Standard 4 (balance) – no controversial issue of public importance discussed – not upheld
Standard 5 (accuracy) – no inaccuracies – decline to determine some matters – not upheld
Standard 6 (fairness) – not unfair to Mr Nottingham or Advantage Advocacy – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 A Fair Go item broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on 22 February 2006 told the story of a woman, Evonne Puru, who had been receiving Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) compensation for a back injury. The item said that ACC had reviewed her case and decided that she could return to full time work. Mrs Puru, who was living in Australia, wanted to have her case reviewed and engaged the services of Dermot Nottingham, an advocate who worked for Advantage Advocacy Ltd.
 The item reported that Mrs Puru had paid an up-front fee of $13,000 to Advantage Advocacy, and that this fee included the cost of obtaining two medical reports needed for her review hearing. While she did not sign a contract, Mrs Puru said that Advantage Advocacy promised that she would get a hearing date within 8-10 weeks.
 Fair Go said that after waiting months to hear back from Mr Nottingham, Mrs Puru decided she no longer wanted his services. She engaged a solicitor to complete the work, and he completed the job within one month at a cost of $5,000.
 The item said that Mrs Puru had asked Mr Nottingham for a refund, but the parties could not agree on a sum. Mrs Puru stated that, after she complained to Mr Nottingham, he “went completely nuts” and told her to sue him in order to get any money back. Mr Nottingham had also refused to return her file, the item said. The reporter stated that Mr Nottingham had then threatened to tell ACC that Mrs Puru was “fraudulent”. Mrs Puru explained that ACC had taken her to court because she had been “over-paid”, and that she had been forced to pay back the money.
 The report said that in 2004, ACC had refused to recognise Mr Nottingham as an advocate “in the interests of staff and claimants” because he could not work constructively with ACC. It said that he was recognised as an advocate by Dispute Resolution Services Ltd which heard the reviews.
 The host of Fair Go (Kevin Milne) then conducted a four-minute studio interview with Mr Nottingham. Mr Nottingham was told that he could have one minute uninterrupted to give a summary of his responses to Mrs Puru’s allegations. Mr Nottingham stated that he required at least 30 minutes to answer the allegations, at which point the host interrupted Mr Nottingham and reminded him that the programme itself was only 30 minutes in length. Mr Nottingham then said that Mrs Puru had been asking Advantage Advocacy to commit itself to affidavits that “would have been perjury”, and that she had asked Advantage Advocacy to submit medical certificates which she admitted contained false information.
 After Mr Nottingham had spoken, the host asked Mr Nottingham whether he would be returning the $13,000 to Mrs Puru, and Mr Nottingham responded that this was a decision for Advantage Advocacy to make. The host also asked how it was possible for the lawyer to complete Mrs Puru’s case for only $5,000, and whether Mr Nottingham had threatened to “dob her in” to the ACC. Mr Nottingham said he had not received a privacy waiver and could not discuss the case. Further, he said that he could not respond properly without referring in detail to the documents he held.
 Fair Go broadcast a follow-up item on 1 March 2006 which presented viewer feedback about the programme. It informed viewers that Advantage Advocacy would not be making a statement about whether it would refund Mrs Puru’s money until a complaint had been dealt with by the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
 Dermot Nottingham complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item on 22 February breached standards of good taste and decency, balance, accuracy and fairness. Advantage Advocacy also made a formal complaint to TVNZ about the programme, and stated that it was complaining on the same grounds as Mr Nottingham.
 Mr Nottingham was concerned that Fair Go had only allowed him one minute in which to respond to several minutes of “false accusations” by the reporter and Mrs Puru. He also argued that the host had begun shouting in order to intimidate him and interfere with his attempts to answer the questions.
 Mr Nottingham argued that the host’s questions were “puerile” and “inflammatory”, and that he should have been allowed more time to answer the allegations. He said that, prior to the broadcast, the reporter, the host and the executive producer had all been shown documents outlining several facts, including:
Mrs Puru had “reasonably recent criminal convictions” for fraud similar to that now alleged by Advantage Advocacy, rather than the “overpayment scenario” invented by the reporter. Mrs Puru had been convicted of defrauding the ACC relating to claimed levels of incapacity requiring home help.
