In this section of the website you can search all our decisions from 1989/90 to the present. The decisions appear in descending order.
Decisions from 1994 appear in HTML. Decisions from 1989/90 to 1993 are attached as PDFs.
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During a segment on The Leighton Smith Show, host Leighton Smith quoted a listener’s views on news sources such as CNN, the BBC and Newshub. Mr Smith went on to say that consumers of similar sources lived in ‘blissful ignorance’ because they did not listen to the views of ‘the other side’. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Smith’s comments were biased and dismissive towards reputable news sources. The Authority noted that, while talkback radio is not immune to broadcasting standards, the balance and accuracy standards in particular apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes, and the accuracy standard does not apply to statements clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion. In this case, and taking into account wider contextual factors such as audience expectations of the programme (which is predominantly talkback) and the reputation of Mr Smith, the Authority agreed that Mr Smith’s comments were clearly distinguishable as opinion and listeners would not have been left misinformed or misled. This was an opinion open to Mr Smith to express, and was not unfair to the news organisations or their consumers. The Authority therefore found that its intervention, in upholding the complaint and limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld two complaints that comments by Leighton Smith about climate change issues were unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. Mr Smith provided his views in response to a news item, saying that climate change was not predominantly man made and was instead due to ‘normal variability’. The Authority noted that the balance and accuracy standards apply only to news, current affairs and factual programmes, and the requirements of the accuracy standard do not apply to statements of analysis, comment or opinion. In this case, the Authority considered it was clear that Mr Smith’s statements amounted to statements of opinion in a talkback context. In these circumstances, and taking into account the role and reputation of Mr Smith as a well-known climate change sceptic, listeners would not expect to hear a balanced or authoritative examination on the topic of climate change. Further, no individuals or organisations were treated unfairly in the broadcast. The Authority therefore found that the alleged harm did not outweigh the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression, and its intervention in upholding the complaint would be unjustified.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Fairness
The Authority has not upheld a complaint about a RadioLIVE Drive show, which discussed the issue of property managers or landlords asking to see the bank statements of prospective tenants. The Authority found the broadcast did not breach any of the broadcasting standards raised by the complainant, noting the broadcast included a range of viewpoints from the hosts, interviewees and listeners who phoned into the programme. The broadcast discussed a legitimate issue and was in line with audience expectations for the programme and for talkback radio. The Authority therefore found no actual or potential harm that might have outweighed the important right to freedom of expression.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Privacy, 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
The Authority has upheld one aspect of a complaint from three complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme Panthic Vichar, broadcast on community radio station, Planet FM. During the programme, host Kuldip Singh made a number of allegations against the complainants, regarding use of grant money and cheating or ‘unjust’ behaviour at a kabaddi tournament. The Authority found that the host’s comments reflected negatively on the complainants and as such, they should have been given an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of the complaint. The Authority acknowledged the limited resources available to the broadcaster, but reminded it of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, including where the broadcast subject to complaint is in a language other than English. The Authority did not make any orders.
Upheld: Fairness. Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy. No Order.
The Authority has not upheld complaints from 20 complainants about a segment of Punjabi talkback programme, Bhakhde Masley. During the programme, the host questioned the teachings of a deceased Sikh religious figure by posing hypothetical questions about how he and his widow, now also deceased, had children. The host implied that, given the leader’s teachings about celibacy, his widow and other family members must have had sex with animals. The complainants alleged that this discussion breached the privacy of the individuals referred to, and was degrading and humiliating. The Authority acknowledged that the segment was in poor taste, but found that the broadcast was not in breach of the standards raised by the complainants. The individuals referred to were either deceased (so the privacy standard could not apply) or lived overseas, making it difficult to assess the harm that could have been caused. The discussion was ultimately hypothetical and was not intended to be taken literally. The Authority noted that the right to freedom of expression comes with responsibilities by those who exercise it, and it is clear that this broadcast caused offence and significant division within the Sikh community in New Zealand. On this occasion, however, the Authority could not uphold the complaints based on the particular standards raised.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration
During the talkback programme, Overnighter, host Garry McAlpine invited listeners to call in to discuss the issues facing New Zealand in 2018, one of which was the upcoming cannabis referendum. Mr McAlpine strongly expressed his view, throughout the programme, that cannabis should be decriminalised for medicinal and recreational use. A number of callers, including the complainant, expressed their views on the subject, with some supportive of, and others opposed to, Mr McAlpine’s views. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this programme was in breach of broadcasting standards. Talkback radio is known for robust discussion, and broadcasting standards recognise that it is an opinionated environment, with hosts granted some latitude to be provocative and edgy in the interests of generating robust debate. This programme in particular featured genuine discussion on an important issue in New Zealand. As such, the harm alleged to have been caused by the complainant did not outweigh the host’s, or callers’, right to express their opinions as part of a talkback discussion about New Zealand’s future, even if some listeners might have disagreed or found those views distasteful.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance, Law and Order, Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration
An item on Nine to Noon featured an interview with RNZ’s US Correspondent regarding recent political events in the United States, including a brief discussion of the controversy surrounding the Democratic National Party and the release of American political strategist and campaign manager Donna Brazile’s book, Hacks. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this discussion was unbalanced and misleading. The Authority noted the purpose of the item was to hear the views and analysis of RNZ’s US Correspondent on recent political events and news in the US, a small part of which referred to Ms Brazile’s book. The segment did not purport to be an in-depth examination of Ms Brazile’s book or the controversy surrounding the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Primary Election. In this context, the Authority found listeners would not have been misled or left uninformed by the omission of further details from the book and about the DNC, which the complainant wished to be included in the item.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
An item on RNZ’s Midday Report bulletin reported on increases in the price of butter and dairy products, and the impact of this on small food businesses in particular. The item included the statement: ‘The demand for butter has soared worldwide since scientists debunked research linking animal fats with heart disease.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this statement breached the balance and accuracy standards. The Authority found that, as the statement was peripheral to the focus of the item, the broadcaster was not required in the interests of balance to present alternate viewpoints on the statement, and the statement was unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the item as a whole.
