BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Cathro and George FM - 2005-123

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Mark Cathro
George FM
RadioWorks Ltd
George FM (RadioWorks)

Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
George FM – radio hosts made comments about complaints to council in respect of a road closure for street party – allegedly in breach of privacy and unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair

Principle 3 (privacy) – broadcast not offensive – not upheld

Principle 4 (balance) – controversial issue of public importance not discussed – not upheld

Principle 5 (fairness) – comments were fair comment – not upheld

Principle 6 (accuracy) – not a news or current affairs programme – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1] On Monday 22 August 2005 at approximately 12.30pm, the hosts on George FM made comments about a party that the radio station had held. Particular reference was made to a person who had called the council a number of times in an attempt to close the event.

[2] George FM had held a party at an Auckland nightclub and had obtained a permit from the district council to block off the road as part of the event. The complainant had complained to the council about the prospective road closure.

[3] The comments which specifically related to the complainant were “Can’t believe it … Can’t work all the time though, can you Cathro?” and “It’s the guy who runs Brand Events”.


[4] Through his solicitor, Mr Cathro complained that the broadcast was unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair. He also asserted that the item breached his privacy.


[5] The following principles are relevant to the determination of this complaint:

Principle 3

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.

Privacy Principles

i) The protection of privacy includes protection against the public disclosure of private facts where the facts disclosed are highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.

Principle 4

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.

Principle 5

In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to.

Principle 6

In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[6] In its response to the complaint, the broadcaster denied any breach of the Broadcasting Codes had occurred.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Cathro referred his complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[8] Shortly after his referral in October 2005, Mr Cathro advised he wished to make further submissions on this matter. No submissions were forthcoming, and accordingly the Authority determined the original complaint on the submissions it received.

Authority's Determination

[9] The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[10] Mr Cathro complained that the broadcast breached standards of privacy, balance, fairness and accuracy. The Authority considers that neither principle 4 (balance) nor principle 6 (accuracy) applies to this broadcast. Balance is required only in respect of a discussion about a controversial issue of public importance. The discussion in this case did not concern such an issue. Principle 6 (accuracy) applies only to news and current affairs programmes, and this programme fell into neither category. For these reasons, the Authority does not uphold the balance or accuracy complaints.

[11] The complainant did not nominate any specific privacy principles that he alleged had been breached by the broadcast. The Authority considers that privacy principle (i) is relevant to the present case. This provides protection against the public disclosure of private facts, where the facts disclosed are highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.

[12] In the present case, irrespective of whether private facts were disclosed, the Authority considers that a reasonable person would not find disclosure of the fact of Mr Cathro’s complaint to the council to be highly offensive. The broadcast simply alluded to Mr Cathro complaining to the council about a publicly notified road closure for an event organised by the broadcaster. In the view of the Authority, the broadcast did not amount to a breach of the privacy standard.

[13] Finally, turning to fairness, the Authority considers that nothing in the broadcast was unfair to Mr Cathro. The Authority notes that the fairness standard does not prohibit presenters from reasonably criticising people or their actions. In the present case, the presenters were entitled to express their views, and the criticism of Mr Cathro’s actions was mild. While in some cases, criticism might require a right of reply from the subject, this was not such a case. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the fairness complaint.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Joanne Morris
21 March 2006


The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

  1. Mr Cathro’s formal complaint to George FM – 1 September 2005
  2. Mr Cathro’s further correspondence on the formal complaint – 8 September 2005
  3. George FM’s response to the formal complaint (by e-mail) – 27 September 2005
  4. Mr Cathro’s referral to the Authority – 14 October 2005