Advantage Advocacy had offered a settlement to pay Mrs Puru’s legal bills but she had refused.
The alleged delay was not due to Advantage Advocacy, but was due to Mrs Puru and her doctor. Advantage Advocacy had stated several times that it would go immediately to review, but Mrs Puru told it to hold off.
Advantage Advocacy was ready to go to review, and would have succeeded as Mrs Puru’s lawyer did, but it was not prepared to mislead the review. Mrs Puru’s lawyer had been advised of this.
The reporter had visited Mr Nottingham’s house accompanied by two men in order to intimidate his family, and had subsequently injured a process server by taking an unexpected photograph with a flash.
The reporter had seen documents that established that ACC did recognise Mr Nottingham as an advocate.
 Mr Nottingham also made several other statements which were critical of Mrs Puru’s conduct, and alleged that she had committed fraudulent acts in preparing for the ACC review hearing.
 Referring to the 1 March episode of Fair Go, Mr Nottingham stated that this was a “personal attack” to which he had been given no opportunity to respond. The content was misleading and the reporter had lied by omission, he said.
 Mr Nottingham stated that he had informed Fair Go that he required a Privacy Act waiver in order to be able to respond fully, and had asked TVNZ to obtain such a waiver. Advantage Advocacy added that this had been brought to TVNZ’s attention over several weeks, and considered that “this omission by TVNZ was purposeful”.
 TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standards 1, 4, 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:
Standard 1 Good Taste and Decency
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards which are consistent with the observance of good taste and decency.
Standard 4 Balance
In the preparation and presentation of news, current affairs and factual programmes, broadcasters are responsible for maintaining standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
Standard 5 Accuracy
News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.
Standard 6 Fairness
In the preparation and presentation of programmes, broadcasters are required to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.
 TVNZ responded to all the points raised by Mr Nottingham, including the following:
1. The content was inaccurate, purposely misleading, and designed to prejudice Mr Nottingham’s ability to respond
 TVNZ was of the view that the programme provided a fair and accurate summary of Mrs Puru’s cause for discontent. It was clearly focused on the central issue of whether or not Advantage Advocacy had earned its fee. TVNZ found no evidence to support Mr Nottingham’s contention that Fair Go had prejudiced his ability to respond. TVNZ stated that it seemed that:
…while the presenter very fairly tried to keep the focus on the main issue (was Advantage Advocacy going to refund the money to Mrs Puru?) you seemed intent on going off on a different track which appeared to have no relevance to the central point at issue.
 TVNZ noted that in attempting to meet the requirement for balance in Standard 4, broadcasters could not be held responsible for the quality of the answers or information provided by a person having the balancing viewpoint. TVNZ considered it a “great pity” that Mr Nottingham did not take the opportunity to answer in a straightforward manner the questions put to him by the reporter. The opportunity to respond, it said, was not a case of “is there anything you want to say”; it was a case of answering specific questions related to the situation being described.
 The broadcaster said that the reporter had gone to great lengths to communicate with Mr Nottingham prior to the first item being broadcast, and before he appeared in the studio interview. TVNZ noted that telephone discussions between Mr Nottingham and the reporter took place on at least eight occasions. The reporter had also couriered or faxed letters to Advantage Advocacy on five occasions.
 TVNZ wrote that it was not credible that Mr Nottingham went into the studio unaware of the main focus of the item. Further, in seeking balance from Mr Nottingham, he had been given three options to respond – in writing, in a pre-recorded interview at his home or business, or in a studio interview.
2. The programme only allowed a minute for Mr Nottingham to respond
 TVNZ stated that this was not correct. Mr Nottingham had been told prior to the interview that four minutes had been set aside for his response. The first minute was to allow him to summarise his position, uninterrupted. TVNZ said that Mr Nottingham was told that after this minute, the presenter would ask follow-up questions relating to the focus of the item. The broadcaster noted that the studio segment lasted for four minutes and 13 seconds.
