Brown and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2022-041 (21 June 2022)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- John Brown
Programme1pm News Bulletin
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint alleging an item on RNZ National’s 1pm News bulletin lacked balance. The item reported on economist Dr Eric Crampton’s support for the National Party’s policy to retract Labour’s extension to the bright-line test for people selling investment properties. The complainant alleged the item lacked balance as RNZ had interviewed Dr Crampton and another expert earlier in the day on the matter, but only Dr Crampton’s views were re-broadcast as part of the 1pm news update. The Authority did not uphold the complaint, finding the item clearly signalled it was focussed on Dr Crampton’s views and did not purport to be an in-depth examination of Labour’s decision to extend the bright-line test. Further, given other wide-ranging coverage on the issue, listeners could reasonably be expected to be aware of other views.
Not Upheld: Balance
 An item on RNZ National’s 1pm News bulletin of 7 March 2022, reported on economist Dr Eric Crampton’s view of the National Party’s policy on the bright-line test. The item in its entirety was as follows:
Presenter: An economist is welcoming the National Party's plan to axe the extension of the bright-line test for people selling investment properties if it's elected to government. As of last year, investors have to hold onto property other than the home they live in for ten years if they want to avoid paying tax when they sell. Eric Crampton from the New Zealand Initiative says the change never made sense.
Crampton: There are fundamental issues to fix in housing. This tax package was never part of the fix. What Labour had put in - reversing it brings some integrity back to the tax system. It won't cost that much money because these taxes weren't really designed to raise money in the first place. So we get rid of something that's kind of dumb, that doesn't raise much money. So best of the good.
Presenter: Eric Crampton says the current rules create confusion in parts of the tax system.
 John Brown complained the broadcast breached the balance standard of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice:
- ‘Earlier today RNZ Mornings broadcast an interview with two experts about the tax implications of Christopher Luxon's speech yesterday. On the 1pm news broadcast today, the comments of the expert who supported his measures were reported and re-broadcast uncritically, as "news”, and without any comment from the other expert who opposed most of his measures. This was unbalanced and gave the impression to the innocent and the trusting that what is being reported as news is fact, when it is simply the opinion of a very partial “expert”.’
- ‘The result was a massive public relations win for Christopher Luxon and the National Party, courtesy of Radio New Zealand.’
The broadcaster’s response
 Radio New Zealand Ltd did not uphold the complaint under the balance standard, stating ‘the comments which were clearly attributed to Eric Crampton from the New Zealand Initiative were part of a range of opinions which were sought and broadcast across various programmes during the period of interest.’
 The balance standard1 states when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs, and factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view. This can be in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest. The purpose of this standard is to ensure competing viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to come to an informed and reasoned opinion.2
 We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.3
 The balance standard requires reasonable efforts to be made to reflect significant perspectives when ‘controversial issues of public importance’ are discussed in news and current affairs programmes.4
 An issue of public importance is something that would have a significant potential impact on, or be of concern to, members of the New Zealand public. A controversial issue will be one which has topical currency and excites conflicting opinion or about which there has been ongoing public debate.5
 The Labour Party’s decision to extend the bright-line test from five to ten years came into force in March 2021. It means that people who sell a residential property that is not their main/family home within ten years of purchasing it will usually have to pay tax on any financial gain made on the sale of the property.6 The extension to the test impacts all New Zealanders, and has been the subject of ongoing debate since it came into force, with some in favour of the measure,7 and others viewing it as too restrictive.8 We therefore consider it is a controversial issue of public importance, and that the balance standard applies to the broadcast.
 However, taking into account the following factors, we are satisfied that further balancing material was not required:9
- The item was introduced stating ‘An economist is welcoming the National Party's plan to axe the extension of the bright-line test for people selling investment properties if it's elected to government,’ thereby indicating from the outset that the item was focussed on the opinion of one economist.
- The item was brief (49 seconds in length) and did not purport to be an in-depth, balanced examination of the issue.
- Broadcasters, as a matter of freedom of expression and editorial discretion, are entitled to present matters from particular perspectives or with a particular focus.10
- The standard also allows for balance to be achieved over time.11 As indicated above at paragraph , since the decision was made to extend the bright-line test, there has been, and continues to be, other media coverage (from RNZ and other outlets) examining different perspectives on the decision. Listeners could reasonably be expected to be aware of views expressed in other coverage.
 Ultimately, the objective of the balance standard is to enable audiences to arrive at informed and reasoned opinions.12 We consider listeners would have understood they were listening to the opinion of one economist in this item and were unlikely to have been misled.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
21 June 2022
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 John Brown’s formal complaint to RNZ – 7 March 2022
2 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 22 March 2022
3 Brown’s referral to the Authority – 12 April 2022
4 RNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 2 May 2022
1 Standard 8 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
3 Freedom of Expression: Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 6
4 Guideline 8a
5 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
6 Inland Revenue | Te Tari Taake “The bright-line property rule” (28 April 2021) <www.ird.govt.nz>
7 “Government’s plan to help first-home buyers: What you need to know” RNZ (online ed, 23 March 2021); “Property owners should be thankful for acquired wealth, not focus on what they’ve ‘lost’” Stuff (online ed, 18 March 2022)
8 “Ordinary New Zealanders bearing brunt of bright-line test – National” RNZ (online ed, 29 January 2022); “’Bank of mum and dad’ caught by tax trap: National MP decries brightline test catch” NZ Herald (online ed, 20 January 2022)
9 Guideline 8c
10 See for example: Drinnan and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2021-083 at para ; and Robinson and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2021-133 at para 
11 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
12 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18