Ong and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2022-029 (6 July 2022)
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Aroha Beck
- Ong Su-Wuen
ProgrammeNine to Noon
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has not upheld a complaint alleging a Nine to Noon interview discussing the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill breached the balance and fairness standards. The item included interviews with current and former Children’s Commissioners, who were both generally opposed to the proposed legislation. As the item was clearly signalled as coming from a particular perspective, and the existence of other perspectives was indicated within the broadcast, the Authority found there was no need to include other perspectives within the item itself. In the circumstances it was unlikely listeners would have been left uninformed or unaware there were other perspectives on the issue. The fairness standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness
 On 29 January 2022, on Nine to Noon, host Kathryn Ryan interviewed current Children’s Commissioner, Judge Frances Eivers and a former Children’s Commissioner, Dr Russell Wills. They discussed the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System and Children and Young People’s Commission Bill. Ryan introduced the segment saying both guests were:
…speaking out against plans to scrap the Commissioner role and overhaul the monitoring of Oranga Tamariki, or at least the way it’s being proposed. Legislation would replace the Children's Commissioner role with a new Children and Young Persons Commission, which would be run by a board of three to six members. The Bill also plans to set up a new monitor of Oranga Tamariki, bringing it within the purview of the Education Review Office...
 Judge Eivers and Dr Wills each explained how they disagreed with the proposed legislation, including raising concerns: that the new children’s monitor would not be independent; that breaking the functions of the Children’s Commissioner into separate entities would ‘dilute’ the advocacy role; that having a board instead of a commissioner was ‘faceless and nameless’; and that there was no requirement to have Māori on the proposed board (just that ‘the board should have 50% of people who have Māori knowledge and experience of tikanga’). They also disagreed with suggestions in support of the Bill, that the Commissioner role was ‘too big’ or that the advocacy and monitoring roles conflicted with each other.
 Ong Su-Wuen complained the item only presented ‘one side of the argument’:
- The item presented the view ‘that the government’s proposed reforms were bad or deficient.’
- ‘No government official or Minister or supporter of the reform was interview[ed]. Nor [were] their comments sought or presented.’
- ‘Ms Ryan seemed to indulge in her own views and prejudices – instead of doing the public good thing of challenging the views of her interviewees. All she did was to amplify the views of the interviewees instead of testing them and holding them up to scrutiny. This is her primary role in [interviews] with people putting forth their opinions.’
- ‘It isn’t good enough to merely say that the listener was warned that only one perspective was going to be highlighted. As a listener and concerned citizen, I want and need to hear all perspectives, not just one.’
- ‘If RNZ was going to present the other perspective separately, they should inform the listener at that time. They didn’t do this, probably because they didn't present the other perspective at any later time. If they did, I'm sure RNZ’s reply would have pointedly made reference to it.’
The broadcaster’s response
 Radio New Zealand Ltd considered the complaint under the balance standard, and did not uphold the complaint:
The conversation is clearly framed as approaching the proposed plan from a particular perspective. ‘The Children's Commissioner and one of her predecessors are speaking out against plans to scrap the Commissioner role and overhaul the monitoring of Oranga Tamariki.’ The audience will be aware, from RNZ’s news coverage and that of other media, that differing views exist but the opinions of two people who have served in the role of Children’s Commissioner are significant views worthy of journalistic investigation. Nine to Noon makes every effort to present significant points of view within the period of current interest.
The relevant standard
 The balance standard2 states when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programmes, broadcasters should make reasonable efforts, or give reasonable opportunities, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.3 The standard only applies to news, current affairs and factual programmes, which discuss a controversial issue of public importance.4
 The original complaint also nominated the fairness standard,5 which requires broadcasters to deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in any broadcast.6 As the complaint did not specify who was treated unfairly and it was focused on the broadcast being ‘unbalanced’, we do not uphold the complaint under the fairness standard. We agree with the broadcaster that the complainant’s concerns are appropriately addressed under the balance standard.
 We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 The right to freedom of expression is an important right in a democracy and it is our starting point when considering complaints. We weigh the right to freedom of expression against the harm that may have potentially been caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene and uphold a complaint where limiting the right to freedom of expression is reasonable and justified, in light of actual or potential harm caused.
 The harm alleged in this case is that by omitting balancing viewpoints, the broadcaster did not enable viewers to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion on the issue being discussed – the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System, the Children and Young People's Commission Bill, and the Government’s proposal to replace the Children’s Commissioner with a Commission of three to six members, and remove the Commissioner’s investigative powers.
 The balance standard only applies when controversial issues of public importance are discussed in news, current affairs or factual programming.7 We find the issue in this programme – the proposed changes to the Children’s Commissioner role and the oversight of Oranga Tamariki – is an issue of great importance to the New Zealand public, and is controversial (particularly as it excites conflicting opinion or debate).8 Nine to Noon is clearly a news and current affairs programme. Accordingly, the balance standard applies.
 In assessing whether a reasonable range of significant perspectives on this issue were presented in the programme, we took into account the following:9
- The interviews were clearly signalled as coming from a particular perspective, with the guests introduced as ‘speaking out’ against the Government proposal. The balance standard does not prohibit this, nor does it require every significant perspective on an issue to be presented in every programme discussing that issue.
- Rather, the Codebook and previous Authority decisions recognise that, in this context, acknowledging the existence of other views may be sufficient to meet the requirements of the standard.10
- When a challenge to a proposed piece of legislation is presented, listeners can reasonably be expected to be aware there are other perspectives on the issue (ie, the Government proposing the legislation would obviously be in support of it).
- In any case we consider the item outlined the proposed changes sufficiently for listeners to understand what the Government’s position was, and form their own views on it.
- The host and the guests also gave an indication of other views, commenting that the Bill suggested the Commissioner role was ‘too big’ and that the advocacy and monitoring functions were in conflict (although they disagreed with these points).
 In these circumstances, the balance standard did not require the inclusion of any further perspectives within the item. We note the focus of the standard is to ensure the audience is not misinformed by the omission of a significant viewpoint or viewpoints.10 Given the item was clearly signalled as coming from a perspective criticising proposed legislation, and indicated other views, we think it unlikely listeners would have been left uninformed or unaware there were other perspectives on this issue.
 We have therefore not found any potential harm outweighing the right to freedom of expression and we do not uphold the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
6 July 2022
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Ong Su-Wuen’s complaint to RNZ – 29 January 2022
2 RNZ’s decision on the complaint – 28 February 2022
3 Ong’s referral to the Authority – 19 March 2022
4 RNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 29 April 2022
1 Susie Staley declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the decision
2 Standard 8 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
3 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
4 As above
5 Standard 11 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice
6 Commentary: Fairness, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 21
7 Guideline 8a
8 Commentary: Balance, Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand Codebook, page 18
9 Guideline 8c
10 Bidwell and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-003 at 
11 Commentary, Balance, as above; see also Honour The Maunga and Radio New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2021-049 at