Complaint about RNZ use of Bryce Edwards article upheld

Written By: - Date published: 1:58 pm, July 11th, 2022 - 33 comments
Categories: cost of living, covid-19, david clark, Economy, Media, radio, uncategorized - Tags:

I am not sure what is happening at Radio New Zealand.  It may be that the proposed merger with Television New Zealand is playing on staff morale.  These sorts of king mergers tend to shake jobs loose and can understandably cause stress to staff.

But it still has a job of impartially reporting the news and call me biased but I sense a considerable amount of anti Government commentary.

Two recent incidents back this feeling up.

The first involves a Bryce Edwards column faithfully reprinted by RNZ.  The article incorrectly stated that Labour went into the 2020 election promising to break up the supermarket duopoly and bring down the cost of food and that the policy was essentially dead.  A simple google would have shown that his claim about the policy was not correct.  What the policy promised was as follows:

Labour will initiate two new market studies to ensure New Zealanders are paying a fair price for groceries and building supplies as the economy recovers from Covid-19.

“The information collected from these market studies will allow us to put in place any necessary regulatory and policy solutions that ensure consumers are paying a fair price, that innovation in the market is not stifled, and that access and competition are appropriate,” Kris Faafoi said.

Terms of reference for each market study will be developed by the Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs if we are re-elected to government, and we expect a market study into supermarkets will be initiated before the end of the year.

The policy was to initiate a study and then work out the regulatory and policy solutions something that the Government has done.  Breaking up the duopoly was not even mentioned in the policy as a possible option.

The article was also printed on Edwards’ Open Democracy website and on the Daily Blog.  At the time of writing the Daily Blog post has not been corrected although the Open Democracy post has.

For some time I have had major issues with Edwards’ analysis.  It is always consistently anti Labour.  This particular example shows that he is capable of making a pretty egregious mistake about the details.

A complaint which was lodged with the Media Council about the article was upheld and the Council ruled that the article was inaccurate.  The Media Council also criticised Radio New Zealand for taking far too long to correct the error.

From RNZ’s article on the decision:

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

“Publishers are responsible [sic] for material they publish, and that responsibility cannot be shrugged off by saying it was in the hands of the writer of the article.

“It took four weeks to correct the column. That is far from prompt, beyond the time when the story had any real currency, and few of the people who read it would have seen the corrected introduction or the annotation explaining how the article was corrected.”

RNZ was in breach of the Media Council’s Principle relating to columns, blogs and opinions, which requires opinions to have a foundation of fact. It was also in breach of its principle relating to corrections which says significant errors should be promptly corrected with fair prominence.

The second incident involved RNZ’s shock horror suggestion in April of this year that last November the Government had been advised that Ashley Bloomfield and Caroline McElnay advised the Government to loosen up the MIQ system but the Government had inappropriately delayed this decision.

As I said at the time:

RNZ’s take on this issue is severely deficient.  The framing is one sided.  The full context has not been clearly expressed, that the advice to wind back MIQ was accepted and publicly announced at the time but the emergence of Omicron caused the Government to reconsider its position.

Russell Brown has raised the matter with RNZ and blogged about his experience.

He said this:

You might recall that on April 19 and 20 this year, RNZ published and broadcast a series of reports – beginning with this one – that claimed the government had not followed Ministry of Health advice to end the MIQ system in November 2021.

The coverage was based on a misleading interpretation of an internal memo, which assuredly did not call for MIQ to be ended in November, and it repeatedly omitted key events and details in pursuing its case.

I was critical of this reporting on social media and was eventually approached by RNZ to submit a complaint via its formal complaints process.

He reviews numerous incidents where the figure of 40,000 people who could have avoided MIQ if the advice had been followed.  This was not a one off case.  It was a continuing policy, one that even Chris Bishop was embarrassed to use.

His concluding comment about the complaint is brutal:

This is not a failure by one reporter, it is an editorial failure on the part of RNZ. The reporting of this memo misstated its meaning, did not include key lines from the memo which would have made its meaning clear and omitted key events in the public timeline. It was inaccurate and misleading.

I understand that there are complaints in relation to these articles and it will be interesting to see how they are dealt with.  But I do expect better from a public broadcasting entity.

33 comments on “Complaint about RNZ use of Bryce Edwards article upheld ”

  1. Patricia Bremner 1

    Well if truth can be bent/omitted to meet the current hypothesis….. that has been the way of it for so long. Thanks Micky, this confirms what felt like a constant litany ** ***.

  2. Bearded Git 2

    Bryce Edwards has been hammering the Left for years not just for "many months". There is no analysis involved ..he simply follows the Nat/ACT line

    RNZ seems to be run by editors who push an anti Labour government line. This has been especially true of its reporting of the MIQ issue. MIQ was a major success with (from memory) around a quarter of a million people processed successfully. The few errors pounced on by Edwards/RNZ (often involving rich and/or self entitled wankers) should always have been reported in this context, but seldom, if ever, were.

