BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2009-164

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Donald McDonald
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Radio New Zealand National

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Radio New Zealand National News – report on the future of superannuation payments in New Zealand – referred to “government superannuation” – allegedly inaccurate

Standard 5 (accuracy) – complaint trivial – decline to determine under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   A news item, broadcast on Radio New Zealand National News at 9am on Friday 30 October 2009, reported on the future of superannuation payments in New Zealand. The newsreader stated:

The Retirement Commissioner says the country needs to consider the future of government superannuation, with Treasury warning that government debt could balloon to two trillion dollars by 2050. Treasury yesterday presented its long-term fiscal statement suggesting several options to reign in government spending, including raising the age of eligibility for the pension to at least 67 as well as cutting back on the amount of super payments.

The Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan says she would like superannuation to stay as stable as possible, but she says this country needs to talk about what’s required for the future.

[2]   A brief recording of the Retirement Commissioner saying the country needed to have a discussion about what it could afford was included.


[3]   Donald McDonald made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd (RNZ), the broadcaster, alleging that the use of the term “government superannuation” in the report was inaccurate. He argued that the term government superannuation referred to the superannuation scheme for government employees and that a correct description would have been New Zealand superannuation.


[4]   RNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provides.

Standard 5 Accuracy

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:

  • is accurate in relation to all material points of fact; and/or
  • does not mislead.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   RNZ noted that Mr McDonald had previously made two identical complaints, neither of which had been upheld because “one minor inaccuracy did not affect the overall thrust of the item”. It declined to uphold the complaint that the news item was inaccurate.

Referral to the Authority

[6]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that it was inaccurate to describe the New Zealand superannuation fund as government superannuation and argued that it was not a minor point.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[7]   RNZ noted that the terms “government superannuation”, “pension”, “super payments” and “superannuation” were all used interchangeably in the item. It argued that the thrust of the item was a call by the Retirement Commissioner for a debate on the future of superannuation arrangements in this country given the forecasts made by Treasury.

[8]   The broadcaster noted that the news item had referred to “government superannuation” and not to the Government Superannuation Fund (GSF), which closed its membership in 1992 with as few as 15,683 members. RNZ contended that listeners would not have been confused by the reference to government superannuation.  

Complainant’s Final Comment

[9]   Mr McDonald argued that the item could have confused any GSF members who were listening to the report and maintained that Standard 5 had been breached.

Authority's Determination

[10]   The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[11]   The Authority notes that, over a number of years, Mr McDonald has repeatedly referred complaints about trivial accuracy points to the Authority.1 The accuracy standard changed in July 2009 and now only relates to “material points of fact”, and the use of the phrase “government superannuation” was clearly not material to the overall focus of this item. The Authority considers that Mr McDonald’s complaint was dealt with adequately by the broadcaster.

[12]   Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 allows the Authority to decline to determine a complaint which it considers to be frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. Pursuant to this section the Authority declines to determine this complaint on the grounds that the point raised by Mr McDonald was trivial.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
23 March 2010


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

1.           Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 30 October 2009
2.          RNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 24 November 2009
3.          Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 19 December 2009
4.          RNZ’s response to the Authority – 11 January 2010
5.          Mr McDonald’s final comment – 21 January 2010
6.          RNZ’s final comment – 26 January 2010

1See for example, McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-035, McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2005-012