STEPHEN MORRIS AGAINST RNZ

Case Number: 2957

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2020

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Radio NZ

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Discrimination
Unfair Coverage

Overview

On 11 August 2020, RNZ published the article on the sports pages of their websiteMāori and Pasifika cultures influencing ANZ teams – netball study. The article presented the findings of a University of Auckland study commissioned by Netball NZ that found Māori and Pasifika players are having a growing influence on the ANZ Premiership netball teams. The article includes quotes and comments from netball players, coaches, and administrators.

The Complaint

Stephen Morris complains that article breaches Principle 1: Accuracy because it includes a quote from previous Silver Fern Linda Vagana where she talks about being from a religious family but still being able to play sport on Sunday. Morris argues that the reason playing sport on Sunday is an issue is because of religion not race and should not have been linked to the story about the influence of Māori and Pasifika players on netball competitions. He also states that the article is unbalanced because it does not provide “fair voice to the opposition view” such as European Christians.

Morris also argues that article breaches Principle 4: Comment and Fact. He argues that statements made in the article by Linda Vagana about her moving into a coaching role and being able to support Māori and Pasifika players conflates fact and opinion. His evidence is that not all Māori and Pasifika people have brown skin and a good coach does not require a general understanding of Māori and Pasifika athletes. Skin colour, he states, does not define a person, and should not impact on how a person is treated. He also states that Elizabeth Lotoa’s comments about the natural flair of Māori and Pasifika players are “unintelligent falsehoods” and are racist stereotyping.

Morris’ concludes by stating the article breaches Principle 7: Discrimination and Diversity. He states that discussion about Māori and Pasifika players having natural athleticism promotes racial stereotypes, as does discussion about Māori players being whanau-focused. He claims that European players are also focused on their families and Māori lead statistics on child abuse. He concludes by stating the article places “gratuitous emphasis on minority groups”.

The Response

RNZ responds that that they cannot agree with the substance of the complaint. They state that the article focuses on the release of a research report on the growing influence of Māori and Pasifika players on the ANZ Premiership netball teams. All points made by Linda Vagana are quoted directly and clearly attributed to her, so as such the article provides a clear account of the comments made by those interviewed for the article.RNZ states that it is in the public interest that their readers are informed of the views of people in positions of leadership and authority.

The Decision

The Media Council can find no breaches of its principles in this article. The article accurately reported on the research which is the subject of the article and clearly quoted and attributed comments made by those interviewed for the article. A range of expert views were sought. It meets the expectations of Principal 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance.

This story celebrates the important role Māori and Pasifika women play in sport in Aotearoa and the Media Council acknowledgesRNZ’s concerted efforts to cover more stories about women’s sport.

For Principal 4: Comment and Fact, the views of those interviewed are clearly marked as quotes and the accuracy of facts included in the text is not under question.

Principle 7: Discrimination and Diversity states that “issues of gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race, colour or physical or mental disability are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and in the public interest”. Reporting on a research report focused on the impact of Māori and Pasifika players on the ANZ Premiership netball teams in no way constitutes a “gratuitous emphasis on minority groups” as it is topic of the research report covered.

The complaint is not upheld.

Media Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher (Chair), Rosemary Barraclough, Katrina Bennett, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Ben France-Hudson, Hank Schouten, Marie Shroff, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.