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Whanau Social Services Inc and Te Reo Irirangi O Ngati Kahungunu Inc - 1995-082

Members
  • J M Potter (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • Whanau Social Services Inc
Number
1995-082
Programme
Radio Kahungunu
Channel/Station
Radio Kahungunu


Summary

A description of events on the Omahu Marae, Hastings, during the fiscal envelope hui,

both inside and outside the meeting house, was broadcast by Radio Kahungunu on 15

March 1995.

Mr Kamau, Chair of Whanau Social Services Inc, complained to Te Reo Irirangi O

Ngati Kahungunu Inc that the broadcast of comments made by one protester

denigrated and defamed the people referred to. The purported retraction next day, he

continued, was merely self-serving justification.

Explaining some of the debate leading up to the hui and the events on the day, Radio

Kahungunu maintained that the hui was reported impartially and in a balanced way. It

declined to uphold the complaint. Dissatisfied with the broadcaster's response, on

the group's behalf Mr Kamau referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards

Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons below, the Authority upheld one technical aspect but declined to

determine the substance of the complaint.


Decision

The members of the Authority have read the correspondence relating to this complaint

which is summarised in the Appendix. The broadcaster has been unable to supply a

tape of the broadcast complained about. As is its usual practice, the Authority has

determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

The Manager of Whanau Social Services Inc of Flaxmere, Brown Kamau, complained

to Radio Kahungunu that its broadcast of some comments made by a protester who

was interviewed during the coverage of the fiscal envelope hui at Omahu Marae had

breached standards R5, R9, R11, R17 and R19 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting

Practice. The comments, he wrote, had referred to some named people in a

denigratory manner. He also noted the requirement of standard R35 under which a

broadcaster is required to hold a copy or a tape of certain programmes – including

news and current affairs items – for 35 days. When the broadcaster declined to deal

with the complaint in detail, Mr Kamau referred it to the Authority.

In his report to the Authority, the Chairperson of Te Reo Irirangi O Ngati Kahungunu

(J S TeRito) explained in some detail the background to the hui and events on the day.

With respect to the complaint, he wrote:

In his letter of complaint, Mr Kamau never clearly stated who the protester

was, nor what they are alleged to have said. That's why I continue to say, he

has acted on hearsay and not on fact. At no time did we allow anyone to

denigrate or defame anyone's names. Perhaps there may have been mention of

names of those who were said to have breached the cultural etiquette of the

marae. People came to hear of the names of some of those who bore the

questionable title of security wardens on the day and to question that fact. And

I guess it was embarrassing for that fact to be broadcast to one and all. Perhaps

names of "protesters" were mentioned, names of old women, names of children

too.


He continued


Direct reporting of this nature, although by no means not totally pleasant or

wholesome to behold, can hardly be construed to have been defamation or

denigration of those people's names. I believe that Mr Kamau is exaggerating

the whole affair and taking the matter too far.

So once again, we totally and utterly reject his allegations and complaint. Radio

Kahungunu strives to give an excellent, well-balanced and investigative focus to

news; and current affairs is an open discourse. It is our philosophy to include a

wide, representative range to make the opportunity available to as many voices

as possible.


We believe we reported the events with the highest integrity and impartiality

and we achieved balance. Given the highly volatile and political nature of the

hui, we naturally anticipated vociferous comments from both sides - and to

achieve fairness and report the events accurately and with balance, our coverage

included comments from all quarters. To complain about one interview with one

"protester" is simply unfair. We reject Mr Kamau's complaint as this is taking

one aspect of the day's entire broadcast, out of context!


The station was unable to supply the Authority with a tape of the broadcast because,

Mr TeRito explained, in the week after the hui Radio Kahungunu had begun a long-

time planned staff restructuring and overhaul of the physical assets. It reported:

As a result, many tapes were discarded, while some we erased to give us re-

useable resources for further broadcasts. You will understand this, as the level

of government funding does not enable us to maintain full-time staffing levels

but requires us to rely heavily on our voluntary staff. Hence we are unable to

locate a copy of that particular broadcast.


