Fudakowski and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 1994-004
- I W Gallaway (Chair)
- R A Barraclough
- L M Dawson
- J R Morris
- Paul Fudakowski
ProgrammeNine to Noon, Morning Report
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
The subject of liable parent contributions was discussed on Nine to Noon on 3 August
1993 and unemployment on Morning Report on 13 August 1993.
Mr Fudakowski complained to Radio New Zealand Ltd that the dissenting view given in the
discussion about liable parents was unsourced and therefore was neither balanced nor
impartial. With respect to the second item, he complained that comments about the
inevitability of long-term unemployment were deeply offensive and lacked balance and
In response, RNZ denied that the news items encouraged discrimination against any
group, or that they were so lacking in balance that they were in breach of broadcasting
standards. Pointing out that the items contained expressions of opinion about matters of
public interest, RNZ explained that it could find no justification for the contention that the
reporting of those statements imposed an obligation on the broadcaster to undertake an
in-depth investigation into the subjects discussed. Dissatisfied with that decision, Mr
Fudakowski referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under
s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the reasons given below, the Authority declined to uphold the complaint.
The members of the Authority have listened to the items 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.
A discussion about liable parent contributions was broadcast on RNZ's Nine to Noon on 3
August 1993 and an item in which the views of two economists were given was broadcast
on Morning Report and subsequent news bulletins on 13 August 1993.
Mr Fudakowski complained that because the reading of a fax in the first item identified the
author only by gender, the issues presented contained a gender bias and lacked
impartiality and fairness. His complaint about the second series of news items was that the
comments by two economists about high unemployment were offensive to the
unemployed because they failed to recognise concepts such as job sharing.
Radio New Zealand reported that it had assessed the complaint against standards R9, R14,
R15, R16 and R32 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice. Those standards require
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.
R14 To avoid portraying people in a manner that encourages denigration of or
discrimination against any section of the community on account of gender,
race, age, disability, occupation status, sexual orientation or as the
consequence of legitimate expression of religious, cultural or political beliefs.
This requirement is not intended to prevent the broadcast of material
a factual, or
b the expression of serious opinion, or
c in the legitimate use of humour or satire.
News and Current Affairs
All broadcasters are required to preserve the respect the public has for the integrity
of radio news services and in particular, news and current affairs broadcasts should
take account of the following points.
R15 Listeners should always be able to distinguish clearly and easily between
factual reporting on the one hand, and comment, opinion and analysis on
R16 News should be presented accurately, objectively and impartially.
R32 When programme content may contain material which may be sensitive to
children it shall be handled positively and responsibly by broadcasters.
Examples of such content include programmes relating to anger, sexuality,
violence, relationships, family conflict and alcohol and drug abuse to which
children may be sensitive.
Item One – Liable parent contributions
In response to the complaint that the context of the fax in the first item was neither
partial nor fair, RNZ pointed out that the fax was not read in an effort to balance the
interview with the FARE spokesperson but was simply a comment read to stimulate listener
response on the issues.
The Authority considered that the reading of the fax did not constitute a breach of
standard R9, noting that the interview which preceded it had comprehensively covered
many of the issues about the child support legislation and liable parent contributions. It
regarded the comment as an adjunct to the previous discussion and further, that it was
helpful to be advised that the comment came from a man since it could well be seen as an
atypical comment from a member of the group to which most liable parents belong.
With respect to the complaint that the item breached standard R16, RNZ responded that
the standard was not applicable since the programme was not a news programme. The
Authority concurred and declined to uphold this aspect of the complaint.
Responding to Mr Fudakowski's complaint that the item was in breach of standard R32,
RNZ argued that it was unable to perceive how the standard had been breached by the
reading of the fax.
Noting that the complainant did not identify any particular aspect of the programme
which he alleged was in breach of the standard, the Authority concluded that the item did
not contain material which might have been sensitive to children. The discussion focused
on the legislation and its implications for families and provided information and opinions
on why the legislation was not working. Such facts and opinions would not, in the
Authority's view, have been unsuitable for child listeners.