Not Upheld: Balance, Accuracy
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
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
Following the broadcast of a Labour campaign advertisement on Radio Sport Weekender, presenter Mark Watson commented: ‘I like Jacinda Ardern’s optimism; I just want to know how you pay for it all. That’s all I want to know… if it’s that easy, I think everybody would have done it by now.’ The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this comment amounted to alleged political editorialising, which was unacceptable and unprofessional. While listeners might not have expected the host to comment on political issues during a sports programme, this was an opinion open to the host to express, provided broadcasting standards were maintained. The Authority recognised the important role of the media during an election period, when political parties and leaders should expect to be subject to robust scrutiny, and found that Mr Watson’s comments did not result in the Labour Party, or its leader Ms Ardern, being treated unfairly. The Authority found the balance standard did not apply to the Radio Sport Weekender programme, as listeners would not expect to hear balanced or authoritative coverage of election issues during this talkback sports programme.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Balance
A segment on Checkpoint featured an interview with former Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei. The interview occurred just after Ms Turei had announced her resignation as Co-Leader. John Campbell questioned Ms Turei about the recent allegations of benefit fraud which had recently arisen, the effect these allegations had on her and whether they ultimately led to her resignation. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the interview was unbalanced. While the subject matter amounted to a controversial issue of public importance, the Authority found alternate views were put forward through the use of ‘devil’s advocate’ questioning, and noted there was also considerable media coverage of the allegations, meaning there was a wide range of information available on the issue. The interview’s focus was Ms Turei’s response to the allegations, and as a whole would not have left the audience misinformed regarding the nature of the allegations and Ms Turei’s position.
Not Upheld: Balance
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
During a talkback segment on Sportstalk, the host Mark Watson criticised northern hemisphere sports media and the British and Irish Lions rugby team. The host made provocative statements about the Lions team who were at that time touring New Zealand, saying, among other things, ‘hopefully you get smashed’. The host then engaged in a heated discussion with a talkback caller about northern hemisphere rugby and rugby media. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the host’s comments undermined broadcasting standards. The comments made, while critical and provocative, did not exceed audience expectations within the robust and opinionated environment of talkback radio, and particularly on Radio Sport. The Authority noted that the free and frank expression of opinions is an important aspect of the right to freedom of expression, and is valued in our society. Mr Watson was entitled to express his opinion, even if it was critical or if others disagreed, and his comments were not so offensive that they reached a level which warranted the Authority’s intervention. The Lions team and its supporters are not a section of the community to which the discrimination and denigration standard applies, and the balance standard was also not applicable to this particular segment.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance
During a Gospel Hour programme on Radio Voqa Kei Viti Aotearoa, a Fijian language station, the announcer used the term ‘iTaukei’ in her greetings to listeners, which the broadcaster submitted referred to the indigenous Fijian population in New Zealand and elsewhere overseas. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that the term ‘iTaukei’ meant ‘owner’ in English (and therefore referred to New Zealand Māori), and that use of this term caused division and unrest amongst the station’s Fijian listeners. The Authority found that, while the announcer’s use of the term may be seen by some as divisive and politically-charged, it was not offensive, incorrect or discriminatory to an extent that would justify the Authority intervening and finding a breach of broadcasting standards, and as a result limiting the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression. The Authority however reminded the broadcaster of its obligations under the Broadcasting Act 1989 to receive and consider formal complaints through a proper process, which did not occur in this case.
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Law and Order, Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Privacy, Fairness
An episode of the radio documentary series, Insight, titled ‘Will cameras end commercial fish dumping’, discussed the issue of whether the quota management system (QMS) was contributing to illegal fish dumping practices in the commercial fishing industry and whether camera monitoring could be used to improve this issue. The episode featured an interview with Dr Russel Norman, the Executive Director of Greenpeace NZ, who described a camera monitoring trial run by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and undertaken by Trident Systems (Trident) and an independent research company, Archipelago. Dr Norman said that, during the trial, Archipelago found ‘lots of illegal behaviour, dumping, killing of Hector’s dolphins’, while Trident ‘found nothing’. Dr Norman then suggested that MPI awarded a contract to Trident for filming of a commercial fishery because of these results. The Authority found that, by not giving Trident the opportunity to respond to this allegation, the item was unfair. However, the Authority found that Dr Norman’s statement was based on records of the trial and on the findings of an independent inquiry into MPI’s prosecution decisions, and so his summary of those findings was not misleading or inaccurate. In the context of an item about the QMS and commercial fish dumping, the Authority found that Dr Norman’s statement, which was limited to past monitoring trials, did not amount to discussion of a controversial issue of public importance which triggered the requirements of the balance standard.