3. The host’s conduct
 In TVNZ’s opinion, the host had acted properly in his efforts to keep Mr Nottingham to the point of the interview.
4. Mr Nottingham’s documents
 Contrary to what Mr Nottingham said, TVNZ stated that the host had not been present during discussions prior to the programme. The broadcaster contended that, while the discussion included reference to various documents, Mr Nottingham did not in fact show all of them to the Fair Go representatives before the programme. TVNZ understood that Mr Nottingham was advised that the best use of his time would be to summarise the main points of his response, and that there would not be time to go through every document individually.
5. The seventeen points outlined in Mr Nottingham’s letter
 While it had endeavoured to respond to each of those points, TVNZ said, many of the points were irrelevant. In particular, Mrs Puru’s prior conviction was not what the report was about. ACC was aware of it, and did not regard it as being relevant to her recent review. TVNZ noted that the item was about why Advantage Advocacy had spent so long representing Mrs Puru for so little result. The broadcaster maintained that the key issue was that Advantage Advocacy had accepted $13,000 and did not refund any of the fee after Mrs Puru dispensed with its services.
6. Mrs Puru had reasonably recent criminal convictions for similar fraud to that alleged by Advantage Advocacy
 TVNZ reiterated that Mrs Puru’s conviction was known to ACC, that ACC had not raised it at the review hearing, and that it was not relevant to whether Advantage Advocacy could justify its $13,000 fee, or rightfully withhold a refund.
7. Advantage Advocacy had offered a settlement to pay Mrs Puru’s legal bills but she had refused
 TVNZ noted that the item had reported that there had been discussions over a refund but that the two sides could not agree on a figure.
8. Advantage Advocacy had stated several times that it would go immediately to review but it was Mrs Puru that wanted to hold off
 TVNZ said that when Mrs Puru “sacked” Advantage Advocacy and asked for a refund, Mr Nottingham had said he could take her case to review. However, a year had passed and Mrs Puru had lost confidence in his ability to perform the service she had paid for.
9. Advantage Advocacy was ready to go to review and would have succeeded as the lawyer did, but was not prepared to mislead the review. Mrs Puru’s lawyer was told this by Advantage Advocacy
 TVNZ contended that Mr Nottingham had contradicted himself. Above, he had stated that Advantage Advocacy would “go immediately to review”. Here, he said that Advantage Advocacy was “not prepared” to go to review if that meant misleading the review. Both propositions could not be correct, TVNZ said.
10. The reporter had visited Mr Nottingham’s house with two men for the purposes of intimidating his family, and injured a process server with a camera flash
 TVNZ stated that the reporter had visited Mr Nottingham’s home to deliver a letter. He had walked down the driveway and given the letter to Mr Nottingham’s brother. The reporter was accompanied by a cameraman, who had waited on the footpath outside the driveway. TVNZ said that the reporter was adamant that he had not been accompanied by two men, as alleged by the complainant.
 In response to Mr Nottingham’s allegation that the reporter had injured a process server, TVNZ stated that the man had gone to the reporter’s home to deliver a trespass warrant. The reporter had told the man that he would take a photograph of him, and the man had smiled for the camera.
11. The reporter had seen documents that established that ACC did recognise Mr Nottingham as an advocate
 The broadcaster maintained that neither the reporter, nor anyone else at Fair Go, had seen such documents. The ACC had provided Fair Go with a statement saying that it no longer recognised Mr Nottingham as an advocate, it said.
12. Request for privacy waiver
 TVNZ stated that Mr Nottingham had been provided with a privacy waiver from Mrs Puru. It was the standard waiver used in many stories screened on Fair Go, it said. Mr Nottingham had asked for an additional waiver to undertake more enquiries into Mrs Puru’s past, but the broadcaster had considered that this request was not relevant to the issues raised in the item. It was not Fair Go’s place to provide such a waiver, TVNZ said.
