Spring and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2021-072 (6 September 2021)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- Ray Spring
BroadcasterRadio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/StationRadio New Zealand
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority has declined to determine a complaint regarding a news item which included a quote from Liz Cheney calling Donald Trump’s claims that he had won the 2020 US Election ‘dangerous lies’. The complainant was concerned about RNZ referring to some politicians as liars but not others. The Authority found the content of the complaint did not relate to the substance of the broadcast, and was not capable of being properly determined by a complaints procedure.
Declined to Determine: Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy, Fairness (section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989)
 An item on Morning Report broadcast on 13 May 2021 covered the US Republican Party’s vote to ‘sack Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership position in the House’ after she ‘clashed with some of her party over her criticism of former President Donald Trump’. The broadcast referred to President Donald Trump having described Ms Cheney as a ‘bitter horrible human being’ and included clips of Ms Cheney speaking. She said, ‘We cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies of a former president’.
 Ray Spring complained to RNZ about the broadcast, raising the Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy and Fairness standards. Mr Spring was concerned about RNZ reporting that Mr Trump was lying, and suggested that RNZ should either report when other major political figures are lying or not report that Mr Trump was lying:
- ‘If Radio NZ state that President Trump is lying, but seldom report other major political figures are lying, then it is totally unacceptable.’
- ‘I do not need to be selectively told President Trump is lying, unless you can vet all of your news and reliably advise your listeners which statements are true and which are false. I think I am able to make up my own mind if a politician is lying. It is generally considered they are lying when their lips are moving.’
The broadcaster’s response
 RNZ did not uphold the complaint, writing to Mr Spring:
Your complaint rejects RNZ’s reporting of the facts surrounding this event on the basis that you do not want to be ‘selectively told that President Trump is lying’. Effectively, you are saying that RNZ has manufactured a defeat of Mr Trump that never happened. Of course, you are entitled to believe this, but it is contrary to the findings of all the American courts that considered the cases put before them by Mr Trump’s supporters. Your complaint is without merit and is not upheld under the Programme Information, Discrimination and Denigration, Balance, Accuracy and Fairness standards.
Outcome: Declined to determine
 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, the complaint does not relate to the substance of the broadcast and raises points of personal preference which are not capable of being resolved by a complaints procedure.1
 The content of the complaint is focused on the complainant’s view that the broadcast says Mr Trump is lying when other broadcasts do not say politicians are lying.
 Given that, the Authority considers it appropriate to exercise its s 11(b) discretion.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
6 September 2021
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Ray Spring’s complaint to RNZ – 13 May 2021
2 RNZ’s decision on the complaint – 15 June 2021
3 Mr Spring’s referral to the Authority – 24 June 2021
4 RNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 30 July 2021
1 Broadcasting Act 1989, s 5(c)