Gates and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2021-014 (29 June 2021)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
- Dennis Gates
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand National
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint that a Midday Report item regarding a boost in Kiwisaver funds breached the accuracy and fairness standards. The complainant argued the item was misleading, for not disclosing that the organisation which produced the relevant survey findings does not survey all Kiwisaver providers, and was unfair to Kiwisaver providers who were not surveyed. The Authority found the item would not have misled listeners and that the fairness standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Accuracy, Fairness
 During RNZ’s Midday Report on 2 February 2021, business editor Gyles Beckford reported a ‘big boost’ in Kiwisaver fund values, followed by further details given in a brief report by Nicholas Pointon:
Mr Beckford: Yes, the value of funds invested in Kiwisaver surged in the final three months of last year. The share markets hit record highs... A quarterly survey by research firm Morningstar showed assets under management rose by seven percent to more than 76 billion dollars. Nicholas Pointon has more details.
Mr Pointon: The tide of cheap money chasing better investment returns washed over share markets around the world. Sentiment was buoyed by better-than-expected recoveries in household finances, company earnings and economic growth, while central banks and government kept up with support programmes. For instance, the New Zealand share market gained around 14 per cent. The survey shows average returns varied between two per cent for the conservative default funds through to nearly nine per cent for aggressive funds. The more conservative the fund, the more assets they held in New Zealand, while growth funds chased the best returns overseas. About 45 per cent of funds invested were in income-generating assets, with 55 per cent in growth assets. Overall, the amount in Kiwisaver rose 13 billion dollars last year on the year before.
 Dennis Gates complained the broadcast breached the accuracy and fairness standards:
- ‘[The segment] introduced the analysis of Morningstar a rating agency. It was inaccurate and misleading as it did not disclose that Morningstar is a subscription business and it only rates those funds that pay for its services. The report presents the Morningstar results in a manner that implies it has assessed the performance of all Kiwisaver providers when it does not.’
- This is unfair to Kiwisaver providers that do not subscribe to Morningstar, as some of them may perform better than the results published by Morningstar.
The broadcaster’s response
 RNZ did not uphold Mr Gates’ complaint:
Whilst it is true that Morningstar operates a subscription business it is not true that it only rates its own subscribers. Morningstar’s broad industry survey includes all the major Kiwisaver providers, including the default providers, over all asset classes, and is widely accepted and reported on by general media and specialist investment media as one of the most reliable measures of the sector.
 The purpose of the accuracy standard1 is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.2 It states broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure any news, current affairs or factual programme is accurate in relation to material points of fact, and does not mislead.
 The fairness standard3 states broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in any broadcast. It protects the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes.4
 We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 We have also considered the right to freedom of expression, which is our starting point. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where the level of harm potentially caused by the broadcast outweighs the right to freedom of expression and justifies placing a reasonable limit on it.
 Audiences may be misinformed in two ways: by an inaccurate statement of fact within the programme or by being misled by the programme.5 To ‘mislead’ in the context of the accuracy standard means ‘to give another a wrong idea or impression of the facts’.6 Programmes may be misleading by omission.7
 Mr Gates’ primary concern triggers the second branch of the accuracy standard, alleging the item was misleading by not disclosing to listeners the Morningstar survey does not include all Kiwisaver providers. This omission, he argues, had the potential to mislead listeners.
 We do not consider the omission of further detail about how Morningstar operates or the scope of its quarterly survey would have resulted in listeners being misled. This is because:
- The main thrust of the item was reporting a boost in the value of Kiwisaver funds overall.
- Mr Pointon’s item provided a general outlook, rather than looking in detail at any particular Kiwisaver providers.
- No individual Kiwisaver providers were named, reducing the likelihood of listeners being misled as to the performance of any single provider, whether or not they were included in the Morningstar survey.
- The source of the survey findings, and the introductory statement reporting a ‘boost’ in the value of Kiwisaver funds, was clearly identified as Morningstar’s quarterly survey.8
- Morningstar is an investment research firm providing investing information and tools.9 It was reasonable for RNZ to rely on the Morningstar survey and summarise high-level findings.
- It was not necessary in the context of the item to give further details about the scope of the survey or which providers were included. The omission of these details would not have misled listeners in the manner alleged, given the focus of the item.
 Accordingly, we have not found any harm under the accuracy standard that justifies regulatory intervention or limiting the right to freedom of expression. We therefore do not uphold the accuracy complaint.
 We understand Mr Gates is complaining the item was unfair to any ‘Kiwisaver providers that don’t subscribe [to Morningstar’s services]’. The fairness standard applies only to individuals or organisations taking part or referred to in a broadcast. No individual Kiwisaver providers were referred to in the Midday Report item.
 Therefore the standard does not apply, and we do not uphold the complaint under the fairness standard.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
29 June 2021
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Dennis Gates’ complaint to RNZ – 2 February 2021
2 RNZ’s decision on the complaint – 16 February 2021
3 Mr Gates’ referral to the Authority – 16 February 2021
4 Mr Gates confirming standards raised – 23 February 2021
5 RNZ’s response to the referral – 12 March 2021
6 Mr Gates’ final comments – 15 April 2021
1 Standard 9 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
3 Standard 11 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
4 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
5 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 19
6 Attorney General of Samoa v TVWorks Ltd, CIV-2011-485-1110 at 
7 Commentary: Accuracy, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 19
8 See Dennis and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2018-029 at 
9 Morningstar “About Us” <www.morningstar.com>