Saturday, March 16, 2013

Robin Grieve: Treaty propaganda leads to TVNZ complaint


In early February Robin Grieve complained to Television New Zealand that a news reader on Waitangi Day had breached Broadcasting Standards by inaccurately referring to the Treaty of Waitangi as the nation's "founding document". Robin's letter and TVNZ's response can be seen below. He is presently considering appealing the decision to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

*Letter from Robin Grieve to the Complaints Committee TVNZ:

Programme: TV One News
Date of broadcast: 6 February 2013
Time of broadcast: 6.00pm
Channel: TV One

The Programme Standards I believe were breached are as follows:

Good Taste & Decency – No
Law & Order – No
Privacy – No
Controversial Issues / Viewpoints – No
Accuracy – Yes
Fairness – No
Discrimination & Denigration – No
Responsible Programming – No
Children's Interests – No
Violence – No
Liquor - No

The reasons that I found this programme breached the standards:

The news reader said "from the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi where the Nation's founding document was first signed 173 years ago"

It is not accurate to describe the Treaty of Waitangi as the Nation's founding document. The Treaty of Waitangi was a treaty between the British Government and the natives of New Zealand. New Zealand did not become a nation at that point. It was a colony and had no self government. A colony without self government is not a Nation. In 1852 the colony of NZ was given the right to self government under the NZ Constitution Act which is the first document that could be described as a founding document because it allowed for the introduction of self government.

It is important that news readers do not help instil in people misinformation such as this. The status of the Treaty is controversial enough without having it incorrectly described. The news reader’s words will elevate the Treaty in the minds of people who have not researched the facts beyond what it is. There is also debate over the importance of the Treaty and its significance and whether it should be included in any constitution.  Opinions vary and that is to be expected and news readers should play no role in shaping people’s opinions other than in presenting facts on which they can base them. They need to be careful that they present facts only.

There are a number of documents starting from the NZ Constitution ACT of 1852 which progress NZ into nationhood with the 1947 adoption of the 1931 Statute of Westminster as the last. It is also inaccurate to describe any document as our Nation’s founding document because that is singular and states that only one document is involved. There are many. The Treaty of Waitangi is not even one of those. 

I have heard the Treaty of Waitangi described as our founding document in the past but that does not make the statement accurate. Repeating misinformation is no better or worse than instigating it.

While opinions will vary on the status of the treaty, opinion is irrelevant when dealing with something that should be factual. The accuracy or otherwise of the news reader’s statement is a matter of fact not opinion, and can be determined by reference to the history books.

I believe the inaccuracy in the broadcast is significant and made even more so by the controversial nature of the Treaty's status. The status that is given the Treaty has significant impact on us all and therefore it must be described accurately by news readers.

Regards, 
Robin Grieve

*Letter from TVNZ to Robin Grieve:

7 March 2013

Dear Robin Grieve

Further to your email received 8 February I wish to advise that Complaints Committee has completed its enquiry into your formal complaint about ONE News shown on 6 February on TV ONE.

Your complaint has been considered with reference to Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

The Decision

The Complaints Committee has not identified any breach of the relevant standards and accordingly declines to uphold your complaint. The reasons for this decision are discussed below.

The Programme

On Wednesday 6 February, Waitangi Day, ONE News reported on events in Waitangi that day. The presenter began her live cross by saying kia ora from the Treaty grounds at Waitangi where the nation’s founding document was first signed 173 years ago. Our national day has also been celebrated right across the country and we’ll look at how New Zealanders enjoy their day off.

There was no further reference to ‘founding document’ throughout the ONE News item.

Your Complaint

You state: The news reader said "from the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi where the Nation's founding document was first signed 173 years ago"

It is not accurate to describe the Treaty of Waitangi as the Nation's founding document. The Treaty of Waitangi was a treaty between the British Government and the natives of New Zealand. New Zealand did not become a nation at that point. It was a colony and had no self government. A colony without self government is not a Nation. In 1852 the colony of NZ was given the right to self government under the NZ Constitution Act which is the first document that could be described as a founding document because it allowed for the introduction of self government.

It is important that news readers do not help instil in people misinformation such as this. The status of the Treaty is controversial enough without having it incorrectly described. The news reader’s words will elevate the Treaty in the minds of people who have not researched the facts beyond what it is. There is also debate over the importance of the Treaty and its significance and whether it should be included in any constitution. Opinions vary and that is to be expected and news readers should play no role in shaping people’s opinions other than in presenting facts on which they can base them. They need to be careful that they present facts only.

There are a number of documents starting from the NZ Constitution ACT of 1852 which progress NZ into nationhood with the 1947 adoption of the 1931 Statute of Westminster as the last. It is also inaccurate to describe any document as our Nation’s founding document because that is singular and states that only one document is involved. There are many. The Treaty of Waitangi is not even one of those.

I have heard the Treaty of Waitangi described as our founding document in the past but that does not make the statement accurate. Repeating misinformation is no better or worse than instigating it.
While opinions will vary on the status of the treaty, opinion is irrelevant when dealing with something that should be factual. The accuracy or otherwise of the news reader’s statement is a matter of fact not opinion, and can be determined by reference to the history books.

