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Posts Tagged 'Broadcasting Standards Authority'

A Shameful Ruling by the Broadcasting Standards Authority




I was on National Radio’s Afternoons (with Jim Mora) programme yesterday. One of the topics which fellow panellist Michelle Boag and I were discussing arose from an item in that day’s Dominion Post. The story was about a Wellington man whose complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about an item on One News had not merely been dismissed as ‘frivolous and trivial’ by the Authority, but had resulted in his being ordered to pay TVNZ costs of $50 as ‘a form of deterrent’. The man’s name is Don McDonald, a beneficiary who is unable to work and receives the invalid’s benefit and pension.

I was surprised, as no doubt many Dom Post readers and listeners to Afternoons were, to learn that the BSA had the power not merely to punish broadcasters for their transgressions but to punish people whose complaints to the broadcasters and subsequently to the Authority were deemed to be ‘frivolous’ or ‘trivial’. As a general principle, that seemed to me an inappropriate function for an organisation whose mandate surely is (or ought to be) to represent the interests of listeners and viewers, not to ‘deter’ listeners and viewers from complaining with the threat of punishment if their complaints overstep the Authority’s arbitrary benchmarks of what is ‘serious’ or ‘important’.

The problem here is that ‘frivolous, trivial, serious, important’ are all subjective terms. What is ‘frivolous and trivial’ to one person may be both ‘serious and important’ to another. If you read all of Mr McDonald’s complaints to the BSA – I can find a total of 25 over the past 8 years – it becomes crystal clear that, in his mind, none is ‘frivolous’ or ‘trivial’ in intention or nature. Mr McDonald is simply a stickler for accuracy, one of the 11 ‘Standards’ which it is the broadcasters’ responsibility to maintain and the BSA’s responsibility to uphold.

What’s more, when he complains that a broadcast statement is inaccurate, he is, as far as I can see, almost invariably  correct. The complaint for which the BSA has ordered him to pay a fine of $50 to TVNZ is a case in point. Read the rest of this entry »