agricultural emissions and the outcomes of discussions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21). The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging it was inaccurate and unbalanced to state or infer that livestock emissions amount to half of New Zealand’s total emissions. The Authority found that references to the amount of livestock emissions in several of the items were not material points of fact to which the accuracy standard applied. In relation to the other items the Authority was satisfied that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to ensure accuracy as it drew on a range of reputable sources and scientific evidence in support of the statements made.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Controversial Issues
Morning Report featured an interview with assisted dying campaigner Matt Vickers about recent legislative changes to permit physician-assisted dying in California and the desirability of law reform in New Zealand. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced and inaccurate because it allegedly advocated assisted dying and did not include alternative views on the issue. Both the interviewer and interviewee acknowledged different perspectives on assisted dying and listeners could reasonably be expected to be aware of significant viewpoints on the issue.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues, Accuracy
Morning Report contained two items about the Government’s proposal for a specific criminal charge for family violence. A number of family violence experts were interviewed, and the introduction to one of the items stated that ‘14 women, six men and 10 children’ are killed by family violence annually. The Authority upheld a complaint that this statistic was inaccurate because the broadcaster’s source was significantly outdated, and it was part of the introduction which framed the discussion. However, the Authority did not uphold the aspect of the accuracy complaint that the items were misleading because they implied that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators and women almost always victims of family violence. Additionally, the gender breakdown of victims and perpetrators of family violence was not the focus of the discussion in the items and so did not require the presentation of alternative views.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues
Morning Report covered a story on kauri swamp logs that were allegedly being illegally exported to China. It reported that the company Oravida was one of the ‘kauri wholesalers’ involved. RNZ upheld a complaint from Oravida’s director that the broadcast was unfair as comment was not sought from Oravida. RNZ had removed the audio and written pieces that referred to Oravida and its director from its website, and two days later in a subsequent broadcast briefly reported Oravida’s position that it had never been involved in illegal trading. The Authority upheld the complaint that the action taken by RNZ in upholding the fairness complaint was insufficient and that the broadcast was also inaccurate. The Authority did not make any order noting that a full correction and apology was broadcast after the referral of the matter to this Authority.
Upheld: Fairness (Action Taken), Accuracy
An item on Morning Report discussed Mark Lundy’s retrial for the murder of his wife and daughter. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the item incorrectly inferred that Mr Lundy had actively been seeking increased life insurance on the day the murders occurred, and that this was unfair. The item was a straightforward report of the latest evidence given at trial and the item as a whole clarified the meaning of its opening statements.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Law and Order, Responsible Programming
An item on Morning Report covered a truce between Israel and Hamas during the Gaza conflict. A Palestinian rights activist and an Israeli spokesman were interviewed. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item was unbalanced because more air time was given to the Palestinian view, and because no significant point of view was presented from an equivalent Israeli activist. There is no requirement for mathematically equal time to be given to competing perspectives on controversial issues. Sufficient efforts were made during the broadcast to showcase the Israeli, as well as the Palestinian, perspective. Further, listeners could reasonably be expected to be aware of a range of views on the Gaza conflict given the extensive and ongoing coverage of this issue.
Not Upheld: Controversial Issues
Morning Report looked at the Taranaki Regional Council’s ‘landfarming’ policy and contained an interview with a Council representative. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the broadcast was misleading, unfair and unbalanced. The report was an accurate and fair reflection of what the representative told the reporter in the interview, and it is legitimate and important in our free and democratic society to challenge and criticise public bodies on matters of strong public interest.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Controversial Issues