Report on RNZ news by Denis Dutton and John Iles

Michael Brown made this Official Information request to Radio New Zealand Limited

The request was successful.

From: Michael Brown

Dear Radio New Zealand Limited,

In 1995, the philosopher Denis Dutton was appointed to the Board of Radio New Zealand and remained there for seven years. When he left, he apparently issued - with fellow Board member John Iles - a report on the neutrality of RNZ news and current affairs.

This report is mentioned in Hansard for 30 March 2004, cited by then-MP Deborah Coddington. (See:

I have been unable to locate this report on the online database of Archives NZ.

Does RNZ have a copy? If so, can you please provide it.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Brown

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From: Michael Brown

Dear Radio New Zealand Limited,

Recently I made a request for a report on RNZ news, but this has not been responded to. Perhaps it's gone to the wrong email? In any case, could you please let me know if you can supply this?

Yours faithfully,

Michael Brown

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From: George Bignell
Radio New Zealand Limited

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Dear Mr Brown


RNZ is not able to provide a copy of the report you refer to because we do
not hold it.


It transpires from some work by our researchers that the report you refer
to may in fact have been written by Deborah Coddington. A copy of the
report written (or at least in part) by Deborah Coddington is held at the
National Library.  This is the link to their catalogue



This article from the 'New Zealand Herald' says that Denis Dutton and John
Isles wrote the preface, but it seems Deborah Coddington wrote the report


"Act hears bias on National radio.

By Mathew Dearnaley.

562 words

12 December 2003

New Zealand Herald



(c) 2003 The New Zealand Herald

Act MP Deborah Coddington wants to save state-funded National Radio from

In a report, "Saving Public Radio", the former magazine and Radio Liberty
journalist accuses it of bias and of failing a charter commitment to
present a diversity of views and provide impartial and balanced news

Despite also referring to the report as "Supporting Public Radio", she
acknowledges that her party opposes public service broadcasting because of
a vulnerability to political bias.

But she challenges the state broadcaster to guard against extinction by
future political administrations by doing more to represent opposing

Ms Coddington refrains from using the terms left and right wing, saying
these have become almost devoid of meaning.

Referring instead to pro-interventionist and pro-market standpoints, she
accuses National Radio of failing to cater for the 37 per cent of New
Zealanders who voted for parties with the latter policies.

She explains pro-interventionist as "the collectivist or socialist belief
in the forceful manipulation of economic affairs" and pro-market as an
economic and moral view that governments should intervene only minimally
in economic activities.

Her report is backed by a preface by former Radio New Zealand directors
John Isles and Denis Dutton, who declare a long-standing "nagging" concern
about the underlying intellectual framework of some programmes.

Radio New Zealand chairman Brian Corban is on record attacking his
predecessors for allegedly wanting to privatise its news service and "rip
the guts" out of public-service broadcasting.

Last night new chief executive Peter Cavanagh said he could not comment in
detail as Ms Coddington had not consulted Radio New Zealand, but
independent research showed that more than 80 per cent of its audience
believed it provided fair and balanced information.

Ms Coddington says in her report she has no problem with radio presenters
having certain views as long as they declare these on air.

But she says National Radio does not have a single presenter who clearly
and publicly holds a pro-market philosophical framework.

She attacks its range of guest commentators, from Auckland financial
planner Murray Weatherston to various overseas broadcasters and consumer
issues specialists Bill Bevan and Stephen Price as showing a "disquieting
homogeneity" and lack of diversity.

Mr Weatherston expressed surprise to the Herald at appearing at the top of
her hit list, saying he believed he leaned more to a pro-market than
pro-interventionist viewpoint, "although some of my friends would probably
accuse me of having a social conscience".

Ms Coddington also trawled National Radio news bulletins for a week in
September to analyse the selection and treatment of "perspectives within
news stories".

She concluded that 48 per cent of perspectives were those of
pro-interventionist new sources, against 27 per cent pro-market.

She accused the state broadcaster of airing the views of more
pro-interventionist groups such as unions in education stories than those
of pro-market lobbyists such as private school representatives.

And she said it was more likely to broadcast an opposing viewpoint after
an item from a pro-market group, while leaving claims by
pro-interventionists uncontested.

She also clobbered National Radio's business news for concentrating too
much on on corporate announcements and having lent its microphone to just
one business organisation representative - the Auckland Chamber of
Commerce - in a nine-day survey period."


As we are required to do, this message is to also advise you that our
response to your request can be referred to the Ombudsman’s Office for
review under s 28 (3) of the Official Information Act if you wish.


Kind regards


George Bignell| OIA Inquiries Coordinator



DDI +64 4 474 1424 | [mobile number]






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From: Michael Brown

Dear George Bignell,

Perfect - thank you. I will follow up with NLNZ.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Brown

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