BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Lowes and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2020-004 (16 June 2020)

Members
  • Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
  • Paula Rose QSO
  • Susie Staley MNZM
Dated
Complainant
  • Archie Lowes
Number
2020-004
Programme
NewsHub
Broadcaster
MediaWorks Radio Ltd
Channel/Station
The Breeze # 3

Summary

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

The Authority has declined to determine a complaint that a reference to ‘the future King of England’ during a news segment was inaccurate. The complainant has previously referred a number of complaints about similar issues to the Authority, which were either not upheld, with comprehensive reasons given for the Authority’s decision, or which the Authority declined to determine. The complainant’s appeal of a previous decision to the High Court on a similar issue was also dismissed. The Authority therefore declined to determine the complaint under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, on the grounds that it was trivial and vexatious.

Declined to Determine: Accuracy


The broadcast

[1]  A Newshub broadcast on The Breeze referred to Prince Charles as the ‘future King of England’.

[2]  This episode was broadcast on The Breeze on 17 November 2019.

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

The complaint

[4]  Archie Lowes complained that the interviewee’s reference to ‘the future King of England’ was inaccurate as ‘the prince was representing his mother, whose title is “Queen of New Zealand” when in New Zealand, and “Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” when in the UK.’

[5]  MediaWorks did not uphold the complaint, noting the Authority has previously ruled that a complaint on this same issue was trivial and vexatious.

Outcome: Declined to Determine

[6]  Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises this Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. The policy behind section 11 is that the time and resources of the Authority, which are, in the end, sustained by broadcasters and by the people of New Zealand, should not be wasted in having to deal with matters which objectively have no importance.1

[7]  Mr Lowes has previously referred a number of complaints about substantially similar issues to the Authority. Where complaints were not upheld, comprehensive reasons for the Authority’s decision were provided,2 and Mr Lowes’ appeal of one of those decisions was later dismissed in the High Court.3 The Authority has also previously declined to determine a complaint raised by Mr Lowes about the phrase ‘the Queen of England’, on the grounds that it was trivial.4

[8]  In our view, this complaint is also trivial. A ‘trivial’ complaint is defined as one which is of little or no importance and is at such a level not to justify it being treated as a serious complaint.5 The reference complained about clearly had no bearing on the programme as a whole which was about Prince Charles’ tour of New Zealand.

[9]  In addition, Mr Lowes’ current complaint does not raise any new issue that has not previously been addressed by the Authority. Mr Lowes continues to refer to the Authority substantially similar complaints, despite our earlier findings and the findings of the High Court on appeal. For this reason, we also consider that the referral of this complaint, raising a similar issue to one which we have previously declined to consider, was vexatious. A ‘vexatious’ complaint is one which has been instituted without sufficient justifying grounds, including where complaints are repeatedly referred about the same issue, although earlier complaints had been dismissed and comprehensive reasons given.6

[10]  We therefore decline to determine the complaint under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 on the grounds that it is trivial and vexatious.

[11]  As discussed above, Mr Lowes has referred multiple similar complaints to the Authority.7 Mr Lowes also unsuccessfully appealed one of these complaints to the High Court.8 The Authority’s empowering legislation allows for costs to be awarded between the parties. While MediaWorks did not seek an order of costs on this occasion, we note that if Mr Lowes continues to submit complaints of a similar nature, it may be open to the broadcaster to request reimbursement of reasonable costs incurred in dealing with Mr Lowes’ complaints in the future.

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

 

 

 

Judge Bill Hastings

Chair

16 June 2020


Appendix

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

1  Archie Lowes’ formal complaint – 12 December 2019

2  MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 12 December 2019

3  Mr Lowes’ referral to the Authority – 23 January 2019

4  MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comment – 8 May 2020


1 Guidance: BSA power to decline to determine a complaint, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, pages 63-64
2 See, for example: Lowes and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2016-072; Lowes and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2014-037; Lowes and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2005-050; Lowes and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2005-025
3 Lowes v MediaWorks TV Ltd [2017] NZHC 1130
4 Lowes and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2006-104
5 Guidance: BSA Power to Decline to Determine a Complaint, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 63
6 As above, page 64
7 See for example: Lowes and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. ID2018-063, Lowes and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2016-07 and Lowes and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No. 2014-037
8 Lowes v MediaWorks TV Ltd, CIV-2018-485-7 (2017) NZHC 1130