    • Nordy 2.1

      Thanks BG…well put!

    • Muttonbird 2.2

      It's not the Democracy Project, it's the Duplicity Project.

      Hosted by, apparently independent from VUW, but funding sources hidden. How is that open democracy?

      We are resolutely non-partisan and ‘for the public good’.


      • Patricia Bremner 2.2.1

        Yeh!! Tuismiley

      • weka 2.2.2

        The Standard doesn't publish who donates either.

        • Muttonbird

          Neither does The Standard claim to be "resolutely non-partisan".

          Also, The Standard doesn't have publicly funded University branding on it, which stamps legitimacy on the operation.

          Also, The Standard does declare support from the Labour movement on the about page.

    • Tiger Mountain 2.3

      yes Yes RNZ COVID reports focused on daily special pleading from cafe owners, retailers, transport companies and international travellers wanting it all their way. You would barely have known there was a working class person or beneficiary doing it tough in the country in 2020/21.

      As for Bryce Edwards he has long had it in for NZ Labour. I call him the recycler because he mainly quotes others work rather than writing much himself.

  3. JustMe 3

    I have said this numerous times but to me the mainstream NZ media is so deep into the NZ National Party pocket to no longer see daylight.

    Whilst he was prime minister of New Zilland I am sure John Key over-satuated the mainstream NZ media with biased towards National so-called 'journalists'. He successfully removed all those more intelligent questioning journalists in the media and replaced them with Wannabe National MPs eg Hosking.

    It's a shame the media of today here in NZ has shown how lowly they have demeaned themselves to.

    • Populuxe1 3.1

      Except when they report on some Nat making a horrible blunder or there's a report on the PM being internationally feted. The fact of the matter is there is a diversity of opinions and leanings in the MSM but people tend to focus on the things that confirm their biases about the media. The right wingers complain about MSM being too left wing, so who is correct?

  4. PsyclingLeft.Always 4

    Susie Ferguson has chosen to leave her long-time role as Morning Report presenter in September to take up a new position created within RNZ as senior presenter and journalist.

    Will this help ? Honest question…as I have seen good comments here re Susie Ferguson ….

  5. John G 5

    The other article on RNZ that called into question their impartiality was the puff piece by Guyon Espiner on Luxon. To my mind even the National party would have been embarassed to call it their own.

    It always amuses me when NAct call it red radio.

    Sean Plunkett

    Lindsay Perigo

    Mike Hosking

    Guyon Espiner

    And no doubt many more I can't remember

    • Patricia Bremner 5.1

      Yes John J,

      Katherine Ryan, Heather Du Plessiss Allen, Kate Hawkesby, Jessicca Much Mckay,

      Audre Young are all right or centre right in their tenor.

      Katherine Ryan was before the 2017 election and again in 2020 giving a platform to Mathew Hooten almost daily, that is why she leads the list. Audrey Young is also very critical of Labour and pro the right.

      Raucous voices of the national party point of view, repeating memes including exaggerations regarding the "40 000" shut out. "Lack of Kindness" "Open up"

      We have learned to ignore all except the really egregious. Thank you for complaining and getting results. Putting the facts out there in this forum will have this read and shared.

  6. FAB mouse 6

    Even the rebranding to Radio New Zealand NATIONAL appeared political at the time.

    • Patricia Bremner 6.1

      devil RNZ "National" Branding you know!! Soooo important. That has been shown to work.

  7. In Vino 7

    This whole thing irks me greatly. Thanks MS for raising it. I suspect that a rebuke from the Media Council will mean nothing at all, because it will not be publicised.

    RNZ is supposed to be non-commercial, and one would think that it should be advertising-free.

    But it is not: after every news on the hour, RNZ blatantly advertises its own programmes. Recently they introduced half-hourly news summaries, and, naturally, added in its own ads for its own programmes after them too. These bloody ads often last as long as the brief news summary..

    For heaven's sake – who is in charge of RNZ?

    Funny, that – I think it turns out to be that a guy from the Marketing industry is the culprit.

    What chance does independent news have when RNZ is delivered to acolytes of commercialism?

    • Belladonna 7.1

      It does seem as though the Media Council has few teeth when it comes to sanctioning either organizations (RNZ in this case) or individuals (Edwards).

      Perhaps a required by-line for all articles by Edwards for (say) the next year saying something like: "Edwards has been censured by the Media Council for errors of fact and bias in his reporting."

      To give those reading his opinion columns fair warning about the quality of what they read.

      • In Vino 7.1.1

        That nicely addresses my minor concern – but not my major one. our state media need to be run independently of both Govt and private commercial interests.

        They are equally evil.