In conclusion, Mr TeRito urged the Authority to reject the complaint as it was a

situation which was better forgotten about but, in his opinion, was being

unnecessarily prolonged. It was, he concluded, an "intertwined mixture of intrigue and

complexity".

In his final comment on behalf of Whanau Social Services, Mr Kamau persisted with

the complaint that the nominated standards had been contravened. The broadcaster

acknowledged, he wrote, that comments from those outside the meeting house had

been broadcast and, as the tape was unavailable, it was ironic that the complaint

should be described as hearsay. He concluded:

I get the impression Mr TeRito is saying "the events of the day while not sweet

to the ear, were reported to our listeners" but as the day itself was such a

difficult and unpleasant one we should all do our best to forget about it. With

respect that is a weak attempt at blame shifting and highlights the need for

broadcasting standards and of a body such as the Authority to uphold those

standards.


The complaint alleged that the broadcast breached the following standards. The first

four require broadcasters:

R5  To deal justly and fairly with person taking part or referred to in any

programme.

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.

R11 To respect the privacy of the individual.

R12 To correct factual errors speedily and with similar prominence to the

offending broadcast or broadcasts.


The other two read:


R17 The standards of integrity and reliability of news sources should be kept

under constant review.

R19 Great care must be taken in the editing of programme material to ensure

that the extracts used are a true reflection and not a distortion of the

original event or the overall views expressed.


The original complaint referred to R35 which states:


R35 For a period of 35 days after broadcast, radio stations shall hold a

recording of all talkback and open line programmes and a copy or tape of

news and current affairs items.


The obligation on radio broadcasters to retain certain tapes for 35 days is

unambiguous. Radio Kahungunu acknowledged that it had failed to comply. A

complainant cannot complain specifically under the standard until advised that tapes

have not been retained (which might well occur after the time for lodging complaints).

In this instance the complainant nevertheless referred to the broadcaster's obligations

under standard R35 in the original complaint. Accordingly, the Authority accepted

that it was a matter which was appropriately before it.

In view of the broadcaster's acknowledgment of its actions in reusing or otherwise

losing the tape of the broadcast complained about, the Authority has no hesitation in

upholding the complaint as a breach of standard R35.

In the absence of the tape of the broadcast containing the comments which were the

subject of the complaint or agreement between the parties as to the content of the

broadcast, the Authority decided that its only practical action in dealing with the

substance of the complaint was, under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, to

decline to determine the complaint in all the circumstances.

 

For the above reasons, the Authority upholds the complaint that Radio

Kahungunu failed to retain a tape of the broadcast of the fiscal hui on Omahu

Marae on 15 March for 35 days and, as a result, breached standard R35 of the

Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.


It declines under s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 to determine the

substance of the complaint under the other nominated standards.

Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may impose an order under s.13(1) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. The absence of a tape on this occasion has effectively

stymied the Authority's determination of this complaint. However, having regard to

the explanation for the tape's absence and the questionable relevance of its powers in

this situation, the Authority decided not to impose an order.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judith Potter
Chairperson
17 August 1995


Appendix

Whanau Social Services Inc's Complaint to Radio Kahungunu - 3 April 1995

On behalf of Whanau Social Services Inc, Brown Kamau, the manager, complained

(through the Broadcasting Standards Authority) to Te Reo Irirangi O Ngati

Kahungunu Inc (Radio Kahungunu) about an interview broadcast on 15 March. The

interview concerned the fiscal envelope hui which had taken place at the Omahu

Marae that day and Mr Kamau said that one person interviewed, a protester:

... expressed in rage, extreme abuse that undermined the good names of certain

families belonging to Omahu.