I believe the inaccuracy in the broadcast is significant and made even more so by the controversial nature of the Treaty's status. The status that is given the Treaty has significant inpact on us all and therefore it must be described accurately by news readers.

The Relevant Standards

Standard 5 Accuracy

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:

• is accurate in relation to all material points of fact and/or
• does not mislead.

Guidelines

5a The accuracy standard does not apply to statements which are clearly distinguishable as analysis, comment or opinion.
5b In the event that a material error of fact has occurred, broadcasters should correct it at the earliest appropriate opportunity.
5c News must be impartial.

The Committee cannot identify any errors of fact in the statement you have complained about. The Treaty of Waitangi is widely accepted and known as the founding document of New Zealand and it is therefore accurate to refer to it in this way in the ONE News item.

The Committee refers to New Zealand History Online, produced by the History Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/treaty/the-treaty-in-brief which begins its dialogue about the Treaty by saying that “The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document.”

While the Committee acknowledges that different understandings of the Treaty have long been the source of significant debate the reference to it as New Zealand’s founding document was not inaccurate. No breach of standard 5 has been identified.

Right to Refer to Broadcasting Standards Authority and Time Limit

In accordance with section 7(3) of the Broadcasting Act you are hereby notified that it is your right, should you be dissatisfied with this decision, to refer the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, P O Box 9213, Wellington, as provided under section 8 of the Act, for the purpose of an investigation and review of the decision. You have 20 working days after receipt of this letter to exercise this right of referral.

Yours sincerely
Complaints Committee

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

You expected anything different?

S. Brown said...

I am against TVNZ on this issue.
My opinion is that the Treaty of Waitangi is not the founding document of the nation.
Holding a microphone in front of a camera does not give the reporter catre blanche permission to introduce their opinion. Or perhaps the opinion of the speech writer if they were different people.

Please follow this through.

Regards

S. Brown

D. McQueen said...

George Orwell: "The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it", ...I think maybe it is already too late.

Anonymous said...

Outgoing Governor-General Lord Bledisloe, who gifted the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to the nation, said this in his 1922 farewell address: "In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is King. And he that does not know his own history is at the mercy of every lying windbag."

How very true!

Dave said...

As anonymous said, 'you expected anything different.'
News in NZ especially television news has been dumbed down so much over the last 20 years. Its all about ratings and dollars and making the most outlandish statements no matter how inaccurate. I remember the late Sir Paul Holmes on the morning after the first Christchurch earthquake repeating 'Christchurch a city stateside' In fact less than 10% of buildings were damaged in the first earthquake and there was no loss of life. That was a typical example of beating up a story where it become inaccurate and distorted. There are many more examples as well.
The young reporter at Waitangi would have been brainwashed at broadcasting school with equally distorted Waitangi fiction and wouldn't have a clue of the true facts.
Sad but that is NZ media today.

CM said...

To Robin Grieve: Yes, please follow up with an objection. It is important to stop the slow infiltration into the public minds that it is the founding document when it clearly IS NOT. This has to be stopped because of the push by certain Maori elite to have it enshrined as the lead document in the new constitution currently being discussed. Stop the spread of this inaccuracy before it's too late.
Congratulations on picking this up.

B Bennett said...

100% agree, isn't it frustrating and damaging when a good story gets in the way of the simple facts.
Would love to see you follow it through but I suggest D McQueen and George Orwell are on target it's already too late for the truth.

Anonymous said...

The Decision




'The Complaints Committee has not identified any breach of the relevant standards and accordingly declines to uphold your complaint. The reasons for this decision are discussed below.'

The reasons for the decision were most certainly not discussed 'below' and I suggest you elevate your complaint on this and the fact that the term complained of was inarguably not factual.

Good luck

GR Lawrence

Anonymous said...

Please persist with this complaint. There is far too much opinion of people in the front line at TVNZ, who are in effect brainwashing a dumbed down public. Even our young ones are being "educated" with these untruths at our schools. The treaty should be incinerated and our part Maori "elite" should be banished to a distant place.
Cheers, Margaret.

Anonymous said...

It is patently obvious that the TV complaints authority cannot recognise an inaccurate statement when they see one! My dictionary defines accurate as: correct, exact, precise, right, strict, true. Your complaint was accurate, their response clearly inaccurate.
Rod K.

R Forder said...

In the 1930's Hitlers propaganda minister Goebbels stated "if you lie to the people long enough most will believe it is true" Goebbels used a longer version than this but basically this is what he meant.
His statement is so true and this is what is happening in the media now. Its about time the media started doing their job properly by reporting TRUE FACTS NOT THEIR
OPINIONS.

Take the matter further if you can.

Regards

Rod Forder

J Dickson said...

Thank you, Robin, for the clarity, integrity and compelling factual nature of your argument.
The reply from whomever on the Complaints Committee contains nothing of this. It speaks in the same baseless fashion as the reporter herself, quoting where the same mantra has been uttered on other occasions as if that in itself proved it to be true.
They say that if you repeat a lie often enough and loudly enough, then eventually both you and others will believe it is true.
Please appeal. Can I help?