Item Two - unemployment
In response to the complaint that the items about long term unemployment lacked
objectivity, and accordingly were in breach of standard R9, RNZ argued that the report of
comments made by two economists, who were reacting to information revealed in the
latest Household Labour Force Survey, imposed no obligation to undertake an in-depth
investigation into wider employment-related matters. It maintained that it was legitimate
to report publicly-stated opinions, pointing out that the reporting of the fact that the
opinion was expressed in no way constituted an expression of editorial opinion.
Observing that the context for the remarks was clearly established and that the
information was presented as the opinion of the named economists, the Authority
concluded that the broadcast of the items was not in breach of standard R9. It did not
consider that it was necessary for the news bulletin to contain statements which balanced
those views nor to balance the opinions with a discussion on concepts such as job sharing
as suggested by Mr Fudakowski. It declined to uphold the complaint that the item was
lacking in balance.
Repeating the arguments outlined above, RNZ rejected the complaint that the item was in
breach of standard R15 because listeners would not be able to distinguish clearly the
difference between fact and opinion. It maintained that the statements were merely
reported and there was no editorial opinion or analysis. It distinguished the reporting of a
publicly stated fact and an editorial opinion.
The Authority was of the view that the reports were clearly distinguishable as opinion,
noting that the identities of the speakers were given and the remarks attributed to them.
It believed that listeners would have been in no doubt that the remarks were reports of
facts and their interpretation and not editorial comment or analysis. It declined to uphold
this aspect of the complaint.
The final aspect of the complaint was that the comments discriminated against the
unemployed because it was stated as fact that high unemployment was going to continue
in New Zealand.
Rejecting this argument, RNZ maintained that the standard was not relevant and further,
that there was no element of denigration or discrimination against any section of the
community on any basis.
The Authority was of the view that although the unemployed was a group to which the
standard applies, the comments from the economists did not encourage denigration or
discrimination. It also noted that the expression of serious opinion was permitted under
the standard. It declined to uphold this aspect of the complaint.
For the above reasons, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
17 February 1994
Mr Fudakowski's Complaint to Radio New Zealand Limited
In a letter dated 3 August 1993, Mr Paul Fudakowski of Porirua complained to Radio New
Zealand Ltd that an item that day on Nine to Noon lacked impartiality and fairness.
Following an interview with a FARE (Families Apart Require Equality) spokesperson, a
facsimile was read which did not identify the author other than to say that it was a man.
In Mr Fudakowski's opinion this resulted in the issues being presented on a strictly gender
basis and, since FARE's view was accurately sourced to a person, he claimed that the item
lacked impartiality and fairness. He cited standards 1.1(i), 5.2(b) and 7.3 (now
renumbered R9, R16 and R32) which he alleged were breached.
In a second letter, dated 31 August 1993 Mr Fudakowski complained about an item on
Morning Report broadcast on 13 August in which comments were made by interviewees
about employment statistics.
Mr Fudakowski claimed that the comments made about long-term unemployment were
deeply offensive to the unemployed and, that in order to be objective, the item should have
mentioned concepts like job sharing. He alleged that standards 1.1(i), 5.2(a) and 8.1 (now
renumbered R9, R15 and R14) were breached.
RNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint
RNZ advised Mr Fudakowski of its Complaints Committee's decision in a letter dated 18
November 1993. It reported that the complaints had been assessed against the standards
nominated by Mr Fudakowski.
Responding to the complaint about the item on unemployment broadcast on 13 August,
RNZ commented first that it was unable to perceive the relevance of standard R14 since it
could detect no element of denigration or discrimination against any section of the
community. With reference to standard R15, RNZ explained that there was frequent
confusion between the reporting of a publicly stated opinion, attributed to its source, and
the publication of an editorial opinion. The reporting of a publicly made statement did not
constitute an editorial opinion. In this case, it continued, RNZ reported the statement and
clearly identified the source and furthermore, the report contained a summary of
comments from other sources. It declined to uphold this aspect of the complaint.