The reporter, Mr Kamau continued, made no attempt to terminate the interview but

allowed the protester to finish. Next day, he added, the same protester apologised to

listeners for what she had said the previous day but the apology, Mr Kamau

maintained, was unacceptable as the protester had been unrepentant.

When advised by the Authority that the complaint had been forwarded to the

broadcaster, on 6 April Mr Kamau summarised his complaint to Radio Kahungunu:

The complaint is that the protester was given an opportunity by you to

denigrate on air, the reputation of certain named local persons. Further, that the

purported retraction by the protester the following day was nothing more than

an unrepentant self-serving justification of her actions which only defamed those

persons further.

Mr Kamau maintained that the broadcast breached standards R5, R9, R11, R12, R17

and R19 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

Radio Kahungunu's Response to the Formal Complaint - 24 April 1995

On the basis that the letter of complaint stated that legal proceedings could follow as a

result of the broadcast, Mr J S TeRito (Chairperson of Te Reo Irirangi O Ngati

Kahungunu) declined to comment on the complaint.

Whanau Social Services' Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority -

28 April 1995

Dissatisfied with the broadcaster's response, on behalf of Whanau Social Services Mr

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

of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

The Authority was asked to investigate the broadcaster's response as it had declined

to deal with the questions posed and as it seemed unrepentant for the broadcast which

breached the standards.

The possibility of legal proceedings for defamation, he added, involved individuals

who were not involved with the group.

Radio Kahungunu's Response to the Broadcasting Standards Authority - 31

May 1995

Mr J S TeRito, Chairperson of Te Reo Irirangi O Ngati Kahungunu, explained in detail

the background of the broadcast in his report to the Authority. He began by

summarising the broadcaster's findings in regard to the complaint:

After having made a thorough investigation into the events that transpired during

the course of that day, Radio Kahungunu utterly and totally rejects the claims

that have been made against it by Mr Kamau, as being mere mischief-making.

He then referred to divisions created by the Government's fiscal envelope and to the

protests on Waitangi Day and at Moutoa Gardens. The Government has been

explaining the policy to iwi and:

Omahu Marae had been chosen by staff of the Hastings Te Puni Kokiri office

(Maori Ministry of Development) as the obvious venue for a Kahungunu wide

tribal gathering. This was because of the marae's large size and its location -

being geographically central to the tribal extremities.

Mr TeRito said that because of his involvement in local affairs, he was elected as

chairperson of the regional fiscal envelope hui. However, in the lead-up to the hui

enormous difficulties occurred in settling some issues and more and more non-Omahu

people - both Maori and Pakeha - became involved. Because of the conflict, Mr

TeRito wrote:

In all, things became too much for many people, including myself. I was very

saddened to see a deep rift developing amongst our families of the Omahu

Marae, as well as amongst other members of the broader tribe. And yet there

seemed to be no way it could be stopped. In the end, I was personally not

prepared to carry the pressure that was brought to bear and consequently I

resigned from the position of chairperson for the hui.

With regard to Mr Kamau of the Whanau Social Services, Mr TeRito stated:

Mr Brown Kamau was never part of these initial discussions. Nor has he been

very much involved in the matters of the marae, in the last ten or so years in

which I have been Omahu Maori Committee Chairman. Mr Kamau is an

armchair critic!

Because of his concerns about divisions among the iwi and for the safety of the marae,

Mr TeRito and another marae trustee and the Member of Parliament for Southern

Maori met the Minister of Maori Affairs on his arrival at Napier airport at 7.00am on

the day of the hui and asked him to divert the hui. He was not prepared to do so and,

Mr TeRito recorded:

For me, I could not bear to attend the hui - and to witness the events that were

about to transpire as though it were deja vu. I went to work instead, where I

could listen in sadness to the events that were about to unfold.

It was history in the making. However, it was the kind of history I would

imagine that every person in the tribe and every person in Omahu, except Mr

Kamau, would rather forget than remember. Even now, and for many years to

come, I am sure it will remain as a bad nightmare and traumatic experience for

many people.

