BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

One New Zealand Foundation Inc and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 1995-002

Members
  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • W J Fraser
  • L M Loates
  • J R Morris
Dated
Complainant
  • One New Zealand Foundation Inc
Number
1995-002
Programme
Insight
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
National Radio


Summary

An Insight programme dealing with the negotiation process and the settlement of

claims made under the Treaty of Waitangi was broadcast by Radio New Zealand Ltd

on 1 August 1994 at 9.03pm.

The One New Zealand Foundation Inc, through its Secretary, Mrs Annette Reid,

complained to RNZ that the programme lacked balance, impartiality and fairness, did

not respect the principles of partnership between Maori and Pakeha and did not give

the Foundation the opportunity to express its point of view.

In its response, RNZ maintained that the theme of the programme was confined to an

examination of completed settlements, how they were perceived by Maori and who

would benefit from the settlements. Because it concentrated on the views of those

who had been involved with the negotiation process, RNZ argued that it was not

necessary to seek further comment, and declined to uphold any aspect of the

complaint.

Dissatisfied with that decision, the One New Zealand Foundation referred the

complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a)of the Broadcasting

Act 1989.

For the reasons set forth below, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint.


Decision

The members of the Authority have listened to a tape of the item complained about

and have read the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice,

the Authority has determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

An Insight programme broadcast by Radio New Zealand Ltd on 1 August 1994 at

9.03pm dealt with issues arising from settlements under the Treaty of Waitangi. Mrs

Annette Reid, Secretary to the One New Zealand Foundation, complained that the

broadcast was in breach of broadcasting standards because it failed to respect the

principles of partnership between Maori and Pakeha, was lacking in balance and did

not give the Foundation an opportunity to express its point of view.

RNZ assessed the complaint against the standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting

Practice nominated by the Foundation. They require broadcasters:

R7  To respect the principles of partnership between Maori and Pakeha in

New Zealand society in actively seeking a balanced contribution and

views on matters relating to that partnership.

R9  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political

matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature,

making reasonable efforts to present significant points of view either in

the same programme or in other programmes within the period of

current interest.


The other standard reads:


R21 It shall be the responsibility of each station to be fair in the allocation

of time to interested parties in controversial public issues. In exercising

this responsibility a station will take into account the news value of the

viewpoints offered and previous allotment of air time.


In RNZ's assessment, standard R21 was not applicable to this broadcast since, in its

view, it was more appropriately applied to coverage of national and local politics,

especially during election periods. It considered that the requirements of standard R21

were encompassed by standard R9 and s.4(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 which

reads:

4(1) Every broadcaster is responsible for maintaining in its programmes and

their presentation, standards which are consistent with -

...

(d) 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.


RNZ explained that the programme was the second of two which focused on the

settlement of Treaty of Waitangi claims. It pointed out that the question whether

claims should be acknowledged in principle was not the theme of this programme and

that that issue had been examined within other programmes over a lengthy period.

Therefore, RNZ reasoned, there was no justification to examine the government's

stance on Treaty claims in principle. The focus of the programme, it continued, was

how the settlements would be shared out through the Maori community and whether,

in the end, these settlements could end 150 years of grievance. To that end, it noted,

views of representatives of many different groups were canvassed. RNZ concluded

that the programme was a balanced presentation of significant views concerning the

topic dealt with and declined to uphold any aspect of the complaint.

In the Authority's view, the theme of the programme was, as stated by RNZ, the

distribution of the proceeds from the government's proposed Treaty claims settlement

package. It noted that some of those interviewed expressed concern at whether the

benefits would filter down to the thousands of young unemployed Maori. Others had

the view that tribal distribution was inherently unfair and that the settlement should

be made on a Pan-Maori basis because that would ensure that many urban Maori

would share in the benefits. Those who supported tribal settlement disagreed, and

considered that settlement of land grievances, for example, could only be done on a

tribal basis. Concern was expressed that the whole question of settlement could

founder because of the conflict between the tribal and Pan-Maori approach to the

settlement process.

Turning to the standards allegedly breached, the Authority considered first, whether

the broadcast breached the provisions of standard R7. It noted that the item focused

on a government decision to honour obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi and was

confined to a report on how the settlement proceeds would be divided and some of the

likely problems which would ensue. It did not consider, in the context of the

programme, that the principle of partnership between the Treaty partners was

violated by the broadcast and declined to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

The Authority then turned to standard R9, which it considered in conjunction with

s.4(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, as had RNZ. The Authority did not agree

with the Foundation that it, as an interested party, should have been given air time on

this matter. While the Authority accepted that the question of the settlement package

offer itself was controversial, it noted that the Insight programme was not concerned

with that issue. As recent events have revealed, the government's offer to finally

settle all claims under the Treaty has now been put to Maori leaders. The issue at the

centre of the programme – how the settlement will be distributed – was, in the

Authority's view, debated fully by a number of influential Maori leaders who would

be directly affected by the proposal, in a fair and balanced manner. It declined to

uphold this aspect of the complaint.

The Authority agreed with RNZ that on this occasion the requirements of standard

R21 were subsumed by standards R9 and s.4(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act 1989,

which have been considered above. It noted however that it did not necessarily concur

with RNZ's interpretation of standard R21 as being confined to coverage of political

and local issue questions, particularly at election time.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Iain Gallaway
Chairperson
24 January 1995


Appendix

One New Zealand Foundation Inc's Complaint to Radio New Zealand Limited -

4 August 1994 and 26 August 1994

Mrs Annette Reid, for the One New Zealand Foundation Inc, complained to Radio

New Zealand Ltd that the Insight programme dealing with Treaty of Waitangi issues

broadcast at 9.03pm on 1 August 1994 was in breach of broadcasting standards

because it failed to respect the principles of partnership between Maori and Pakeha,

was lacking in balance and had not given the Foundation an opportunity to express its

point of view on air.

