BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Panoho and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 1994-017

Members
  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • R A Barraclough
  • L M Dawson
  • J R Morris
Dated
Complainant
  • Rangihiroa Panoho
Number
1994-017
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
National Radio


Summary

A news item broadcast in Maori on the National Programme at 6.08am on 15 July 1993

referred to the controversy which ensued after an essay about the appropriation of Maori

symbolism by Pakeha artists was published in the catalogue to an art exhibition in Sydney.

Mr Panoho, whose essay was the source of the controversy, complained to Radio New

Zealand Ltd that the broadcast failed to convey his views accurately and that it did not

deal fairly with him because it attributed to him views that were contradictory to his

published opinions.

In response, RNZ reported that the material in the news item had originated from a

published article it had examined which commented on Mr Panoho's essay. It believed

that the article's interpretation of Mr Panoho's views was accurate and considered that

because the broadcast was a factual report of publicly expressed opinions there was no

breach of broadcasting standards. It declined to uphold the complaint. Dissatisfied with

that decision, Mr Panoho referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority upheld the complaint and ordered the

broadcast of a summary of the decision.

Decision

The members of the Authority have read a translation of the transcript of the item

complained about and have read the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix).

Although requested by Mr Panoho to hold a formal hearing, because of the comprehensive

nature of the written submissions, the Authority has followed its usual practice and

determined the complaint on the papers.

The catalogue for an art exhibition in Sydney contained an essay which discussed the

appropriation of Maori symbols by Pakeha artists and was critical of one of the artists

whose work was featured at the exhibition. The essay generated considerable controversy

and was itself the subject of an article by Keith Stewart in the magazine Quote Unquote

entitled "A Catalogue of Insults". A news item which originated from Mr Stewart's

magazine article was broadcast in Maori at 6.08am on National Radio on 15 July 1993.

Mr Panoho, author of the essay in the exhibition catalogue, complained to RNZ that the

news item was in breach of broadcasting standards because it failed to reflect his views

accurately and failed to deal justly and fairly with him in attributing to him a view of

Maori symbols in art which contradicted his published views. He pointed out that because

the item relied on a secondary source for its information, it did not interpret his opinions

correctly. Mr Panoho sought an apology and requested a full and fair representation of

his views about the use of Maori symbolism by Pakeha artists in another broadcast.

RNZ, in its response to Mr Panoho, determined that the central aspect of the complaint

was the question of accuracy although it reported that it had assessed the complaint

against each of the standards of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice nominated by Mr

Panoho. Those standards (now renumbered) require broadcasters:

R1 To be truthful and accurate on points of fact in news and current affairs

programmes.


R5 To deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to in any

programme.


R9 To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters,

current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature, making

reasonable efforts to present significant points of view either in the same

programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.


The standards which apply particularly to news broadcasts read:


R15 Listeners should always be able to distinguish clearly and easily between

factual reporting on the one hand, and comment, opinion and analysis on

the other.


R16 News must be presented accurately, objectively and impartially.


Commenting first that the item did not purport to be an in-depth review of the Sydney

exhibition, nor an analysis of Mr Panoho's catalogue essay, RNZ advised that the brief

news report was based on the Quote Unquote article's interpretation of his views. Arguing

that that article was an authoritative reference and that the news report accurately

reflected its content, RNZ declined to uphold the complaint that it breached standard R1.

For its consideration of the complaint, the Authority was provided with a copy of Mr

Panoho's essay, as well as the Quote Unquote article and a transcript of the item. The

Authority noted that Mr Panoho in his essay was critical of the artist Gordon Walters' use

of the koru in his work, and argued that Walters' denial of the cultural significance of the

koru motif amounted to appropriation. In contrast, he referred to the work of the artist

Theo Schoon whose use of the koru in his drawings, paintings, gourd and jade carvings

was sympathetic to the cultural context of the motif. Comment on Mr Panoho's essay in

the article in Quote Unquote focused on the reaction to the criticism and reported that

considerable debate and acrimony had ensued at the Sydney exhibition and subsequently.

The article also included comment from other artists and critics on the quality and

substance of Mr Panoho's essay.

The Authority considered that the reliance on the Quote Unquote article for the substance

of the news item was unfortunate. In its view, RNZ took an unnecessary risk in relying on

a secondary source as an accurate synopsis of Mr Panoho's essay. It believed that Mr

Panoho's comments were distorted by being taken out of context and that RNZ's

conclusion that Mr Panoho "disagrees with Pakeha artists who use Maori symbols in their

artwork" was inaccurate and unfair to him. That remark, the Authority noted, only

applied to Mr Panoho's view about one Pakeha artist and was not an accurate

representation of his views about other Pakeha artists (for example, Theo Schoon) who use

Maori symbols. Accordingly, the Authority upheld the complaint that the item breached

standard R1 because it was inaccurate.

Standard R5 was the second standard raised. Mr Panoho claimed it was breached because

by attributing to him a view of Maori art which contradicted his published opinion, it had

not dealt with him fairly.

RNZ maintained that the news item fairly reflected the complainant's general views

concerning the use of traditional Maori symbols. It believed it fairly reported the views in

his essay and did not misrepresent the opinions of the critics and other artists who

commented on it.

The Authority considered that the Quote Unquote article was selective about the

information it extracted from the original essay and RNZ was then selective about what it

reported from the Quote Unquote article. What resulted was, in its view, an unfair

synopsis of Mr Panoho's essay which, although it did contain the criticism of Gordon

Walters' use of the Maori motif, did so with qualifications and did not suggest that Pakeha

artists should never use the koru or other Maori symbols. Accordingly the Authority

sustained Mr Panoho's allegation that the item ascribed to him an opinion which

contradicted his published views. It upheld the complaint that the item breached standard

R5.

Referring to standard R9, Mr Panoho maintained that the item failed to show impartiality

and fairness in dealing with a question of a controversial nature because it failed to

represent his views accurately. RNZ's response was that the item had internal balance

because it balanced his views with those of other artists and critics.

The Authority considered that on this occasion, standard R9 was subsumed by standard R5

and that Mr Panoho's concerns were comprehensively dealt with under that standard.

The essence of the complaint was that the statement attributed to him was incomplete and

inaccurate and, consequently, misrepresented his views.

Mr Panoho complained that standard R15 was breached because listeners would not have

been able to ascertain which of the remarks were fact and which were opinion. In

response, RNZ maintained that because the item was a factual report of publicly-expressed

opinion, there was no question of confusion between editorial opinion and fact.

In the Authority's assessment, this standard did not apply because, although listeners

would not have known that the report was paraphrasing a secondary source, the critical

focus of the complaint was that the item was an inaccurate summary of Mr Panoho's

published views. The Authority believed that Mr Panoho's concerns were addressed under

standards R1 and R5 discussed above.

The final standard cited, standard R16, requires broadcasters to present news fairly and

accurately. RNZ considered that this standard could be subsumed under standard R1

discussed above, whereas Mr Panoho insisted that it should be assessed independently.

On this occasion, the Authority agreed with RNZ that standard R16 could be subsumed

under standard R1 and, as noted above, it upheld the R1 aspect of the complaint.

The final matter the Authority was asked to consider was the delay of more than 80

working days between the time the complaint was received by RNZ and when it responded

to the complainant. The Authority sought from the broadcaster an explanation for the

lengthy delay and was advised that it was inadvertent and arose because key personnel in

the complaints area were on leave at the time. The Authority considered that the delay

was unacceptable because it was a significant breach of the broadcaster's statutory

obligation and believed that it exacerbated the breaches and clearly and understandably

added to the frustration of Mr Panoho. It expressed the hope that such delays would be

avoided in future.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority upholds the complaint that

the broadcast by Radio New Zealand Ltd of an item on the Maori News on

15 July 1993 breached standards R1 and R5 of the Radio Code of

Broadcasting Practice.


The Authority declines to uphold any other aspect of the complaint.


Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make an order under s.13(1) of the

Broadcasting Act 1989. Because of the failure of the item to represent Mr Panoho's views

fairly, the resulting injustice to him and the inordinate delay in responding to his formal

complaint, the Authority has decided to impose an order on this occasion.

Order

Pursuant to s.13(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders

Radio New Zealand Ltd to broadcast a brief summary of this decision,

approved by the Authority. The statement shall be broadcast during the

news in Maori within 14 days of the date of this decision.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Iain Gallaway
Chairperson
18 April 1994

Appendix


Mr Panoho's Complaint to Radio New Zealand Limited

In a letter dated 26 July 1993, Mr Rangihiroa Panoho complained to Radio New Zealand

Ltd that an item broadcast at 6.08am on 15 July 1993 inaccurately ascribed to him views

about the appropriation of Maori symbolism by Pakeha artists. He complained that as a

consequence he was not dealt with fairly and accurately because he was attributed a view

of Maori art which was contradictory to his published views.

He quoted an extract from his essay which was included in the exhibition catalogue where

he gave an example of how a Pakeha artist had made appropriate use of the koru symbol

in his work.

Mr Panoho also complained that the reporter failed to show impartiality in dealing with a

question of a controversial nature, and that the comments were presented in such a way

that listeners would not have been able to distinguish between factual reporting and

comment. Finally, Mr Panoho complained that the reporter failed to ensure that the item

accurately represented his views.

Mr Panoho requested an apology, a withdrawal of the misrepresentation of his views and

a full and fair representation of his views on the use of Maori symbolism by Pakeha artists.

RNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint

RNZ advised Mr Panoho of its Complaints Committee's decision in a letter dated 17

November 1993.

It apologised for the delay in its response and went on to report that as a preliminary step

it had determined that the central issue was the question of accuracy. To that end it noted

that it had a translation of the full item and a copy of an article by Keith Stewart from the

July 1993 edition of the magazine Quote Unquote, entitled "A Catalogue of Insults". This

article covered the catalogue issued with the exhibition in Sydney which had included Mr

Panoho's essay "Maori: At the Centre, On the Margins" described by Mr Stewart as:

...a radical and moralistic commentary on the relationship between Maori culture

and Pakeha art [in which] he accuses Walters of "appropriating" (artspeak for

stealing) Maori symbols and claims Maori artists have exclusive rights of

interpretation by birth... .

Mr Panoho's essay reportedly aroused a great deal of controversy both in Sydney among

the exhibitors, and subsequently in New Zealand. Referring to Mr Panoho's example of

how a Pakeha artist had appropriately used a Maori symbol in his work, RNZ noted that

in an article of five pages in length this was briefly mentioned but that the general

interpretation of Panoho's essay was that only Maori were entitled to use Maori symbols.

RNZ concluded that the item was a factual report of opinions which were publicly

expressed, and that therefore there was no confusion between editorial opinion and fact.

It declined to uphold any aspect of the complaint.

Mr Panoho's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

Dissatisfied with RNZ's decision, in a Complaint Referral Form dated 16 December 1993,

Mr Panoho's solicitors referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

Repeating the grounds outlined in his initial complaint to the broadcaster, Mr Panoho

then explained the reasons why he was dissatisfied with the broadcaster's decision. He

maintained that the grounds of his complaint were not interpreted correctly. He

challenged RNZ's use of the Keith Stewart article as an authoritative reference. In his view

it was an opinion and did not interpret his views correctly and should not have been used

by the broadcaster as a justification for the broadcast. Mr Panoho maintained that the

broadcaster should have sought his views directly from him or from his essay. He also

claimed that the response from the broadcaster was out of time.

Mr Panoho noted that although the item may have correctly interpreted his critics' views,

it did not justly and fairly state his views. Because he was not consulted for his views, nor

was his published opinion referred to, Mr Panoho argued that the item did not give a

balanced account of the matter. Finally, he challenged RNZ's reasoning that if there was

no breach of clause 1.1(a), there could be no breach of 5.2(b). He argued that each

should have been assessed independently.

Mr Panoho requested that he present his complaint orally and that the Authority hold a

formal hearing. He explained that the matter has had a serious impact on his reputation

as a polytechnic lecturer and writer on Contemporary Maori Art.

RNZ's Response to the Authority

As is its practice, the Authority sought the broadcaster's response to the complaint. Its

letter is dated 17 December 1993, and RNZ's reply 10 February 1994.

Accompanying RNZ's response was a copy of the article "A Catalogue of Insults" which was

the basis for the item and a copy of Mr Panoho's essay. RNZ also included a transcript of

the item in Maori and an English translation of it in full.

RNZ suggested that there was no practical difference between standards 1.1(a) and 5.2(b)

(now renumbered R1 and R16) and between 1.1(e) and 1.1(i) (now renumbered R5 and

R9).

Quoting the views of the Manager of Te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa, RNZ pointed out that the

news item should be considered in its entirety and contended that it fairly reflected the

complainant's general views concerning the use of traditional Maori symbols. It added

that those views were particularly unkind to Gordon Walters, described by the Manager of

Te Reo Irirangi as a "venerated doyen figure" in New Zealand art circles.

The essay, in the view of the Manager of Te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa, extended the thesis

that Pakeha artists should not use Maori symbols to many other artists.

Finally, RNZ noted that the news item, which was broadcast only once, was aimed at

reflecting the Sydney exhibition and Gordon Walter's use of the koru. It did not aim to

deal in detail with the use of Maori symbols by other Pakeha artists.

Mr Panoho's Final Comment to the Authority

When asked to make a brief final comment to the Authority, Mr Panoho responded in a

letter dated 20 March 1994.

Mr Panoho maintained that the item failed to fairly represent his published views in the

Museum of Contemporary Art catalogue, and rejected the assertion made by the manager

of Te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa that it fairly reflected his general views on the use of

traditional Maori symbols. He maintained that a closer reading of his original essay

showed that the debate had been sensationalised by Keith Stewart's article entitle "A

Catalogue of Insults".

Mr Panoho claimed that he was misrepresented by RNZ when it reported that he disagreed

with Pakeha artists who use Maori symbols in their artwork. As he pointed out, in his

essay he was careful to make the point that there are works by Pakeha artists such as

McCahon and Schoon which involve the use of Maori symbolism which he agrees with.

He argued that whether or not his comments about Gordon Walters were regarded by the

manager of Te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa as unkind was irrelevant. He concluded:

Inaccurate reportage and incorrect sweeping generalisations can surely not be

justified by the angle that it was only a sentence or that the news item didn't

attempt to deal with the detail. This does not change the nature of the item

involving inaccuracies presented as factual material to the listener - a breach of the

Code of Practices standards as outlined in previous correspondence.

Further Correspondence

In a letter dated 9 March 1994, the Authority sought from RNZ an explanation as to the

reason for the long delay between when the complaint was received and when it

responded (about 80 days).

RNZ responded by telephone on 11 March that the delay was caused by the fact that key

staff were absent on leave when the complaint was received and that the complaint was

inadvertently overlooked for some time. RNZ noted that the complainant had been

notified of the reason for this delay and offered an apology.