For the above reasons, Mr TeRito asked the Authority to disregard Mr Kamau's

complaint.

Media coverage of the event, Mr TeRito noted, was originally confined to Radio

Kahungunu and the iwi newspaper but, following political pressure, other media

outlets were invited to attend. As for Radio Kahungunu, Mr TeRito wrote:

In the interests of maintaining balance and providing as comprehensive a

coverage as possible, Radio Kahungunu decided to record the formal

submissions to the Crown inside the meeting-house, for later playback; while a

live report was transmitted by cellphone which included a description of events

by the reporter and some interviews which were broadcast live to air.

Two kuia, because of their fluency in Te Reo Maori and knowledge of tikanga Maori,

hosted the broadcast. A reporter told of the official party's welcome on to the Marae

and the arrival of three groups of "protesters". Mr TeRito commented:

As the reporter spoke - chanting, haka, singing, shouting and sirens wailing in

the background could be heard. As a listener, I found the events really

distressing but would not go as far as to say that the description of the events

could be said to have been in breach of any broadcasting Rules.

A group of young men had been co-opted as security wardens with orders to remove

"protesters" forcibly - parents and young children. Further, in an unprecedented

action, the front door of the meeting house was locked to control who would be

allowed to participate in the discussions with the Crown. Mr TeRito explained the

extreme unusualness of that action:

Such an action is unheard of on a marae and regarded by some as a gross affront

to any visitors. In fact, when bodies lie in state in the meeting-house, people go

to great lengths to ensure that the door is left open. For it not to be left open, is

a sign of ignorance, rudeness and disrespect. Even on cold, wet and windy

weather it is left open as a sign of welcome.

To make matters worse, he added, the door was closed off to marae trustees and

others who were normally involved in running the marae. For example, the Member

of Parliament for Southern Maori was excluded as was well-known educationalist and

kuia Mrs Pauline Tangiora. Consequently, Mr TeRito wrote:

It is important therefore that you understand the mood that prevailed on the

marae that day. It is not difficult to imagine that tempers flared. The mood was

extremely volatile and there were many angry people on the marae complex that

day.

In these circumstances, Radio Kahungunu reporters sought comment from those who

were outside. Among those interviewed for live broadcast were Ms Waipa TeRito,

Secretary of the Omahu Maori Committee, Mr Moana Jackson, Ngati Kahungunu

lawyer, Mr Michael Laws, Member of Parliament for Hawke's Bay and Mrs Pauline

Tangiora, kuia. An interview with Mr Toatoa, newly elected chair of the hui, was

recorded and broadcast after the 1.00pm Mana News.

As Mr Kamau had not referred either to a specific person interviewed or the

comments allegedly made, Mr TeRito said he was complaining on the basis of hearsay

because:

At no time did we allow anyone to denigrate or defame anyone's names.

Perhaps there may have been mention of names of those who were said to have

breached the cultural etiquette of the marae. People came to hear of the names

of some of those who bore the questionable title of security wardens on the day

and to question that fact. And I guess it was embarrassing for that fact to be

broadcast to one and all. Perhaps names of "protesters" were mentioned, names

of old women, names of children too.

Direct reporting of this nature, although by no means not totally pleasant or

wholesome to behold, can hardly be construed to have been defamation or

denigration of those people's names. I believe that Mr Kamau is exaggerating

the whole affair and taking the matter too far.

On the basis, Mr TeRito repeated the broadcaster's decision on the complaint:

So once again, we totally and utterly reject his allegations and complaint. Radio

Kahungunu strives to give an excellent, well-balanced and investigative focus to

news; and current affairs is an open discourse. It is our philosophy to include a

wide, representative range to make opportunity available to as many voices as

possible.