Responding to RNZ's informal reply, the Foundation wrote in its letter of 26 August

that it had hoped to be given air time to put forward a point of view which it believed

many New Zealanders shared. In its view, there were many who were disturbed by

the present trend in dealing with Maori issues.

The Foundation sought to have its viewpoint put on what it described as an extremely

controversial subject. It noted the programme failed to indicate that not all New

Zealanders approved or agreed that there was justification for many of the claims to

the Waitangi Tribunal or that many felt that the Tribunal was in breach of the

Declaration of Human Rights.

The Foundation noted that its view was that the Treaty applied to all New Zealanders

as both Maori and European were signatories, and therefore a more balanced view

would have included comment from non-Maori.

It concluded:

We think you will agree that there is always two sides to a discussion but there

was insufficient input from one party on the subjects under debate. The

inference gained from this presentation was that it is accepted that only Maori

have been disadvantaged, and require compensation.

RNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint - 31 October 1994

When RNZ advised the Foundation of its response, it reported that the complaint had

been considered under standards R7, R9 and R21 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting

Practice, as nominated by the Foundation. It advised that it did not consider that

standard R21 was applicable, noting that it had historically been more appropriately

applied to coverage of political and local issue questions, especially at election

periods. RNZ believed that its provisions were subsumed within s.4(1)(d) of the

Broadcasting Act and within standard R9. Therefore, it did not assess the complaint

directly under standard R21.

RNZ noted that the programme focused on the claims under the Treaty of Waitangi

which had been resolved, how the settlements were perceived by Maori, and

their effect on "ordinary Maori". It explained that the issue of whether or not

claims should be allowed in principle was not the theme of the programme, as

that issue had already been dealt with extensively in other programmes over a

long period of time. Rather, its theme was claim settlement issues,

concentrating on the views of those who had been associated with the

negotiation process.

RNZ added that a wide spectrum of views had been and would continue to be covered

but that such coverage was not appropriate to this programme which looked at the

effects and results of actions taken in accordance with government policy. It noted

that comment from Justice Minister Mr Doug Graham, which gave a political

perspective on the claims, was very brief and did not require balancing comment.

RNZ declined to uphold the complaint.

One New Zealand Foundation Inc's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards

Authority - 16 November 1994

Dissatisfied with RNZ's response, on behalf of the Foundation Mr Wally Boyd

referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989.

The Foundation objected to RNZ's decision not to consider the complaint under

standard R21 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice and quoted section 4(1)(d) of

the Broadcasting Act 1989 which provides that when controversial issues of public

importance are discussed, efforts are to be made to present significant points of view

either in the same programme or within the period of current interest.

The Foundation also disagreed with RNZ's analysis of what the aim of the programme

was. It stated that the programme covered a wide range of issues, not only the way in

which the settlement of claims affects ordinary Maori. In its view, a fundamental

aspect of "settlement" was that the way it would be achieved had not been finalised.

It added that the Foundation had an opinion and was entitled to be heard.

The Foundation enclosed a copy of a letter from the Minister of Justice which it

stated made clear that he considered the wider New Zealand community should be

included in finding the settlement equation.

On behalf of its thousands of members, the Foundation stated that it had a right to

comment on settlement issues and should have been allocated air time in terms of

standards R9 and R21.

The Foundation believed that the programme had a very much wider subject matter

than RNZ wanted to admit. It argued that the programme contained a

disproportionate Maori bias, and that the Foundation was an interested party to these

issues of national importance. In its view, the period of current interest was now, and

it accused RNZ of avoiding addressing its responsibility to a large number of New

Zealanders by defining the issue as a "continuing matter".

It enclosed six copies of its publication relating to the Treaty of Waitangi for

Authority members to read.

RNZ's Response to the Authority - 22 November 1994

In its response to the Authority, RNZ wrote that it had little to add to its previous

letter.

Referring to the letter from Mr Graham to the Foundation, RNZ submitted that it was

irrelevant to the complaint since it was written long after the date of the programme

and because it was a specific comment on Waitangi settlement principles to be

adopted by the government following further public discussion. It argued that that

was not the focus of the programme. It suggested that the inclusion of the letter may

well be indicative of the continuing confusion which RNZ believed was at the root of

the complaint.

Secondly, RNZ maintained that there was no question that the Foundation had been

denied air time. It repeated that the complaint had arisen because of a

misunderstanding about the thrust of the programme. In RNZ's view, the

Foundation's views were more to do with the justification for Waitangi settlements in

general whereas the programme concentrated on the effects on and benefits to Maori

of the settlements now implemented as well as those planned.

Thirdly, RNZ advised that it had informed the Foundation that should it wish to

comment on radio news it should arrange for its views to be directly transmitted.

Finally, RNZ assured the Authority that although it had not separately assessed

standard R21, it genuinely believed the requirement of that standard was contained in

s.4(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act which had been considered by its Complaints

Committee.

One New Zealand Foundation Inc's Final Comment - 4 December 1994

In its final comment, the Foundation explained that it relied on Justice Minister Mr

Graham's letter to emphasise that settlement issues affected all New Zealanders and

to repeat that the subject of settlements issues was far from decided.

The Foundation believed that standard R9 was breached because it, as an interested

party, was being denied air time. It added that it represented the views of thousands

of New Zealanders, and argued that RNZ was wrong to consider it solely a Maori

issue because all New Zealanders were and would be involved. It wrote:

A mockery is made of broadcasting legislation if this different viewpoint is not

given "air time".