        • DavidJ

          I agree. So how do you feel about the government offering, and private commercial interests accepting, state funding in the form of the Public Interest Journalism Fund, given that there were editorial 'strings' attached?

          • In Vino

            I am always suspicious of such arrangements, and think they should be banned.

            That said, I do not agree with crappy right-wing propagandists claiming that our media have already been captured by current govt.

            • DavidJ

              Well said.

            • Patricia Bremner

              I felt it was equity money, designed to get stories relating to our history and indigenous views out there and news relating to other minority groups?

              I felt the rightwing did not favour that and lobbied that Govt was "buying voices", oh!! like tobacco alcohol and coca cola et al. Like that?

              • DavidJ

                There's a big difference between the state funding alternative points of view (which is desirable) and specifying a particular point of view (or excluding others) (which is not).

                From the left, Martyn Bradbury takes it apart here.

                "This isn’t journalism, this is an editorial policy"

                And from the right, Graham Adams here.

                No commercial media should take government money when there are editorial strings. And no government should ask it to.

        • Belladonna

          But in the real world – how is this possible.

          The money to pay the journalists has to come from somewhere; and if you remove both commerical interests (i.e. advertising, etc.) and government (e.g. journalism fund) – where does it come from?

          It's become very apparent that subscription-based news services simply don't make sufficient money to be viable in the 21st century (and, they too, are at risk of capture – how truly independent is NBR, do you think?)

          • In Vino

            I did not remove the possibility of state funding, which is what is required. But it must be done via an independent body that precludes all interference from outside, both from Govt, and from outside lobbyists.

            You will probably laugh that to scorn, but in doing so you are denying the possibility of any good independent news medium.

            Which is supposedly the basis of true democracy, which so many liars pretend to support.

          • DavidJ

            There would be two clear streams. 1. A government media sector that is state funded, but (as InVino makes clear) transparently independent of government and lobbyists. 2. A private/commercial sector supported by commercial revenues, and free from government funding (except for public service announcements or NZ on Air type programs). If this leads to financial difficulties for commercial sector outlets, that will lead to rationalisation and the ultimate emergence of a stronger, viable and sustainable commercial sector.

  8. Joanne CW 8

    So pleased that the story on MIQ was picked up, and I hope there has been a complaint. It was clear to me that RNZ had been finessing this one. And I'm now very cynical about the whole 'Grounded Kiwis' saga, in that the numbers wanting to come back to NZ were grossly exaggerated.

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    Well one minimum standard might be that clowns censured for unprofessionalism by the Media Council, and that includes at least one RNZ editor, be dismissed from RNZ as a matter of course.

    That crap may run in the open sewer which is the commercial media post Murdoch – but the public need not, and should not pay for it.

  10. peter sim 10

    RNZ Morning Report has been deteriorating for some time. Once upon (a not too distant) time I would leave it on. Now I switch off about 7.15.

    • Mike the Lefty 10.1

      Morning Report is always better when Kim Hill makes a rare appearance there. I also find that Checkpoint has become increasingly silly and irrelevant since John Campbell left the show.

      In my opinion, the best news/current events radio programme in NZ at the moment is The Detail.

      Anything on Newstalk ZB is geared towards right-wing whingers complaining about how cruel life is.

    • tc 10.2

      Generous. I gave up once the club dropped espiner into mornings.

      It was already craptacular with mora's inane panel the lightweight Ryan and soapboxes for the messaging with zero intellectual rigour from the rnz 'talent'.

  11. " But it still has a job of impartially reporting the news and call me biased but I sense a considerable amount of anti Government commentary.

    Where have you been the last thirteen years Mickey Savage the bias on RNZ is deliberate.

    The mandate that Radio New Zealand pre 2008 had was an independent one and despite being criticised by the right that completely dominate the media landscape as ” red radio ” which it never was that independence changed dramatically when the then gangsters of the National , Maori , ACT , Peter Dunne government changed the board and the chief executive to ensure that the man who could walk on the Waitemata harbour saint John would face very little criticism or negative news stories and instead directed all their fury and anyone who was associated with the so called left.

    Over time all the right wing Nasty Natz supporters in the media took their appointments to RNZ from tv and elsewhere and demolished any opposition to the National , Maori , ACT . Peter Dunne government.

    That was the last bastion of independent radio before the advent of sites like The Standard and the The Daily Blog who unfortunately cant reach the numbers that MSM does more the pity.

    So I persevered wanting a New Zealand news perspective in the mornings and afternoons but it deteriorated along with the overt cover ups of Key’s corruption and that of his government after no change in post 2017 I stopped listening.

    You have to remember that you are never going to get as lefties ( most of us on here ) any other perspective , fairness or impartiality listening to these talking heads.

    The only exception is Kim Hill who never fails to firmly push for the answers whoever the neo liberal spokesperson is when I used to tune in.

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