Responding to the complaint that the same item lacked balance (standard R9), RNZ
reported that it found no justification for a contention that the report of a public
statement imposed an obligation to undertake an in-depth investigation into wider
employment-related matters. It also noted that the standard refers to balance "within the
period of current interest".
With reference to the item broadcast on 3 August on Nine to Noon, RNZ rejected the
standard R16 complaint, pointing out that it only applied to news programmes.
It also rejected the R9 aspect of the complaint, maintaining that the reading of the
facsimile was unrelated to any question of primary balance. Responding to the standard
R32 complaint, RNZ maintained that there was no statutory obligation for the presenter
to identify the author of the facsimile and, further, that the presenter was at liberty to set
the context of such a message by reference to gender, age or any other contextual factor if
it seemed relevant. It was unable to see how a breach of the standard occurred.
Mr Fudakowski's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority
Dissatisfied with RNZ's decision, in a letter and Complaint Referral Form dated 14
December 1993, Mr Fudakowski referred his complaints to the Broadcasting Standards
Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
Referring to the comments made by the interviewee in the 13 August interview, Mr
Fudakowski described as offensive the remark that high unemployment was a fact of life
and that there was little prospect of improvement over the next decade. He claimed that
these and similar comments ignored alternative options like job sharing.
Mr Fudakowski claimed that the fax which was read on 3 August attempted to legitimise a
gender bias and he accused the presenter of being sexist in the presentation of the material.
He maintained that both broadcasts were attempts to influence listeners' opinions by the
dissemination of unique viewpoints. A formal hearing was requested in view of the length
of time taken in dealing with the matters with the result that the period of current interest
has become academic. Mr Fudakowski claimed that the delay was prejudicial to his
RNZ's Response to the Authority
As is its practice, the Authority sought the broadcaster's response to the complaint. Its
letter is dated 16 December 1993 and RNZ's reply, 24 December.
RNZ commented that it believed Mr Fudakowski misunderstood the function of a radio
news bulletin service, which is to report and not to engage in investigative journalism.
Referring to the item on unemployment, it noted that the item reported the public
statements of two economists, each of whom had made a point about the recently released
Household Labour Force Survey figures. RNZ rejected any suggestion that reporting those
comments was an indication of bias. It wrote:
To contend that these public statements required contrary views, together with an
examination of all the variations of public employment policy, before those
statements might be published is to revert to the "flat earth" rule.
RNZ enclosed copies of the news items and a copy of its first informal response to Mr
Fudakowski, which made the points repeated above. RNZ also included a copy of the
general manager of National Radio's response concerning the second complaint which
involved the reading of a facsimile message sent in to Nine to Noon prompted by an
interview concerning child support policies and law. It pointed out that Nine to Noon was
not a news broadcast, was not reporting news and was putting the message in context by
noting that its author was a man (since he was criticising mainly male attitudes) and that
it was read to invite further public comment on the subject.
In concluding, RNZ suggested that Mr Fudakowski was attempting to adapt programme
standards to support an editorial policy which he preferred Radio New Zealand to follow.
It pointed out that that was outside the scope of the formal complaints legislation. RNZ
included a copy of his letter of 25 November which it believed appeared to support that
Mr Fudakowski's Final Comment to the Authority
When asked to comment on RNZ's response, in a letter dated 20 January 1994, Mr
Fudakowski took exception to a number of points.
He repeated that his objection was to the content of the news bulletins about high
unemployment becoming a fact of life which, he argued, was implicitly abusive.
Acknowledging that the matter was newsworthy, he nevertheless argued that the
comments by the economists should have been identified as opinions. In his view, such
opinions should be cautiously interpreted and qualified.
Mr Fudakowski suggested that the journalist could have asked different questions and
conducted an interview with the economists, instead of repeating verbatim, their views.