MATTHEW KELLY AGAINST RNZ

Case Number: 2909

Council Meeting: JUNE 2020

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Radio NZ

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Bias
Unfair Coverage

Overview

CASE NO: 2909

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF MATTHEW KELLY AGAINST RNZ

FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: JUNE 2020

On April 15, 2020 RNZ published an article Agricultural emissions lower than thought, new data reveals. The article briefly reported on research findings released by AgResearch after they had refined their data with a comprehensive breakdown to take into account livestock types and pastoral conditions. This meant that data on nitrous oxide emissions was now more accurate.The new data indicated that emissions from sheep were 10.6 per cent lower that previously concluded; beef cattle were 5 per cent lower; and dairy cattle emissions were 1.4 per cent lower. A total reduction of 4.4 per cent.

“It is important to note that it isn’t any mitigation strategy, as it is really a more accurate accounting of the emissions coming from the agricultural sector” the spokesperson said.

Matthew Kelly claimed the article was slanted to support a polluting industry. Specifically he took exception to the meaningless citing of a drop in the assessed emissions from the agri-sector when no context was given. The actual total rate of pollution the sector produces was not shown in the article. 4.4 percent might well be within the margin of error, he said.

He said RNZ’s colours were nailed to the mast in the sentence “It could be seen as welcome news for the farming sector which often gets the blame for greenhouse gas emissions,” included in the article.

In response RNZ said they had accurately reported the comments of a senior AgResearch scientist on the improved accuracy of greenhouse gas emissions data. In a short article such as this it was not possible to delve into all the statistical minutiae contained in the report. With respect to the complained-about sentence RNZ noted that the second part refers to the blame for greenhouse gases attributed to the sector.

The Media Council noted that RNZ had run a short and straight forward report on AgResearch’s finding that greenhouse emissions were lower than previously thought. This was the latest of many stories the media have run on the environmental impacts of agriculture and as with all long-running debates it is impractical for all the information and arguments to be canvassed exhaustively each time another piece of evidence is advanced. RNZ has provided a summary of the AgResearch findings it believes was sufficient to inform a general readership.

While Mr Kelly might have wanted more information its absence from this story does not make it inaccurate, unfair or unbalanced. A sentence saying that the research findings might have been welcomed by farmers can be seen as a statement of the obvious to help readers understand the latest information, rather than being an attempt at manipulation, as claimed by Mr Kelly.

Climate change is a long-running issue where competing positions are well understood.The Media Council gets complaints monthly from all sides of the argument. Only in clear circumstances will we consider such complaints and this is not one of them.This article publishes reputable material from a reputable source.The observation about the reaction of farmers is a fair and accurate comment.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.