Upheld: Fairness; Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance. Orders: Section 13(1)(a) broadcast statement on air and online; Section 16(1) $2,000 legal costs to complainant
Saturday Morning featured a 25-minute interview with the Vice President for Energy and Environment Policy at a think-tank in the United States. The interviewee discussed a range of matters to do with environmental policy, including her current concerns, initiatives put in place under the Obama administration that may be threatened by the Trump administration, and how to make climate change a relevant issue to voters. The Authority did not uphold a complaint alleging that the item was unbalanced, as it only presented the ‘progressive, liberal’ perspective on climate change. The Authority considered that, in the context of an interview focused on the professional opinions and experiences of a particular individual, listeners would not have expected the full spectrum of views on climate change to be presented. The Authority noted that climate change is an ongoing and regularly discussed issue, and alternative perspectives are presented from time to time in various media. Audiences have a reasonable level of awareness of the significant perspectives on climate change and would not have been uninformed by the absence of a detailed discussion of the ‘conservative’ viewpoint during this particular item.
Not Upheld: Balance
During a talkback segment on the Leighton Smith Show, the host discussed the recent legal personhood granted to the Whanganui River. The complainant, Mr Haines, phoned in to the programme to discuss the issue. After a two-and-a-half minute conversation, Mr Smith responded that it was ‘stupidity to give [the Whanganui River] equal status as a person. Now get off the phone,’ and made comments about Mr Haines self-identifying as Māori. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that Mr Smith’s statements were derogatory and insulting to Mr Haines and to Māori people. While the Authority acknowledged that Mr Smith’s comments could be seen as dismissive and disrespectful, in the context of the robust talkback radio environment, they did not reach the level necessary to constitute unfair treatment or to encourage discrimination or denigration. Mr Haines was afforded a fair and reasonable time to put forward his views. Mr Smith’s disagreement in response was typical of the talkback genre, in which hosts often express contentious or strong views in the interests of generating debate, and of his well-known forceful style. The Authority noted that the free and frank expression of opinions is an important aspect of the right to freedom of expression, and is valued in our society. Mr Smith was entitled to express his opinion, even if it was critical or if others disagreed, and it did not reach a level which warranted the Authority’s intervention.
Not Upheld: Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance
During Jay-Jay, Dom & Randell, the hosts discussed their conversation with a guest the previous day who was described as a successful voice coach, and who gave tips about putting on a ‘sexy voice’. One of the hosts prank called two phone sex chat lines and spoke to the operators to see whether they used a ‘sexy voice’. One of the operators he spoke with was the complainant, who discussed practical aspects of the service, including how calls were conducted and paid for. A distinctive sound could be heard in the background of the call. The Authority upheld a complaint from the operator that this broadcast breached her privacy and was unfair. The combination of the extended audio of the complainant’s voice and the background sounds meant that she could be identified by people beyond family and close friends who would reasonably be expected to know about her phone sex chat line business. The complainant was also unaware she was being recorded and did not consent to the broadcast of this information. This resulted in a breach of her privacy and was also unfair. The Authority did not uphold the remaining aspects of BL’s complaint.
Upheld: Privacy, Fairness
Not Upheld: Good Taste and Decency, Children’s Interests, Balance, Accuracy
Orders: $2,000 privacy compensation; $1,500 costs to the Crown
An item on Checkpoint discussed the return of a child after she went missing off the coast of New Zealand with her father. Extensive media coverage reported that the pair had sailed to Australia on a catamaran and that the family was involved in a custody dispute, with proceedings pending under the Care of Children Act 2004. The item aired after the child had been located and featured an interview with the child’s mother, who discussed her fears for her daughter’s safety, and their reunion. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item breached the child’s privacy and treated her unfairly. The information discussed during the interview was in the public domain at the time of broadcast, and the topic was treated sensitively and respectfully by the interviewer. There was also an element of public interest in the child’s welfare and her being found safe. A number of other broadcasting standards raised by the complainant were not applicable or not breached in the context of the broadcast.
Not Upheld: Privacy, Fairness, Balance, Good Taste and Decency, Programme Information, Children’s Interests, Violence, Law and Order, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
An item on RNZ News reported on the Voluntary Euthanasia Society NZ’s (VES) calls for government action following a recently published study that indicated strong public support for some form of lawful assisted dying. The Authority did not uphold a complaint that this item inaccurately reported the findings of the study, and lacked balance. This was a short news report which accurately conveyed the key findings of the study to the listener. In the context of the item, it was not practical or necessary to convey the detailed nuances of the study’s findings. While the item touched on the broader issue of euthanasia, it simply reported on the findings of the study and did not amount to a discussion of the wider issue which triggered the requirements of the balance standard.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Balance