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 an interview on The Weekend, which covered various aspects of racism in Canada, breached the good taste and decency and discrimination and denigration standards. The Authority found that the interviewee’s use of ‘goddamn’ as an expletive was unlikely to undermine or violate widely shared community norms. Further, the interviewee’s reference to the colonial treatment of Canada’s indigenous people did not breach the discrimination and denigration standard. The Authority found that the comments did not apply to a recognised section of the community consistent with the grounds for discrimination listed in the Human Rights Act 1993. The Authority therefore found any restriction on the right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration
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 that a segment on Checkpoint that discussed vaccinations was inaccurate was not upheld by the Authority. WAVESnz complained that several statements made by Professor John Fraser during the segment regarding the safety of vaccinations and the contents of vaccines were inaccurate and misleading. The Authority noted that it was not its role to determine the scientific accuracy of Professor Fraser’s statements. It found, however, that RNZ made reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy of the broadcast, taking into account a number of factors including Professor Fraser’s reputation and the lack of any reason to question the accuracy of the views expressed by Professor Fraser. The Authority did not identify any real or potential harm and therefore found any restriction on RNZ’s right to freedom of expression on this occasion would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority did not uphold a complaint about a comment made by business commentator, Rod Oram, during a segment on Nine to Noon. The Authority found that Mr Oram’s view as to the effectiveness of a former Chair of a seed business was an opinion that is not subject to the accuracy standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
The Authority has declined to determine a complaint that an individual on The Panel should not have been on the programme due to ‘corrupt practices’ and therefore the broadcast was inaccurate. The Authority found that the arguments raised in the complaint had no direct correlation to the standard raised.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy
The Authority found it had no jurisdiction to determine a complaint about advice provided to a listener on Your Money with Mary Holm, because the complaint did not explicitly or implicitly identify any broadcasting standards breached by the broadcast.
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 environmental group Friends of the Earth (NZ) about an interview between Saturday Morning host Kim Hill and former Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman was not upheld. Ms Hill interviewed Sir Peter about his time as Chief Science Advisor and a wide range of issues, including how societies respond to scientific research, the role of science in government, activism within the scientific community and the criminal justice system. During the interview, Sir Peter made comments about the safety and history of genetic modification. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the comments were inaccurate or that the interview was unbalanced or unfair. The Authority found Sir Peter’s comments were not statements of fact, noting they were clearly established as being from Sir Peter’s perspective throughout the interview. The Authority also found that while genetic modification amounted to a controversial issue of public importance, it was not ‘discussed’ in the interview for the purposes of the balance standard. The Authority did not consider that Sir Peter’s comments were likely to mislead or misinform listeners.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about an interview between Checkpoint’s John Campbell and former United States television personality, Matt Lauer, who at the time was involved in controversy regarding public access to his New Zealand property. The complainant alleged that Mr Campbell unfairly emphasised the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office’s (OIO) reassessment of Mr Lauer under its ‘good character test’, and later made false allegations about who had initially raised this topic. The Authority found that the circumstances of the OIO’s assessment were directly relevant to the discussion and that this was raised again later in the interview by Mr Lauer himself. Mr Lauer was given ample opportunity during the interview to present his perspective on his treatment by New Zealand media and the issue of foreign land ownership and public access.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency
A complaint about an interview between Kim Hill and US Palestinian writer and journalist Dr Ramzy Baroud was not upheld. The complaint was that the interview was unbalanced because there was no alternative perspective presented to counter Dr Baroud’s views that Israel’s actions amounted to ‘incremental genocide’ of the Palestinians, among other things. The Authority found RNZ made reasonable efforts as required by the balance standard, taking into account Ms Hill’s challenging of Dr Baroud and the use of devil’s advocate questioning, and other contextual factors. The Authority acknowledged that some may not agree with the terms used by Dr Baroud during the interview, but ultimately found that restricting the broadcaster’s or Dr Baroud’s right to freedom of expression would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance
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
During the Saturday Morning programme on RNZ National, Kim Hill interviewed Dr Don Brash about his views on the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand. At one point in the interview Ms Hill put to Dr Brash, ‘Is this a political position on your part? I mean, we know your political position, for example, which says that the government has no responsibility to address the overrepresentation of Māori in negative social stats’. Dr Brash asked Ms Hill when he had said that, to which Ms Hill replied, ‘I’m quoting you. I think it was about seven years ago’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Ms Hill’s statement was materially inaccurate. While Ms Hill’s reference to Dr Brash’s views may have been loose or approximate, overall it was not material to listeners’ understanding of the item as a whole, which focused on Dr Brash’s opinion about the use of te reo Māori without translation, particularly in RNZ broadcasting. Further, Dr Brash was given sufficient time during the 32-minute interview to rebut Ms Hill’s statement and to clarify his position. The Authority therefore found that the harm alleged to have been caused by the broadcast did not outweigh the right to freedom of expression in this case.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
An item on The Panel featured an interview with the Prime Minister’s partner and regular guest on the programme, Clarke Gayford. The interview focused on the Prime Minister’s recent pregnancy announcement and parenthood. At the beginning of the interview, Mr Gayford was introduced as the ‘Prime Minister’s partner’. The complainant submitted that the broadcast was inaccurate and misleading because Mr Gayford should have been introduced as the Prime Minister’s ‘publicist’. The Authority declined to determine the complaint on the basis it was frivolous and trivial and did not reach the threshold for being considered under the accuracy standard.
