New Zealand Law Society - ACT leader’s comments on assisted dying did not breach standards, says BSA

ACT leader’s comments on assisted dying did not breach standards, says BSA

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has dismissed a complaint that comments made by ACT Party MP David Seymour on RNZ’s Morning Report programme, about the legality of assisted dying internationally, were inaccurate and misleading.

The 14 December 2017 broadcast discussed the introduction of Mr Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill 2017 to Parliament.

In the broadcast Mr Seymour referred to a number of international jurisdictions as having legalised some form of assisted dying.

“Belgium, the Netherlands, Bolivia, several US States: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, the entire country of Canada and recently our cousins across the ditch in Victoria. So there’s now a lot of jurisdictions who have done this. It’s becoming normal around the world.”

Frederik Beckers complained to the BSA that the comment was inaccurate as only 10 countries have so far adopted some form of legalised euthanasia or assisted dying. Mr Beckers said Mr Seymour’s statements were a “deliberate attempt” to make Mr Seymour’s bill acceptable to the public.

The BSA found Mr Seymour’s comment was a statement of political analysis, advocacy and opinion, rather than a statement of fact.

The Authority also found that, “[A]s the MP who introduced the Bill, listeners would reasonably expect Mr Seymour to be advocating for the Bill and his reasons behind it so we do not think they would have been misled in this respect.”

Brash treated fairly

Meanwhile, the BSA has not upheld another complaint against RNZ.

The Saturday Morning programmeon 2 December 2017featured Kim Hill interviewing the former National MP and spokesperson for lobby group Hobson’s Pledge, Don Brash, about the use of te reo Māori, specifically in RNZ broadcasting, without translation.

He said: “[w]e’re being forced to listen to these sentences by Guyon Espiner without any trace of translation provided ... I have no idea what he is saying”. Dr Brash also said that “[Mr Espiner] makes no attempt to translate it, so I won’t even learn from what he is saying.”

Christopher Cape complained that the treatment of Dr Brash during the interview resulted in the interview being unbalanced and unfair to him, and prevented the audience from understanding Dr Brash’s position.

The BSA found that, while Ms Hill asked Dr Brash challenging and critical questions, Dr Brash had a reasonable opportunity to put forward his competing point of view, and listeners would not have been left misinformed with regard to Dr Brash’s position. Given the level of public interest in the interview, Dr Brash’s position and his experience with the media, the Authority also found Ms Hill’s interview style did not result in Dr Brash being treated unfairly.

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