13. Item on 1 March 2006
 The broadcaster disagreed with Mr Nottingham that the 1 March item represented a personal attack on him. It was a short piece which had combined reaction to the previous item with an update on the central issue, it said. TVNZ noted that the programme had quoted a viewer who supported Mr Nottingham and another who supported Fair Go. It had also updated any progress on Mrs Puru receiving a refund and had included some “jocular references” to the phrase “factual matrix” used by Mr Nottingham in the previous item.
 Turning to the standards, TVNZ contended that Standard 1 (good taste and decency) was not relevant. It noted that this standard usually related to programmes containing bad language, sex or nudity. If Mr Nottingham was referring to the behaviour of the host or the reporter, TVNZ said, it disagreed that their behaviour breached the standard.
 As it had already noted, TVNZ considered that Standard 4 (balance) had not been breached. Balance was achieved in the programme and Mr Nottingham had been given reasonable opportunities to respond, it said.
 The broadcaster stated that it had found no evidence of any inaccuracies in the item. It found that Standard 5 (accuracy) was not breached.
 With respect to Standard 6 (fairness), TVNZ felt that Mr Nottingham had been treated fairly in the item. It recognised that he had not been given the “30 minutes” he felt he needed to go through all the documents, but considered that those papers seemed to have little relevance to what was being discussed. Focused questions had been put to Mr Nottingham and, in the terms of a television programme, the broadcaster considered that he was given adequate time to answer.
 Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Nottingham and Advantage Advocacy referred their complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. In a subsequent letter, Mr Nottingham advised the Authority that he wished to comment further on TVNZ’s response and provide further information.
 TVNZ added nothing further to its original response to the complainant.
 Mr Nottingham advised that he had been unable to obtain the evidence that he wished to provide to the Authority. He said that this evidence related to Mrs Puru’s alleged “level of incapacity”. Mr Nottingham raised the issue of his treatment prior to the programme, stating that Fair Go had tried to “bully” him into going on air without being prepared. He also included copies of correspondence between Advantage Advocacy, Mrs Puru and her lawyer.
 Mr Nottingham also indicated that he intended to provide further information in due course.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcasts complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
 The Authority notes that Mr Nottingham has failed to meet a number of time extensions requested and granted so that he might provide further information to the Authority that he considered relevant. However, he has described neither the nature of that information, nor how it might be relevant. In these circumstances, the Authority is unwilling to delay its determination of the complaint any further. Accordingly, it proceeds to determine it on the basis of the information provided to date.
 In the Authority’s view, the focus of this Fair Go item was why Advantage Advocacy had not completed the job for which it was paid a $13,000 advance by Mrs Puru, why it had not partially refunded Mrs Puru’s money or returned her file after its services were terminated, and whether it now intended to refund the money. The Authority determines Mr Nottingham’s complaint on that basis.
 The Authority notes that a large portion of Mr Nottingham’s complaint consisted of allegations that Mrs Puru had acted fraudulently in her dealings with ACC and Advantage Advocacy. However, Mr Nottingham has not – either on the programme or in subsequent correspondence – explained how this alleged fraud was relevant to the issues that were discussed in the programme.
 Mr Nottingham outlined several concerns in his complaint which the Authority considers are appropriately addressed under Standard 6 (fairness). It has dealt with each allegation separately.
The programme only allowed him one minute to answer the allegations made in the body of the story
 In the Authority’s view, Mr Nottingham was given ample opportunity to summarise the main points of his response. He was advised prior to the interview that he would be given one minute to give an overview of his position, and the Authority finds that he could have done so had he chosen to use his time effectively. While the host did interrupt Mr Nottingham once during his one minute response, the interruption was brief.
 The Authority also notes that Mr Nottingham did not have only one minute in which to respond to the allegations; the studio interview lasted more than four minutes, giving Mr Nottingham ample opportunity to provide responses. Accordingly, the Authority considers that the time given to Mr Nottingham to summarise his response was reasonable. It finds that Mr Nottingham was treated fairly in this respect.
