New Zealand Law Society - Authority dismisses lawyer’s complaint that youth justice age discussion was biased

Authority dismisses lawyer’s complaint that youth justice age discussion was biased

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The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) says a radio station’s discussion on raising the youth justice age did not breach standards on balance.

Lawyer and former ACT Party MP David Garrett complained that a segment on RNZ National was biased and unbalanced, as all three interviewees were strongly in favour of expanding the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to include 17-year-olds.

The Nine to Noon show on 26 November 2016 featured a human rights lawyer, a youth worker and the director of JustSpeak.

Mr Garrett said the proposal to raise the youth justice age was a controversial issue of public importance, therefore the broadcaster was obliged to feature at least one interviewee to present the alternative point of view, “rather than ... merely provide a platform for three speakers to expound one point of view only,” he said.

He also said the presenter’s brief reference to a counterbalancing view (the Police Association which opposed raising the youth justice age) and her use of ‘devil’s advocate’ questioning did not provide proper balance. These references formed no more than two or so minutes during a 19-minute item.

In response, RNZ said the item was clearly presented from the perspective of those in favour of raising the youth justice age, which is a legitimate approach to a topic and allowed for under the balance standard.

The broadcaster also said the item acknowledged the existence of other points of view, and that the audience would likely have some familiarity with the range of views on the issue from other media reports.

In its decision, the BSA said while the interviewees all supported raising the youth justice age, the presenter referred to the existence of alternative views on a number of occasions.

“The issue was also canvassed in detail in other media coverage during the period of current interest, therefore audiences would be aware of a variety of perspectives beyond those put forward by the interviewees. It was not necessary, in the interests of balance, for the segment to feature a detailed examination of the opposition to raising the youth justice age, and listeners would not have been left uninformed on the issue as a result of the item,” it said in its decision.