BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Terry and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1998-050, 1998-051, 1998-052

Members
  • S R Maling (Chair)
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
  • J Withers
Dated
Complainant
  • Robert Terry
Number
1998-050–052
Programme
One Network News
Channel/Station
TV One


Summary

The ACT Party annual conference was the subject of items on One Network News

broadcast between 6.00–6.30pm on 14 and 15 March 1998. Items on the news on

Tuesday 24 March included a report on the increase in the world price of crude oil,

and a discussion about the high price of groceries in Queenstown in view of the

absence of a supermarket.

Mr Terry complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, about each of

these items. The views advanced at the ACT conference, he wrote, required balance,

and the matters covered on 24 March merited a response from politicians about the

effects of capitalism.

In response, TVNZ said the 14 March item about ACT's plans for beneficiaries had

been balanced by comment by Ms Clark, the leader of the Labour Party; the

comments from Ms Richardson on 15 March about her participation in the

forthcoming by-election did not require balance; and it did not believe the items

broadcast on 24 March breached the nominated standards.

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decisions, Mr Terry referred the complaints to the

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

For the reasons below, the Authority declines, in all the circumstances, to determine the

complaints.


Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed the items complained about and have read

the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). In this instance, the Authority

determines the complaints without a formal hearing.

Robert Terry complained to TVNZ about items broadcast on One Network News on

14, 15 and 24 March 1998. The first two complaints focussed on aspects of the

coverage of the ACT Party annual conference, while the third dealt with a series of

stories which, in some way, raised economic issues. Mr Terry complained that the

first two were unbalanced, and that the third, in addition to being unbalanced, was

neither accurate nor impartial.

TVNZ assessed each complaint under standard G6 of the Television Code of

Broadcasting Practice. It requires broadcasters:

G6   To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political

matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

It assessed the third complaint under standard G14 as well. It reads:

G14  News must be presented accurately, objectively and impartially.


TVNZ considered that the first item, which referred to ACT's policy towards

beneficiaries, was balanced in view of the comments included in the broadcast from the

leader of the Labour Party. TVNZ believed that the announcement by a former

member of Parliament and cabinet minister of her participation in a forthcoming by-

election did not require balance, and, observing that it found the third complaint

"obscure", maintained that each item broadcast on 24 March was complete in itself

and thus did not require balance.

Having examined each referral carefully, the Authority finds it difficult to understand

the points which Mr Terry is trying to make in the complaints. It agrees with TVNZ

that the two items about the ACT Party conference did not contravene standard G6

as, in the first, balance was included, and it considers the second did not call for

balance. It also agrees with TVNZ that the basis of the third complaint is obscure.

Because of the lack of clarity in the complaints which have been referred on this

occasion, and because the subject matter is not necessarily amenable to resolution by

the Broadcasting Act's formal complaint process, the Authority believes that its most

appropriate response is to exercise the powers in s.11(b) of the Broadcasting Act.

 

For the reasons above, the Authority decides, in all the circumstances of the

complaints, not to determine them.


Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Lyndsay Loates
Member
21 May 1998

Appendix


Robert Terry's Complaints to Television New Zealand Ltd


The First Complaint

In a letter dated 14 March 1998, Mr Terry, who described himself as the "Reefton

District Attorney" complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, about a news item

broadcast on One Network News on 14 March 1998.

The item reported that the leader of the Act Party, Hon Richard Prebble, while

speaking about what the Party regarded as the excess number of beneficiaries, said that

the Party's policy was to reduce the number of beneficiaries by 250,000.

The item included the response from Hon Helen Clark, the leader of the Labour Party.

Mr Terry maintained that the item reporting ACT policy required balance, and that

this was not provided adequately by Ms Clark. He argued that the capitalist society

was the issue which needed to be debated.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint – 23 March 1998

Assessing the complaint under the standard nominated by Mr Terry (G6), TVNZ

pointed out that Mr Prebble's attack on beneficiaries was one of the newsworthy

issues raised at the ACT Party's annual conference.

TVNZ considered that a response from Ms Clark provided the appropriate balance,

and it declined to uphold the complaint.

Mr Terry's Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – Received 8 April
1998

Dissatisfied with TVNZ's decision, Mr Terry referred the complaint to the

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


TVNZ's Reply to the Authority – 14 April 1998

As Mr Terry had not given any reasons for his dissatisfaction, TVNZ advised the

Authority it had nothing to add beyond expressing the opinion that the complaint was

"at the very least, vexatious and trivial."

The Second Complaint

In a letter dated 15 March 1998, Mr Terry complained that the news item that

evening reporting on the ACT Party annual conference was unbalanced and in breach

of standard G6.

The item showed Hon Ruth Richardson, a former Cabinet Minister with the National

Party and now a member of ACT, stating that she would campaign for the ACT Party

in the King Country by-election. She sought, she said, a government consisting of a

coalition between National and ACT.

The item was unbalanced, Mr Terry alleged, as it contained no comment from the

present Prime Minister or the current coalition partner. Further, Mr Terry wrote, the

next government should investigate the dramatic growth of the student loan scheme.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint – 23 March 1998

Assessing the complaint under the nominated standard, TVNZ said it could find

nothing in the item which breached standard G6. It had reported a newsworthy

announcement by Ms Richardson, and the complaint was not upheld. TVNZ was

unable to determine the relevance of Mr Terry's comment about the student loan

scheme.

Further Correspondence

Mr Terry's referral of the complaint to the Authority (received on 8 April), and

TVNZ's report to the Authority (dated 14 April) are identical to the first complaint

(summarised above).

The Third Complaint

Another complaint was made to TVNZ by Mr Terry in a letter dated 24 March 1998.

On this occasion, he claimed breaches of standards G6 and G14.

The complaint focussed on One Network News on 24 March where some of the items

had dealt with the increase in the world price of crude oil, an increase in the interest

rates in New Zealand, and the expense of groceries in Queenstown in view of the

absence of a supermarket.

Mr Terry maintained that comments from political leaders were necessary in the

interests of balance in response to the first two issues. The item about Queenstown,

he wrote, required an examination of a "capitalist driven society."

TVNZ's Response to the Complaint – 1 April 1998

Assessing the complaint under the nominated standards, TVNZ opined:

We confess we find the reasons for your complaint obscure.


Each item, it noted, was self-contained and did not require political comment in order

to achieve balance. Declining to uphold the complaint, TVNZ observed:

In the rest of your letter you express a number of opinions regarding various

ills in our society. You do not however demonstrate how these opinions

establish any breach of standards in the programme broadcast.


Further Correspondence

Mr Terry's referral of the complaint to the Authority (received on 8 April), and

TVNZ's report to the Authority (dated 14 April) are identical to the first complaint

(summarised above).