The interviewer “was purposefully bellicose starting to shout at” Mr Nottingham in order to intimidate him and interfere with his attempt to respond to the allegations
 The Authority disagrees with Mr Nottingham that the interviewer’s manner was unfair to him. Rather than trying to “intimidate” Mr Nottingham or interfere with his attempts to respond, the Authority finds that the interviewer was doing his best to focus the discussion on the relevant issues and elicit useful responses from Mr Nottingham, who appeared evasive. It declines to uphold this part of the complaint.
The interviewer wasted time by asking “puerile” questions that were “inflammatory”
 The Authority observes that the programme showed the interviewer asking Mr Nottingham the following questions:
 In light of the focus of the item, the Authority considers that the interviewer’s questions were directly relevant to the issues of whether Advantage Advocacy was going to partially refund Mrs Puru’s money, and why it had not completed her job. Accordingly, the Authority finds that the interviewer’s questions were fair to Mr Nottingham and allowed him to answer the allegations made in the item. It does not uphold this part of the fairness complaint.
The reporter visited his house with two men hiding behind bushes and fences in order to intimidate him and his family, and he injured a process server by taking an unexpected photograph with a flash
 Mr Nottingham has made dramatic allegations that the Fair Go reporter was accompanied by two men “with the purpose of intimidating” his family. The Authority considers that TVNZ has provided a credible explanation for what occurred when the reporter visited Mr Nottingham’s property – that he was accompanied by a cameraman who remained at the end of the driveway. Mr Nottingham has not provided any evidence or specific details to support his allegations that whoever accompanied the reporter intended to intimidate him or his family. As a result, there is no evidence upon which the Authority could reasonably conclude that TVNZ treated him unfairly in the preparation of the programme. It does not uphold this part of the complaint.
 The Authority also declines to uphold Mr Nottingham’s complaint about the process server. The process server was not a person “taking part or referred to” in the programme in the sense envisaged by Standard 6, and therefore the requirement for fairness does not apply to him.
The item on 1 March was a personal attack and he was unable to respond
 The Authority notes that the 1 March item was a brief follow-up story which included a summary of the earlier item and viewer feedback in support of both Fair Go and Mr Nottingham. Mr Nottingham complained that he should have been allowed to respond to the content of the 1 March item.
 The Authority notes that the item included a quote from Advantage Advocacy updating its position. Considering the brief nature of the item, the Authority finds that TVNZ was not obliged to give Mr Nottingham an opportunity to provide any further comment. It finds nothing in the 1 March item which was unfair to Mr Nottingham or to Advantage Advocacy.
 The parties have provided conflicting evidence about whether TVNZ gave Mr Nottingham a privacy waiver enabling him to discuss Mrs Puru’s file on Fair Go. The Authority concludes that, even if Mr Nottingham did not see a waiver, the broadcast was not unfair in this respect.
 First, the Authority notes that despite his assertions to the contrary, Mr Nottingham did not appear to be constrained by the alleged lack of a privacy waiver. He made a number of allegations relating to Mrs Puru’s conduct, knowledge of which he could have gained only through his knowledge of her file. He alleged that Mrs Puru had been asking Advantage Advocacy to commit itself to affidavits that “would have been perjury”, and that she asked Advantage Advocacy to submit medical certificates which she had admitted contained false information. As he was prepared to make those allegations, the Authority concludes that Mr Nottingham was not unfairly constrained in answering questions relating to the focus of the item.
 Second, the Authority observes that Mrs Puru had obviously instigated the Fair Go investigation, and therefore Mr Nottingham was invited to participate in the programme with her full knowledge. The Authority considers that it was implicit in Mrs Puru’s approach to Fair Go, and the invitation for Mr Nottingham to appear, that Mrs Puru was happy for the details of her case to be discussed publicly.
 Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.
