Wood vs Radio New Zealand (13/002)

Content: “Manning: please call me Chelsea”

Publisher: Radio New Zealand

Outcome: No Grounds to Proceed

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The Chairman viewed a copy of the content, the complaint, the preliminary response from RNZ and the relevant Standards from the Code, Standard 1 Accuracy, Standard 3 Fairness and Standard 4 Discrimination and Denigration.

The Chairman confirmed that while Radio New Zealand had broadcast similar content in a story on Radio New Zealand National in a news bulletin, the story as it appeared on the website was within jurisdiction.  The Chairman noted that broadcaster had concurred with this view.

He noted the concerns of the Complainant, Nicola Wood, who considered the story to be “inaccurate in its constant misgendering and misnaming of [Chelsea Manning] and in doing so also encourages discrimination on the basis of gender identity (in the form of transphobia), perpetuating already strong social stigma against transgender people – in particular transgender women”.

The Chairman first addressed the complaint under Standard 3 Fairness. The Chairman confirmed that only people or organisations party to the news or current affairs content can bring a complaint under this Standard in Part B of the Code. As the Complainant was not the subject of the story, Standard 3 was not applicable to the complaint before him.

The Chairman then noted that Standard 4 required that publishers not encourage discrimination against or discrimination of any section of the New Zealand community.  The Chairman said the use of both names and feminine and masculine pronouns in the story reflected the timing of the public transition from Bradley to Chelsea Manning and did not meet the threshold to encourage discrimination or denigration.

In addressing the concerns of the Complainant under Standard 1 Accuracy, the Chairman said the story reported factual information in that Bradley Manning had been tried and sentenced under that name and had then announced via a statement that “I am Chelsea Manning, I am female”.

While the Chairman acknowledged the concerns of the Complainant with regard to the challenges faced by the transgender community, he ruled that the matters raised in the complaint before him did not present an arguable breach of the Code of Standards and there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.

Chairman’s Ruling:    No Grounds to Proceed

Date of Ruling: 5 September 2013