27 Dec 2019

Media Council: Good fat complaint upheld, with dissent

8:03 am on 27 December 2019

The Media Council has upheld a complaint against RNZ for publishing an article which it says presents a single view of an issue.

090514. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Radio New Zealand House.

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Eight members upheld the complaint and two dissented.

The article The fat that's good for you was published on 21 October 2019. The article outlines information presented in the book The Good Fat Guide: How to Add Healthy Fat to Your Diet and material from an interview with the author David Gillespie.

The article was drawn from an on-air interview with the author.

A complaint was made that the material in the article is presented as fact, and that the article gives the reader an uncritical view of disputed science.

While the audio that accompanied the article clearly indicated there was 'push back' from nutrition experts, the article did not include such material.

The Council ruled that it should not be necessary to listen to the more than 20 minutes of interview recording to get the balanced story.

Indeed, any reader would not even know that there was a need to listen in order to do so.

As such, the complaint was upheld by most Council members under Principle 1 - lack of balance and Principle 4 - opinion presented as fact.

However, there was strong dissent from two Council members who said they would not have upheld the complaint noting that views about the health effects of fat are part of the long-running issue of what is good food.

"It is in the category of endlessly debated issues where opinion pieces presenting opposite perspectives are often published, such as the effects of fluoride or abortion.

"The fact that the article may be less balanced than the broadcast radio interview is a matter of note, but irrelevant to whether or not this is plainly an opinion piece.

"As a stand-alone opinion piece, it is unexceptional," the dissenting council members say.

The full Media Council decision is at mediacouncil.org.nz.