Malcolm and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2016-018 (27 June 2016)
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
- Paula Rose QSO
- Leigh Pearson
- John Malcolm
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand National
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
In its Morning Report programme RNZ replaced the Pacific and Te Manu Korihi bulletins with ‘feature or lead stories’, including those with a Māori focus. The Authority declined to determine a complaint about this scheduling change, finding it raised matters of editorial discretion and personal preference rather than broadcasting standards.
Declined to Determine: Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Responsible Programming
 In its Morning Report programme, RNZ replaced the Pacific and Te Manu Korihi bulletins with ‘feature or lead stories’, including those with a Māori focus.
 John Malcolm complained that this change ‘discriminate[d] against those of us in provincial [New Zealand] who need to be abreast of Māori and rural issues’, because rural New Zealanders listen to the radio at a much earlier time of day and will not necessarily be able to listen to the full Morning Report programme.
 The issue is whether the complaint raises matters of broadcasting standards which can properly be determined by this Authority.
 The members of the Authority have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
Does the complaint raise any issues which can properly be determined by this Authority?
 Mr Malcolm argued that ‘New Zealanders of all ethnicities, backgrounds, urban and rural homes take an interest in the news sectors omitted and we as rural citizens expect Māori, Pacific, rural and provincial news too at accessible times’. RNZ argued that ‘the complaint cannot be taken any further because it does not raise any broadcasting standards related issues about an identified programme’.
 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.
 In our view, Mr Malcom’s concerns, which relate to material that has not been broadcast rather than material that has been broadcast, raise matters of editorial discretion and personal preference.1 These are not issues of broadcasting standards but are rather matters within the control and responsibility of the broadcaster. Therefore, while we are sympathetic to Mr Malcolm’s concerns, these cannot be properly addressed under any of the broadcasting standards he has nominated and we consider it appropriate to decline to determine the complaint under section 11(b).
 Given that the essence of the complaint concerned programme selection and scheduling, which falls within the mandate of the broadcaster rather than this Authority, we consider it would have been appropriate for the broadcaster to address it as informal listener feedback, rather than as a formal complaint under the Radio Code. The broadcaster’s finding that the complaint was ‘not upheld’ and advising Mr Malcolm of his right to refer his complaint to the Authority indicated that it had been treated as a formal complaint, despite having also found that the complaint raised ‘editorial decisions’ rather than ‘formal broadcasting standards’.
 We remind broadcasters to take care when responding to complaints which do not raise matters of broadcasting standards. Using language associated with formal complaints can cause confusion and raised expectations, and may result in disappointment for members of the public who have taken the time to engage with us. The Authority has issued guidance on the power to decline to determine complaints,2 and we encourage broadcasters to make use of that guidance in instances where a complainant’s concerns are not issues that can be dealt with under this regime.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
27 June 2016
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 John Malcolm’s formal complaint – 8 February 2016
2 RNZ’s response to the complaint – 15 February 2016
3 Mr Malcolm’s referral to the Authority – 6 March 2016
4 RNZ’s response to the Authority – 4 May 2016
5 Mr Malcolm’s final comment – 17 May 2016
1 See section 5(c) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
2 See Practice Note: Section 11 powers to decline to determine a complaint (Broadcasting Standards Authority, June 2013)