Makiri and NZME Radio Ltd - 2020-061 (16 November 2020)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
- Stephen Makiri
BroadcasterNew Zealand Media and Entertainment
Channel/StationNewstalk ZB # 2
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority found it was appropriate to decline to determine a complaint about the mispronunciation of Māori place name ‘Matamata’ during a radio item on Newstalk ZB. While it recognised the importance of the proper pronunciation and use of te reo as an official New Zealand language, it noted concerns about unintentional mispronunciation cannot be properly addressed under the broadcasting standards.
Declined to Determine (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, in all the circumstances): Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
 Stephen Makiri complained to NZME Radio Ltd about the mispronunciation of the Waikato town ‘Matamata’ on Newstalk ZB.
 Mr Makiri is generally concerned about the mispronunciation of Māori place names and, as formal broadcasting standards complaints can only be made in relation to specific broadcast material, identified as an example ‘Matamata’ being pronounced ‘matter-matter’ in the broadcast. He said this breached the discrimination and denigration and accuracy standards because:
Discrimination and denigration
- Māori are a recognised section of the community as identified through whakapapa or Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
- The Māori language has been bastardised in a way that is prejudicial to Māori.
- By mispronouncing Matamata, ‘the hosts are encouraging discrimination’.
- ‘Radio stations have influence over listeners by way of consistency. This consistent mispronunciation over the radio station creates discrimination in the community because Mattermatter is used in every day conversation rather than Matamata.’
- ‘The purpose of this standard is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed. I was significantly misinformed because I do not know what or where Mattermatter is.’
- ‘The content of the interview hinged on the place name provided. If the wrong place name is given then that is significant.’
 Mr Makiri said NZME claimed it worked with its radio hosts on the correct pronunciation of te reo Māori. However, he had ‘been sending emails to NZME regarding the incorrect pronunciation of Māori words for more than 2 years and there has been little or no improvement’. He said their use of reference guides was ‘not working’.
 Mr Makiri referred his complaint to this Authority on the basis the broadcaster did not respond to him within the required 20-working-day statutory timeframe.
The broadcaster’s response
 Responding to the complaint referral, NZME did not consider either standard was breached for the following reasons:
Discrimination and denigration:
- ‘…this is not a case where the complaint relates to the views expressed by a host, but rather one of imperfect pronunciation.’
- ‘…we do not believe that any perceived mispronunciation of a Te Reo place name without any malice present can be equated with “encouraging discrimination or denigration” within the terms of this standard.’
- ‘Viewed in the context of the segment we do not consider that the host’s pronunciation of “Matamata” can be construed as a “material inaccuracy” such as would significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.’
Outcome: Declined to determine
 Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises the Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by it.
 As a regulator we are aware of the importance of proper pronunciation and use of te reo Māori as an official New Zealand language. However, unintentional mispronunciation of te reo is not specifically captured in the standards. We would be very cautious about imposing or applying standards that may have the unfortunate effect of discouraging broader learning and use of te reo.
 Historically, concerns raised by members of the public about pronunciation have been treated as feedback that is appropriately directed to the relevant broadcaster, so that it may be taken up internally. NZME indicated it works to educate its staff regarding the correct pronunciation of te reo Māori and values listener feedback to help with this. We encourage NZME to continue this training.
 However, in all the circumstances, it is appropriate to decline to determine the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
16 November 2020
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Stephen Makiri’s complaint to NZME – 20 May 2020
2 Mr Makiri’s referral to the Authority – 24 June 2020
3 NZME’s and Mr Makiri’s correspondence with the Authority regarding history of the complaint – 24 June 2020
4 NZME’s comments responding to the referral – 8 July 2020
5 Mr Makiri’s final comments – 24 August 2020