 As noted in the Authority’s preliminary observations (see paragraph ), in his correspondence Mr Nottingham has outlined a number of potentially defamatory allegations against Mrs Puru. He claims that Mrs Puru was acting fraudulently and that this was why the review hearing had been delayed.
 The Authority is not the appropriate body to determine whether Mrs Puru was acting fraudulently. Furthermore, Mr Nottingham has not demonstrated how this alleged fraud was relevant to the key issues of why, having not completed the job, Advantage Advocacy had not partially refunded Mrs Puru’s money, and whether it now intended to do so.
 Accordingly, the Authority declines to determine these matters. It instead turns to consider the other points raised by Mr Nottingham which are relevant to the accuracy standard.
Advantage Advocacy had offered to pay Mrs Puru’s legal bills
 Mr Nottingham complained that the item had not explained that Advantage Advocacy had offered to pay Mrs Puru’s legal bills. The Authority notes that the following statements were made in the programme:
Evonne asked for a refund. Not the whole 13 grand, because she accepts Dermot Nottingham did some work. There was some discussion but the two sides didn’t agree on a figure.
 The Authority considers that these statements accurately reflected the fact that the parties had been negotiating a settlement figure. It was not necessary for the programme to detail exactly what had been offered by both parties during the negotiation process. Accordingly, the Authority finds that the item was not inaccurate in this respect, and it declines to uphold this matter.
The reporter had seen documents that established that ACC did recognise Mr Nottingham as an advocate
 The Authority notes that the parties have provided conflicting evidence on this point. Mr Nottingham argued that he is recognised as an advocate by ACC, and TVNZ said that ACC had provided it with a statement saying he was no longer recognised. Direct quotes from the ACC’s statement were included in the item, and the Authority accepts that the information provided by ACC to TVNZ is accurate. It does not uphold this part of the complaint.
Mrs Puru had “reasonably recent criminal convictions” for similar fraud to that alleged by Advantage Advocacy, rather than the “over-payment scenario” invented by the reporter. Mrs Puru had been convicted of defrauding the ACC relating to claimed levels of incapacity requiring home help
 The Authority notes that TVNZ has not disputed that Mrs Puru was convicted of defrauding the ACC. However, in the item she said that ACC had taken her to court because she had been “over-paid”, and that she had been forced to pay back the money.
 The Authority notes that Mr Nottingham’s complaint about this matter is based on the premise that Mrs Puru’s alleged fraud was somehow connected to Advantage Advocacy’s refusal to refund her money. As stated above in paragraph , Mr Nottingham has at no time demonstrated that these two matters are related.
 While the item did not give a clear explanation of Mrs Puru’s conviction, the Authority finds that the statements were peripheral to the item’s focus, and would not have misled viewers about the issue at hand – Advantage Advocacy’s apparent refusal to refund Mrs Puru’s money. It does not uphold this part of the complaint.
The 1 March item was misleading and the reporter lied by omission
 In his letter of complaint, Mr Nottingham did not elaborate on his allegations that the 1 March item was “misleading”, nor did he specify what the reporter had “lied” about. Because the complainant has not identified any inaccuracies, the Authority declines to uphold the accuracy complaint about the 1 March programme.
 Having declined to uphold any of the matters above, the Authority finds that Standard 5 was not breached.
 Standard 4 requires that balance be provided only when “controversial issues of public importance” are discussed. In the Authority’s view, this item did not deal with a controversial issue of public importance to which the standard applies. The Fair Go item on 22 February dealt solely with a contractual dispute between two parties. It did not canvass any wider issues about the conduct of advocates in general or ACC review hearings. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.
 The good taste and decency standard is intended primarily to address issues of sex, nudity, bad language and violence. In essence, however, the complainants’ concerns were that Mr Nottingham was unable to present his point of view and that the programme treated him and Advantage Advocacy unfairly.
 The Authority considers that the complainants’ concerns in this respect have been appropriately addressed under the fairness and accuracy standards above and that Standard 1 is not relevant. It does not uphold this part of the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
12 July 2006
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint: