Wilson and NZME Radio Ltd - 2023-045 (30 August 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Robert Wilson
ProgrammeMike Hosking Breakfast
BroadcasterNew Zealand Media and Entertainment
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
A news bulletin on Newstalk ZB reported on the upcoming speaking tour of New Zealand by Posie Parker. The complainant considered the item’s portrayal of Parker (including through its tone and description of Parker as an ‘anti-trans rights activist’ and a ‘trans-exclusionary speaker’ rather than a ‘women’s rights campaigner’) was in breach of the balance, fairness, accuracy and discrimination and denigration broadcasting standards. The Authority found the balance standard did not apply as the item was a straightforward news report which did not ‘discuss’ a controversial issue of public importance and, in any event, listeners would have been aware of alternative viewpoints. The Authority also found, given Parker’s views, the descriptions ‘anti-trans rights activist’ and ‘trans-exclusionary speaker’ were fair and accurate. The discrimination and denigration standard did not apply.
Not Upheld: Balance, Fairness, Discrimination and Denigration, Accuracy
 The 8.30am news bulletin, on 23 March 2023, during Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking Breakfast, referenced Posie Parker’s intended speaking tour to New Zealand:
News reader: An anti-transgender activist may be speaking to a sea of vibrant opposition in the capital. Trans-exclusionary speaker Posie Parker, who calls herself a women's rights activist, is coming to Auckland's Albert Park on Saturday and Wellington Civic Square on Sunday. Wellington City Council Cultural Committee Chair Terry O'Neill says her views aren't welcome here. She's seeking approval to light the Michael Fowler Centre in the colours of the Trans Pride flag on Sunday.
O’Neill: That's the Wellington I know in the past and we'd love to see that Wellington come out and support us this weekend as well.
News reader: But an immigration agent is suggesting Michael Wood could have intervened in the Posie Parker case if he'd wanted to. The Immigration Minister says the case of the anti-transgender activist did not meet the threshold for ministerial intervention. National's Immigration Spokesperson Erica Stanford agrees, saying the legislation sets a very high bar for refusing entry to New Zealand. But Malcolm Pacific Immigration Director David Cooper told Mike Hosking the Minister could have listened to those people opposed, saying:
Cooper: We actually don't want to see this going on. He's got women's organisations saying we don't like the cut of what's gonna be going on. He can take notice and he can intervene.
 Robert Wilson complained the broadcast breached the balance, fairness, discrimination and denigration and accuracy standards of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand for the following reasons:
- ‘There was absolutely no balance in this news piece… The piece took an ideological and political stance in relation to [Parker] and her reasons for coming to NZ and was not independent, nor did it ever try to be… It was presented in such a way to the audience as to chastise its subject matter with a tone of disapproval and contempt.’
- ‘[Newstalk ZB’s] political views should not be mass communicated to the public hiding under the pretext of balanced, accurate, and fair news reporting.’
- ‘The piece was unfair and clearly biased in the way it represented [Parker] and her position. No mention of advocacy for women and women speaking for themselves was made.’ ‘It inferred that [Parker] was an extremist and a disreputable person, rather than a person with an opinion on an important subject.’
Discrimination and Denigration
- ‘The news item, in a disparaging and dismissive way, through its choice of words and tone, actively denigrated and discriminated against [Parker] as a woman and a women’s rights campaigner.’
- ‘The news item stated that [Parker] calls herself a women's rights advocate/campaigner, in a disparaging and dismissive tone. It then went on to refer to her as an anti-trans-activist throughout the news item [without justifying this term].’
- It was inaccurate and deliberately misleading to describe [Parker] as an ‘anti-transgender activist' or 'trans-exclusionary speaker'. ‘That is not supported by her stance or activities…’ ‘It was used for inflammatory effect. Nothing more. Therefore it is inaccurate and misleading. She is a women's rights activist and only ever refers to herself in that capacity. The Newstalk ZB writer/s of this piece use the phrase “calls herself...” as if that in itself is misleading while their deliberately provocative and derisory terms are treated as being factually true.’
The broadcaster’s response
 NZME did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:
- ‘The Guidelines to this standard make clear that the standard will only apply where the subject matter is “a controversial issue or public importance” that is “discussed” in a news, current affairs or factual programme and that brief news reports may not amount to a discussion. In this case this was a brief news item and it would have been clear to listeners that it was not a detailed discussion on this topic and therefore this standard does not apply.’
- ‘In any event, the scheduled talks by [Parker] and her views regarding the transgender community were covered extensively in other broadcasts on Newstalk ZB and across all news media, and as such, listeners were presented with significant viewpoints in other broadcasts and would have been aware of significant viewpoints on this topic from other media coverage.’
- ‘[Parker] is a controversial and divisive public figure, accustomed to (and some would say experienced in generating) media attention and criticism. Consequently, we do not consider that the news reader’s description of [Parker] during the segment complained of resulted in unfairness to her.’
Discrimination and Denigration
- ‘As the Authority has consistently recognised1, Standard 4 only applies to recognised “sections of the community”, rather than to the treatment of particular individuals such as [Parker] and therefore this standard does not apply.2’
- ‘[NZME] are satisfied that the segment complained of is not materially inaccurate or misleading. Specifically, it is not materially inaccurate or misleading to describe [Parker] as an “anti-transgender activist”3 or “trans-exclusionary speaker”4. It is also correct to state that [Parker] describes herself as a women's rights activist.’
 The balance standard5 ensures competing viewpoints about significant issues are presented to enable the audience to arrive at an informed and reasoned opinion.6 The standard only applies to news, current affairs and factual programmes, which ‘discuss a controversial issue of public importance’.7
 The fairness standard8 protects the dignity and reputation of those featured in programmes.9 It ensures individuals and organisations taking part or referred to in broadcasts are dealt with justly and fairly and protected from unwarranted damage.
 The discrimination and denigration standard10 protects against broadcasts which encourage the discrimination against, or denigration of, any section of the community on account of sex, sexual orientation, race, age, disability, occupational status or as a consequence of legitimate expression of religion, culture or political belief.
 The purpose of the accuracy standard11 is to protect the public from being significantly misinformed.12 It states broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure news, current affairs or factual content is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. Where a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it within a reasonable period after they have been put on notice.
 We have listened to the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 As a starting point, we considered the right to freedom of expression. It is our role to weigh up the right to freedom of expression against any harm potentially caused by the broadcast. We may only intervene when the limitation on the right to freedom of expression is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.13
 Most of the points raised by the complainant have been dealt with in previous decisions, where the Authority considered similar complaints. Our findings under each of the standards are dealt with briefly below, with reference to the relevant previous decisions:14
- Balance:15 We do not consider the item amounted to a ‘discussion’ of a controversial issue of public importance. While Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ’s) decision to allow Parker’s visit (and the associated controversy and comments about her views), likely do amount to a ‘controversial issue of public importance,’16 they were not ‘discussed’ as part of this item. Rather, the item was a straightforward news report of approximately one minute, focused on the likelihood of protests at Parker’s events, in light of INZ’s decision. The Authority has previously found such reports do not constitute a ‘discussion’ for the purposes of the standard.17 Accordingly, the standard does not apply. In any event:
(a) We note the previous news bulletin, broadcast at 8am, presented the perspective of the Free Speech Union, who considered Parker should be allowed into New Zealand, and that it was ‘never right to shut down a debate’, and the issue itself was dealt with extensively in other media. Listeners would have therefore appreciated there were alternative viewpoints on this issue.
(b) We consider the complainant’s concerns under this standard (which focus on the broadcast’s treatment of Parker and her views) are more appropriately dealt with under the fairness standard.
- Fairness:18 We have recently found the use of the descriptor ‘anti-trans’ for Parker was not unfair given it is an accurate and reasonable characterisation of her publicly-expressed views.19 The broadcast also included Parker’s descriptor of herself as a ‘women's rights activist’. We further note Parker is a prominent and controversial figure in gender ideology debates, outspoken in her views, and familiar with media attention.20 We do not consider the broadcast in any way exceeded a level of treatment that could be expected of a public figure of Parker’s nature, nor did it leave listeners with an unfair impression of Parker.
- Discrimination and Denigration:21 The discrimination and denigration standard does not apply to individuals, but to recognised ‘sections of the community’. The complainant is concerned the broadcast’s description of Parker as an ‘anti-trans rights activist’ and a ‘trans-exclusionary speaker’ was discriminatory to Parker as ‘a woman, and women’s rights campaigner’. Although women are a section of society for the purposes of the standard, we consider the statement was directed toward Parker as an individual rather than women generally.22 In any event, we note the importance of freedom of expression means a high level of condemnation, with an element of malice or nastiness, is usually necessary to find a breach of the standard.23 The statement did not carry any element of condemnation or malice and, having listened carefully to the broadcast, we did not detect any ‘disparaging’ or ‘dismissive’ tone.
- Accuracy:24 The complainant’s key concern is that the broadcast was inaccurate as it described Parker as an ‘anti-trans rights activist’ and a ‘trans-exclusionary speaker’ rather than a ‘women’s rights campaigner.’ As we have noted above, the broadcast did include reference to Parker’s self-description as a women’s rights campaigner, and we have previously found the descriptors of ‘anti-trans’, and ‘trans-exclusionary’ are an accurate characterisation of her publicly-expressed views.25
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
30 August 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Robert Wilson's formal complaint - 23 March 2023
2 NZME’s response to the complaint – 26 April 2023
3 Wilson’s referral to the Authority – 24 May 2023
4 Wilson’s further comments regarding his original complaint – 24 May 2023
5 NZME’s reiteration of comments in its decision – 16 June 2023
6 Wilson's final comments - 30 June 2023
1 Foreman and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision no 2018-012 at .
2 Foreman and NZME Radio Ltd, Decision no 2018-012 at .
3 This term has been widely used by the media to describe Ms Keen-Minshull, citing “Anti-transgender activist Posie Parker to be allowed into New Zealand” RNZ (online ed, 22 March 2023) and “Posie Parker says ‘I will come back’: Controversial British anti-transgender activist plans return to NZ” New Zealand Herald (online ed, 1 April 2023)
4 ‘Trans-exclusionary radical feminist’ is a term used to distinguish transgender inclusive feminists from feminists who reject the assertion that trans women are women’ citing Wikipedia “TERF” <www.en.wikipedia.org>
5 Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
6 Commentary, Standard 5, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 14
7 Guideline 5.1
8 Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
9 Commentary, Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 20
10 Standard 4, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
11 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
12 Commentary, Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 16
13 Introduction, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at page 4
14 See: Cross and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2023-035; Absalom and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2023-030; Smyth & Douglas and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2023-036; and Ashton, Hickson & SUFW and Discovery NZ Ltd, Decision No. 2023-028
15 Guideline 5.1
16 See Cross and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2023-035 at 
17 See Boom and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2022-059 at  and Absalom and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision no 2023-030 at 
18 Standard 8, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
19 See Cross and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2023-035 at 
20 “Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull: Who is campaigner Posie Parker and why is she so controversial?” NZ Herald (online ed, 21 March 2023); “What are Posie Parker’s views and why are they so controversial?” RNZ (online ed, 24 March 2023)
21 Standard 4, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
22 Absalom and MediaWorks Radio Ltd, Decision no 2023-030 at 
23 Guideline 4.2
24 Standard 6, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand
25 Cross and Television New Zealand, Decision No. 2023-035