C AGAINST RNZ
Case Number: 2841
Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2019
Verdict: Not Upheld
Publication: Radio NZ
Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
1. The complainant is concerned about lack of balance in an RNZ website story of 16 August 2019, reporting Auckland residents’ views on the protests in Hong Kong.
2. The complainant (referred to as ‘C’), who has asked for anonymity, is concerned that the article complained of gives undue weight and space to anti-Hong Kong protester views, fails to balance the article with pro-protestor views, and “parrots CCP propaganda saturation on the mainland”.C points out that pro-protester comments are generally given by people speaking anonymously (as in this article), reportedly for fear of Chinese state retribution against themselves or against their families in China. C believes that RNZ is complicit in this threat by “carelessly echoing CCP talking points and completely ignoring the imbalance of power (eg the unchallenged, repeated use of the word terrorists and terrorism)”.
3. C believes RNZ has an obligation to draw attention to this distortion when reporting opinions from the Chinese diaspora in Auckland.
4. RNZ has provided a brief response which says that because a range of views were published the complaint was “not upheld” and referred the complainant to the Media Council.
5. The Council has considered this complaint under its Principle 1 as follows:“Publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view.
Exceptions may apply for long running issues where every side of an issue or argument cannot reasonably be repeated on every occasion and in reportage of proceedings where balance is to be judged on a number of stories, rather than a single report.
The Council’s consideration draws fully on Principle 1.
In defending their position,RNZ would have done well to consider this complaint more carefully against Principle 1.RNZ says that because the article quotes a range of views the complaint is “not upheld”. In the Council’s view the piece is clearly weighted towards reporting the opinions of those who dislike the Hong Kong protesters, and are prepared to make serious allegations of terrorism against them. Although one anonymous interviewee is quoted who is clearly pro-protestor, no other balancing information appears in this article. The Council also notes C’s comments about the dangers of taking anti-protestor views at face value and encourages RNZ to be aware of the wider context in future reporting on the Hong Kong protests.
6. However, an examination of the RNZ website shows that their reporting of the Hong Kong protests has covered a range of events and commentary and given a more balanced view of the continuing story of the protests. This article could be said to be lacking balance on the first part of Principle 1; but it must also be considered against the second part of Principle 1, which allows exceptions for long running stories where every side of the debate may not be covered in every story.
7. The complaint is therefore not upheld.
Media Council members considering this complaint were Hon Raynor Asher, Katrina Bennett, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Ben France-Hudson, Jonathan MacKenzie, Marie Shroff, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.