RNZ Board releases panel findings
Released at 3:59 pm on 2 August 2023
RNZ Board Chairman, Dr Jim Mather, today welcomed the findings of the panel investigating RNZ editorial processes, saying they are accepted in full by the board and all recommendations will be implemented.
The RNZ Board appointed a three-person panel to investigate RNZ editorial processes after it emerged international wire stories had been inappropriately sub-edited by a staff member.
The panel found the staff member, who has resigned, had breached editorial standards with inappropriate editing of overseas wire stories, including adding a pro-Russian perspective on the invasion of Ukraine.
The report added, however, that this was not the only reason for what had happened. There were also cultural, system, process and team-work issues at RNZ that had contributed.
"The panel’s report indicates that while most aspects of RNZ’s journalism are operating to the high standards that New Zealanders know and trust, the overseas news part of our digital operation was not,” said Dr Mather.
“The panel’s recommendations will significantly improve RNZ’s editorial processes. Two of the more significant recommendations – about combining our digital news with our main news operation, and having a new role focused on raising editorial standards are already in progress.”
Dr Mather said the board had confidence the CEO and his team would implement the other changes professionally and as speedily as possible.
“The RNZ Board and RNZ management team place immense value on RNZ being an outstanding public media entity which is trusted.”
“The willingness to be transparent and to face scrutiny have been important steps to retain the trust of RNZ’s audiences. The follow-up remedial steps to be taken by RNZ will further solidify this,” said Dr Mather.
“The Board wishes to express its gratitude to the three panellists who conducted the investigation: Willy Akel, Linda Clark, and Alan Sunderland,” he said.
Dr Mather said while final costs had yet to be calculated, the full cost of the panel investigation was projected to be $230,400.
RNZ Chief Executive and Editor in Chief Paul Thompson also welcomed the findings of the panel investigating RNZ editorial processes, saying it offered constructive recommendations.
“The best way to protect and achieve the highest standards of journalism at RNZ was by having an independent review. We were never interested in marking our own copy book,” he said.
“RNZ will adopt the recommendations as soon as possible and will report back to the public on our progress.
“We welcome the panel’s observation that ‘RNZ journalists routinely deliver a high standard of trusted, accurate, balanced news. Nothing in this report should detract from that’.”
“We also acknowledge there are areas for improvement which we will address, particularly around the areas of training, process and complaint management.
“We wish to thank the panel for its considerations and practical findings. In many respects the panel and RNZ are likeminded in understanding what went wrong, what went well, and what can be done to enhance RNZ,” he said.
“I also wish to also commend RNZ staff for their contribution to the panel review, while also continuing to produce outstanding content for our audiences.
“RNZ received increased funding in the May budget. RNZ is growing stronger and can look forward to an exciting next chapter as an outstanding public media entity,” he said.
You can view the full report here.
The Board appointed a three-person panel of legal and editorial experts to examine RNZ editorial processes. They were:
Willy Akel, a leading media law expert and barrister at Sangro Chambers was the panel’s Chair. He is a recognised expert in corporate and personal reputation management and defamation.
Linda Clark, a partner at Dentons Kensington Swan. She is a public law expert and a specialist in judicial review, public law disputes and processes, investigations and defamation law. She is a former journalist and broadcaster.
Alan Sunderland served as Editorial Standards Director at the ABC. He has had an extensive career as a broadcast journalist with the ABC and SBS.
The panel was announced and started work on June 14, 2023. Its terms of reference can be found here.
RNZ internal audit
RNZ was advised of inappropriate editing of several wire service stories on June 9th. It immediately started an audit of published stories to assess if there had been other breaches of editorial standards.
At the conclusion of the audit around 1300 stories had been audited, of these, 49 have been corrected or updated to bring them up to RNZ’s editorial standards.
Full details of the stories can be found on the RNZ website here.