Media Council upholds complaint about political column broadcast by RNZ

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The Media Council has upheld a complaint against Radio New Zealand for inaccuracy and delay in editing a column published in March this year.

File photo.
Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Opinion piece by political scientist Bryce Edwards erroneously claimed that Labor ran for the 2020 election promising to break the supermarket duopoly and reform the banking sector.

Hector O’Brien complained that the article was wrong on both counts and went beyond what was said in the Labor manifesto. His complaint was filed on March 9, the day the article was published.

RNZ acknowledged that the comment in the article was wrong and corrected it.

“However, the Media Council does not believe that it has acted quickly enough to correct obvious and material errors of fact. Its [RNZ’s] the explanation that he was in the hands of Dr. Edwards and that he did not hear from him until April 4, was less than convincing.

“Editors are responsible for the material they publish, and this responsibility cannot be ignored by saying that it was in the hands of the author of the article.

“It took four weeks to correct the column. It’s far from quick, beyond the time the story had any real value, and few who read it would have seen the corrected introduction or the annotation explaining how the article was corrected.

RNZ breached the Media Council Principle on Columns, Blogs and Opinions, which requires opinions to be based on fact. He also violated his principle on corrections that major errors should be corrected quickly with fair visibility.

The Media Council did not know whether RNZ had informed other platforms, which had reproduced the same column, that it had received a complaint and made corrections.

“Publishers should promptly forward corrections to others reproducing the same material. It was noted that on June 20, when the Council was considering this complaint, the Democracy Project website hosted by the University of Victoria – which is Dr. Bryce Edwards – was still carrying his article in its original uncorrected form.”

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