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McDonald and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2008-035

Members

  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Paul France
  • Tapu Misa
  • Diane Musgrave

Complainant

  • Donald McDonald of Lower Hutt

Dated

4th July 2008

Number

2008-035

Programme

Tonight

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Tonight – item looked at the government’s rule change on foreign investment and its impact on Auckland airport shares and the share market in general – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – complaint vexatious – decline to determine under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on Tonight, broadcast on TV One at 10.30pm on 4 March 2008, reported on the share market’s turbulence after the government announced a change to foreign ownership rules preventing the sale of a major stake of Auckland International Airport shares to a Canadian pension fund. The item included interviews with Prime Minister Helen Clark, National Party leader John Key, Auckland airport chairman Tony Frankham, Graeme Bevans from the Canadian pension fund and Bruce Sheppard from the New Zealand Shareholders Association.

[2]   The item included the following statement:

Within hours of the government’s move, Auckland airport shares plunged 12% – 30 cents a share – enough of a fall to drag the rest of the market down with it.  

Complaint

[3]   Donald McDonald made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item was inaccurate. He considered that the presenter’s statement that Auckland airport shares had dropped 12% to 30 cents per share was “not true”. He stated that the Auckland airport share price ended 24 cents down at $2.24, not at 30 cents.

Standards

[4]   TVNZ assessed the complained under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. It provides:

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[5]   TVNZ stated that One News had reported on the share market’s turbulence after the government’s changing of foreign ownership rules and its effect on Auckland airport shares earlier the same evening. It noted that the One News item had informed viewers that Auckland airport shares had “plunged 12% - 30 cents a share”, and that the reporter stated that the share price “eventually finished down 24 cents” on $2.24.

[6]   TVNZ stated that the Tonight item “contained much the same information” as a One News item, and focused on the government’s move to change foreign ownership rules and its effect on Auckland airport shares and the share market in general. The broadcaster contended that the item did not contain any inaccuracies and declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[7]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that the presenter had stated that Auckland airport shares “plunged 12% to 30 cents per share”.

Authority's Determination

[8]   The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[9]   Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 allows the Authority to decline to determine a complaint which it considers to be frivolous, vexatious or trivial.

[10]   The Authority notes that Mr McDonald received a perfectly adequate response from the broadcaster which explained that his interpretation of the presenter’s statement was incorrect, and quoted the item’s statement about the closing share price which negated his interpretation. Referring a complaint to the Authority in those circumstances is, in the Authority’s view, an inappropriate use of the complaints procedure.

[11]   Accordingly, the Authority declines to determine the complaint under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 on the grounds that it is vexatious.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
4 July 2008

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1.           Mr McDonald’s formal complaint – 5 March 2008
2.          TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 11 April 2008
3.          Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 18 April 2008
4.          TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 7 May 2008