Declined to Determine: Accuracy
An item on Nine to Noon featured a discussion of the appointment of former NZ Super Fund Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Adrian Orr, as Reserve Bank Governor. During the segment, an RNZ business commentator raised the subject of Mr Orr’s potential replacement as NZ Super Fund CEO, citing Matt Whineray, current acting NZ Super Fund CEO, as a logical replacement. The commentator stated that Mr Whineray had been NZ Super Fund Chief Investment Officer (CIO) for ‘nearly ten years’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this statement was inaccurate because Mr Whineray was appointed CIO in 2014. The Authority found that, as Mr Whineray’s professional experience was only raised briefly in the broadcast, the commentator’s incorrect statement was unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the segment as a whole. The complainant also submitted that the broadcast omitted information, which contributed to its inaccuracy as a whole, however the Authority considered these were issues of editorial discretion and personal preference, and were outside the Authority’s jurisdiction.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
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
Saturday Morning featured a segment in which presenter Kim Hill interviewed former MP and spokesperson for lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, Dr Don Brash, about the use of te reo Māori in New Zealand, specifically in RNZ broadcasting, without translation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced and unfair. The Authority found that, while Ms Hill asked Dr Brash challenging and critical questions, Dr Brash had a reasonable opportunity to put forward his competing point of view, and listeners would not have been left misinformed with regard to Dr Brash’s position. Given the level of public interest in the interview, Dr Brash’s position and his experience with the media, the Authority also found Ms Hill’s interview style did not result in Dr Brash being treated unfairly.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency
An item on Checkpoint reported that the Sky World building, a multi-storey entertainment complex in central Auckland, had not been issued with a warrant of fitness in 435 days, and that the building remained open throughout that time, with the knowledge of Auckland Council, despite critical fire safety compliance issues. The item (which was broadcast on free-to-air television as well as on radio) included footage of the reporter attempting to contact the owner of the complex, ‘A’, visiting his home and offices, where he spoke to two employees, ‘X’ and ‘Y’. JNJ Management made a direct privacy complaint to the Authority, submitting that these segments breached the privacy of A and his employees. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding that A’s home was filmed only to the extent visible to the public and he was filmed in a public place at Sky World so he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy there. No private information or material was disclosed about the employees during the programme, and they did not have an interest in solitude or seclusion, given the workplace was accessible to members of the public to seek an appointment. Further, the employees were informed of the reporter’s identity and the purpose of the reporter’s interview, and therefore had an opportunity to object to filming at that time.
Not Upheld: Privacy
On 18 March 2017, RNZ reported on allegations made by the Board of Trustees at Salisbury School, a Nelson school for girls with complex learning needs, that the Ministry of Education (Ministry) had actively discouraged parents from enrolling children at the school so that it could be closed. On 31 March and 6 April 2017, RNZ broadcast a series of items about an alleged lack of funding, resources and support for Northland teachers struggling to cope with violent and disruptive children. The Authority upheld aspects of a complaint from the Ministry that RNZ’s coverage of these issues was unfair and unbalanced. While the Authority acknowledged the high public interest in these stories, and the important role of broadcast media in holding our government entities to account, it found that it was equally important in this case to ensure listeners were fully informed about the issues reported on, and this included being made aware of the Ministry’s views in response. This required the broadcaster to ensure that the Ministry was provided with a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment on the items, prior to broadcast.
Upheld: Balance, Fairness