BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

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Findlay and NZME Radio Ltd - 2020-038 (28 September 2020)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Ian Findlay
Number
2020-038
Channel/Station
Newstalk ZB # 2

Summary

[This summary does not form part of the decision.]

The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a station identity promo for Newstalk ZB news, which listed the names of the station’s flagship presenters followed by the tagline, ‘all the names you can trust’, breached the accuracy standard. The Authority found the accuracy standard did not apply, as this was clearly a piece of station branding or marketing (rather than a news, current affairs or factual programme) and the tagline was clearly promotional, rather than making a statement of fact.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


The broadcast

[1]  On 19 April 2020, shortly before the news at 6am, a promo for Newstalk ZB was aired, with a voiceover stating:

…This is Newstalk ZB. Mike Hosking, Marcus Lush, Simon Barnett, Phil Gifford – all the names you can trust. This is Newstalk ZB news.

[2]  In considering this complaint, we have listened to a recording of the promo broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

The complaint

[3]  Ian Findlay complained that the promo breached the accuracy standard of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice because:

  • Stating that the flagship presenters were ‘all the names you can trust’ implies that ‘anyone holding opposing views is untrustworthy and their views are not to be trusted’.
  • ‘To state all your presenters are worthy of our trust lacks accuracy.’
  • ‘If this is your claim you must make them more accountable, or replace ‘trust’ with ‘opinion’.’

The broadcaster’s response

[4]  NZME did not find any breach of the accuracy standard, saying:

  • The accuracy standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programming and the BSA has previously held that talkback radio does not fall within these genres.
  • The standard does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion.
  • The meaning of the statement is that ‘Newstalk ZB hosts are experienced and professional broadcasters who can be trusted to deliver insightful opinions, analysis and comment on topical issues.’
  • 'In the most recent Radio Awards, the professionalism and experience of Newstalk ZB hosts were recognised by their industry peers…’
  • ‘We do not consider that the segment complained of contains a material inaccuracy or significantly misinforms the public.’

The relevant standard

[5]  The accuracy standard (Standard 9) states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact and does not mislead. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from being significantly misinformed.1 The requirement for accuracy does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion, rather than statements of fact.2

Our decision

[6]  The right to freedom of expression, including the broadcaster’s right to impart ideas and information and the public’s right to receive that information, is the starting point in our consideration of complaints. Against this we weigh the level of actual or potential harm that may be caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene and uphold complaints where the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified.

[7]  We have not found actual or potential harm in this case that justifies restricting the broadcaster’s exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the way it promotes Newstalk ZB news. Primarily, this is because we are satisfied that the accuracy standard did not apply to the promo. The factors contributing to this finding are:

  •  The accuracy standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programming.  The item was clearly promotional material for Newstalk ZB’s station identity and branding as a news outlet, and was not news, current affairs or factual programming in itself.3
  •  Given the nature of the promo, the statement, ‘all the names you can trust’ was clearly distinguishable as a marketing or branding slogan. It was not a statement of fact to which the accuracy standard applied.4

[8]  In any event we do not agree that, in the context, the promo suggested anyone who holds a different view to the named presenters is ‘untrustworthy’ as alleged. Reasonable listeners would appreciate the promotional nature of the item. We therefore do not uphold the complaint.

For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

28 September 2020


 

Appendix

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

1  Mr Findlay’s formal complaint to NZME – 19 April 2020

2  Mr Findlay’s email correspondence with the BSA forwarding NZME’s initial response – 18 May 2020

3  NZME’s formal response to Mr Findlay – 19 May 2020

4  Mr Findlay’s referral to the BSA – 19 May 2020

5  NZME’s response to the referral – 8 June 2020

6  Mr Findlay’s final comments – 14 June 2020


1 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
2 Guideline 9a
3 Although more in the nature of advertising, this type of station identity promo falls within the Authority’s jurisdiction on the basis it is excluded from the definition of ‘advertising programme’ in section 2 of the Broadcasting Act 1989. See, for example, Smith and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2018-062 at [5]
4 Guideline 9a