We believe we reported the events with the highest integrity and impartiality

and we achieved balance. Given the highly volatile and political nature of the

hui, we naturally anticipated vociferous comments from both sides - and to

achieve fairness and report the events accurately and with balance, our coverage

included comments from all quarters. To complain about one interview with one

"protester" is simply unfair. We reject Mr Kamau's complaint as this is taking

one aspect of the day's entire broadcast, out of context!

Mr TeRito then proceeded to discuss Radio Kahungunu's record. Noting that he had

been head of the station since its establishment in 1988, he said it was based at the

Hawke's Bay Polytechnic where, co-incidentally, he was Dean of the Faculty of

Maori Studies. There had been discussion over the years as to whether the station's

physical location was appropriate but, on balance, it had been decided that it was

suitable for a variety of cultural and practical reasons. As for the station's contents,

Mr TeRito reported:

Radio Kahungunu is, and has been very careful in what it broadcasts to air

particularly in regard to contentious Maori issues. For this reason, we are loath

to run talk-back sessions of the Radio Pacific type. As a small, semi-rural

Maori radio station, we recognise our limitations to access the financial backing

required to defend ourselves against law-suits. Our journalists and announcers,

therefore are instilled with the philosophy of "staying safe" and "keeping to the

middle ground" while at the same time endeavouring to give a true and fair

picture of current events.

As the station had the interests of the broader iwi at heart, it denied that anything

irresponsible would have been broadcast and it rejected again Mr Kamau's complaint -

the only one received.

In the week immediately after the fiscal envelope hui, Mr TeRito continued, Radio

Kahungunu implemented a long-time planned restructuring of staff and overhaul of the

physical assets. He went on to say:

As a result, many tapes were discarded, while some we erased to give us re-

useable resources for further broadcasts. You will understand this, as the level

of government funding does not enable us to maintain full-time staffing levels

but requires us to rely heavily on our voluntary staff. Hence we are unable to

locate a copy of that particular broadcast. Perhaps had we received some hint or

suggestion before the following month that any complaint might emanate from

the day, it may have been practicable for us to still have material. However, on

the 20th day after the event, on April 3rd 1995, Mr Kamau faxed his complaint

to you. You copied this on to me. Mr Kamau's formal letter of complaint to

Radio Kahungunu was dated April 6th and arrived on April 8th, 1995 - twenty-

four days after the event ... and Radio Kahungunu was open for business on all

24 of those days. Please do not perceive this as an excuse not to deal with the

issue. But these are the realities of running a rural Maori radio station.

In conclusion, Mr TeRito submitted:

In summary, to reiterate, we reject Mr Kamau's complaint and the aspersions he

has cast on the reputation of Radio Kahungunu. We therefore appeal to the

Broadcasting Standards Authority to quash the complaint. We believe that the

prolonging of the situation can only but revive what was a traumatic experience

for the vast majority involved and is better left to be forgotten about. There is

much more to this matter than meets the eye. There is a whole intertwined

mixture of intrigue and complexity. It is a matter of things being put into their

right context and of not making a mountain out of a molehill as I believe Mr

Kamau is trying to do.

Whanau Social Service's Final Comment - 16 June 1995

When asked to comment on the broadcaster's response, on the group's behalf Mr

Kamau said, first, that the reply did not address the complaint which alleged that

specific standards had been breached. Secondly,

Mr TeRito admits that Radio Kahungunu sought opinion from those outside the

marae. It is these opinions that form the basis of my original complaint. Mr

TeRito is however silent on what broadcastings were in actual fact made to

provide the balance to the opinion the interviewer allowed to be expressed on

air. Similarly Mr TeRito is silent on what efforts were made by the radio

station to allow these people who had been named (and I say defamed) to reply

to the comments about them.

Thirdly, it was ironic to allege that a complaint has been made on the basis of hearsay

when the evidence which would have settled the matter had been destroyed.

Finally, the plea to forget the day, he said, was a "weak attempt" at shifting from the

station the blame for broadcasting material which breached the standards.