Case Number: 2927

Council Meeting: JULY 2020

Decision: Not Upheld

Publication: Mediaworks

Ruling Categories:


1. Complaint that a headline on an article on the Newshub website was in breach of Media Council Principles 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance) and 6 (headlines and captions).


2. On June 6, 2020 Newshub ran a story based on an interview in which then National Party deputy leader Nikki Kaye is reported to have said National had a “moral obligation” to win the upcoming election and that was why they chose the controversial front bench they did.

3. The article stated National’s shadow Cabinet was all Pakeha, with the woman Kaye replaced – Paula Bennett – the highest ranking Maori at #13.When asked why she and the National leader Todd Muller rolled Bennett and former leader Simon Bridges – also Maori – Kaye said “they had a moral obligation to do something because New Zealand needs a National Government.”

4. The article was headlined Nikki Kaye explains how National’s ‘moral obligation’ to win the election led to its Maori-free front bench.

The Complaint

5. Martin Hector said the headline was not an accurate representation of the content of the interview. It was an inflammatory and flawed headline.

6. “Just because two separate comments are made during an interview does not mean that it’s accurate to amalgamate the two.”Mediaworks defence of that was as ridiculous as a person talking about how they enjoy sexual relationships but also talking about a dog in the interview and then the broadcaster saying in a headline that the person enjoys sexual relationships with dogs. He argued this headline construction using disparate article content was a breach of Media Council principles

The Response

7. Mediaworks broadcasting standards manager Dianne Martin said its standards committee considered the complaint under Principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance) and under the principle relating to headlines which was more applicable. A large portion of the interview was taken up with discussion on the make-up of the new National front bench which notably lacked diversity, including not a single Maori MP amongst the top twelve.

8. “Considering there are no Maori MPs included in National’s front bench, and Ms Kaye’s comment about ‘moral obligation’ we cannot identify any breach of the accuracy, fairness and balance principle. Nor have [we] identified any breach of Principle 6. Headlines are designed to give a brief taste of the story that follows and are designed to attract readers’ attention. The committee is satisfied that this headline provided an accurate representation of the content of the article.

The Discussion

9. Media Council Principle 1 states, in part, that “publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission”.Principle 6 says headlines should accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover.

10. There is no allegation or indication that Ms Kaye was misquoted in this article which means that the accuracy of the reporting here is not in question.

11. The argument is that it was unfair to link National’s shadow Cabinet selection based on its ‘moral obligation’ to win the election and the widely noted absence of any Maori MPs on its front bench.

12. Mr Hector’s claim - that it is like drawing two separate comments from an interview to make a headline that a person enjoys sexual relationships with dogs - is not analogous to the reporting in this article.

13. No Maori MPs made it onto the front bench and the highest ranked Maori MP on the list was Paula Bennett who was listed at #13. News coverage at the time showed Ms Kaye and Mr Muller were clearly embarrassed as they attempted to answer reporters’ questions relating to this issue.

14. Ms Kaye’s statement that National chose its line-up because it had a moral obligation to win the election and the absence of Maori on the front bench were inextricably linked.

15. The article was not inaccurate or unfair and the headline and the headline accurately conveyed the substance of it. The complaint is not upheld.

Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Ben France-Hudson, Jonathan MacKenzie, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.

Marie Shroff took no part in the consideration of this complaint. Rosemary Barraclough stood down to maintain a public member majority.


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