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HM and Radio New Zealand Ltd - ID2017-063 (6 September 2017)

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Radio New Zealand


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

On 29 July 2017 the complainant raised with the Authority a complaint he had made to RNZ which he considered was outstanding, regarding the use of te reo Māori greetings and closings by presenters on RNZ National. The broadcaster had not accepted the complaint as a formal complaint under the Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook. The Authority therefore did not have jurisdiction to accept the complainant’s referral. The Authority further noted that, even if the complaint referral had been validly made, it would have found the content of the complaint to be trivial and vexatious, and would have declined to determine it.

Declined Jurisdiction  


[1]  On 29 July 2017 the complainant raised with the Authority a complaint he had made to RNZ which he considered was outstanding, regarding the use of te reo Māori greetings and closings by presenters on RNZ National.

[2]  The complainant wanted to complain about a presenter on RNZ National who ‘calls herself “A HO” at the end of each news bulletin’. He said that the presenter also used ‘Te Ngae’ ‘as an alternative’. The complainant said that the presenter ‘reads the news in English, not Mardi’ and that the presenter made herself ‘a laughing stock’ by using the term. He said that this amounted to ‘over Maorification [sic] of Language’ which was ‘offensive when words [like] “ho” are used. It is an Americanisaton of the expression “Whore”’.

[3]  On 31 July 2017 Authority staff responded to the complainant to explain that while the Authority had received an enquiry from HM on the matter on 24 November 2016, at that stage, the original complaint was still with RNZ. Authority staff explained that the Authority was only able to accept a complaint referral after a formal complaint had been accepted and responded to by the relevant broadcaster. Authority staff further advised the complainant that the use of te reo Māori greetings on RNZ National was a matter of editorial discretion for the broadcaster, rather than an issue of broadcasting standards. It provided the complainant with a link to the RNZ website, which contained a collection of audio te reo greetings used on RNZ National, with English translations.1

[4]  The complainant did not accept this explanation and sent three further emails culminating in the request that the matter be put before the Authority.

[5]  Authority staff made enquiries with RNZ, who confirmed that HM’s complaint regarding the pronunciation of te reo was not accepted as a formal complaint by RNZ. RNZ did not accept the complaint as it related to the complainant’s personal preferences and was not capable of being resolved by the complaints procedure. HM was advised of this outcome in December 2016.

[6]  The Authority members have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Does the Authority have jurisdiction to accept and consider the complaint?

[7]  The jurisdiction of this Authority is typically triggered when a complainant has lodged a formal complaint with the relevant broadcaster about the contents of a programme, the broadcaster has accepted and considered that complaint, and then responded with a formal written decision advising the complainant of the outcome of their complaint.2

[8]  As explained above, RNZ did not accept and consider HM’s complaint formally, as the issue raised by the complainant in his complaint related to his own personal preference. In this circumstance, it is clear that we have no jurisdiction to consider the complaint. Accordingly, jurisdiction is declined.

[9]  While this ought to be the end of our analysis, we have however seen the correspondence sent by HM to Authority staff. We consider that the tone and language used by the complainant, both in the content of his complaint and in his correspondence with Authority staff, to be offensive, derogatory and dismissive of the proper purpose of this Authority.

[10]  Section 11 of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises the Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers:

(a)  that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or trivial; or

(b)  that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.

[11]  The policy behind section 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are sustained by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted on having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.3

[12]  In this case, we observe that even if RNZ had responded to this complaint formally, we would have declined to determine it, as we consider HM’s complaint to be both trivial and vexatious.4 His complaint disregards te reo Māori which is an official language in New Zealand and he has persisted in wasting Authority time and resources on a matter that is without foundation, either procedurally or substantively.

[13]  For these reasons we would have declined to determine the complaint under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For the above reasons the Authority declines jurisdiction to accept the complaint.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority



Peter Radich
6 September 2017


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

1     Correspondence between HM and RNZ – 30 September 2016-16 December 2016

2     HM’s email to BSA regarding outstanding complaint – 29 July 2017

3     BSA’s response to HM, advising no outstanding complaints – 31 July 2017

4     Further email from HM to BSA regarding use of te reo Māori greetings on RNZ National – 31 July 2017

5     BSA’s email to HM regarding process for complaint referral and guidance on te reo greetings – 3 August 2017

6     HM’s response to BSA on guidance (x3) – 3 August 2017

7     BSA’s response to HM, advising matter to be put before Authority – 4 August 2017

8     HM’s response to BSA – 12 August 2017

The exceptions are privacy complaints and complaints about election programmes, which may be made directly to the Authority.

Guidance: BSA power to decline to determine a complaint, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 63

A ‘trivial’ complaint is one which is of little or no importance, and is at such a level not to justify it being treated as a serious complaint. A ‘vexatious’ complaint is one which has been instituted without sufficient justifying grounds (Guidance, above, at pages 63-64)