Lindsay and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2022-003 (11 April 2022)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Douglas Lindsay
ProgrammeNine to Noon
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority declined to determine a complaint about an interview with National Party MP and Leader of the Opposition Christopher Luxon. The complaint alleged the interview was disrespectful and biased, with the interviewer interrupting and expressing their own political views. The Authority has consistently not upheld complaints of a similar nature, and this complaint did not raise any specific issues which would distinguish it from the previous findings on the same issue.
Decline to determine: Good Taste and Decency, Fairness, Balance (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989)
 On 1 November 2021 on Nine to Noon, host Kathryn Ryan interviewed recently appointed National Party leader and Leader of the Opposition Christopher Luxon MP. The interview lasted approximately 20 minutes and covered a number of topics. They discussed the leadership change within the National Party, Luxon’s intended approach to the leadership role, how Luxon would be different to the previous National Government, and National’s proposed solutions to ‘some of the biggest problems’. This included COVID-19 and healthcare, productivity and the economy, education, housing, debt, child poverty and tax.
 Douglas Lindsay complained the interview breached the fairness, balance and good taste and decency standards:
- ‘The interviewer constantly interrupted, during answers being given by the interviewee, seemingly to disrupt by changing to a different question/topic.’
- The interviewer’s conduct did not reflect ‘good manners’, ‘The fact that the interviewer is unseen by the public during the interview does not provide licence to behave in a way that would not be acceptable in public. For example constantly interrupting answers to questions.’
- ‘The questions asked were predetermined in type and reflected a political bias agenda on the part of the interviewer. Cutting off answers part way through clearly prevented balance and the interviewer's behaviour seemed to be intended to have the interviewee off balance throughout.’
- ‘In order for fairness to be demonstrated the interviewee [needs] to be allowed to give an answer in full even if that answer does not suit the agenda of the interviewer.’
- ‘The purpose of the interview was to give New Zealanders some insight into the new National party leader and what he stands for. It is not a platform for the interviewer to express their own political views or biases when the answers being given do not suit their personal points of view.’
The broadcaster’s response
 Radio New Zealand Ltd (RNZ) did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:
- ‘Robust and provocative questioning is a legitimate journalistic tool and a hallmark of good political journalism.’
- ‘Mr Luxon is the leader of a major political party and a former CEO of Air New Zealand, in these capacities he is known as an able media performer. He did not seem at all fazed by the questions put to him in the interview.’
- ‘The interview was in keeping with audience expectations and Mr Luxon was afforded ample opportunity to respond to the questions put to him. The interviewer controls the discussion and may interrupt or redirect an interviewee if they stray from the point or appear reluctant to answer a particular question. Mr Luxon was treated fairly, throughout.’
Outcome: Declined to determine
 Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority:
- The decisions of the Authority issued over time provide guidance to broadcasters and complainants about what is acceptable under the broadcasting standards. We have consistently not upheld complaints about fairness to politicians when being interviewed and this is reflected in BSA’s published guidance on complaints that are unlikely to succeed.1
- The complaint does not identify any specific issues which might distinguish it from the cases discussed in our guidance.
- With regard to the complaint under the balance standard, the complainant does not identify any controversial issues of public importance in respect of which Luxon was prevented from conveying a significant perspective.
- It is not a breach of standards for interviewers to take a position in an interview and challenge the interviewee from that position (a common interview technique).2
- In any event, having listened to the broadcast, we considered it within audience expectations for a political interview.
 Given the above, the Authority considers it appropriate to exercise its s 11(b) discretion in this instance. The broadcaster’s response appropriately explained why the interview did not breach standards. There is no need for this Authority to address the complaint any further.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
11 April 2022
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Douglas Lindsay’s complaint to RNZ – 7 December 2021
2 RNZ’s decision on the complaint – 24 December 2021
3 Lindsay’s referral to the Authority – 4 January 2022
4 RNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 22 February 2022
1 Broadcasting Standards Authority “Complaints that are unlikely to succeed” <www.bsa.govt.nz> (see “Fairness applied to politicians/public figures”); See also: Frewen and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-146B; Bowkett and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2020-103; Cowie and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-133; Downes, Penning, Maltby, Massie & Tang and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision No. 2020-123; and Marra and Mediaworks Radio, Decision No. 2019-023
2 See for example Jones and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2021-139 at ; and Garrett and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2017-079 at