Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – item reported on landslip affecting several homes in Bucklands Beach – stated that one house had been bought just five weeks prior to landslip through Trinity Real Estate, which was in liquidation, and that a LIM report was not obtained – allegedly in breach of balance, accuracy and fairness
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld
Standard 5 (accuracy) – no inaccuracies – not upheld
Standard 6 (fairness) – not unfair to Trinity Real Estate – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on 2 September 2008, reported that a landslip was jeopardising properties in a wealthy Auckland suburb, which included the homes of a former mayor and a relatively recent unidentified purchaser.
 The presenter introduced the item by saying:
The former mayor is among the victims of a landslip in the Auckland suburb of Bucklands Beach. So too is a family who bought a million-dollar home there just weeks ago. As Melissa Davies reports, some think it’s not just bad luck or bad weather which is to blame.
 Footage was then shown of ground that had shifted and some of the damage done to the houses involved, with the reporter stating that five homes had been evacuated indefinitely.
 The reporter interviewed a representative from the Manukau District Council who discussed previous land movement in the area. The reporter then discussed the recent purchase of a property in the area, stating:
It’s especially crushing news for the overseas owner of 118 Clovelly Road. They bought their beach retreat for 1.4 million dollars just five weeks ago. The real estate agent admits the buyers didn’t get a LIM report. By unfortunate coincidence, that real estate agency is now in the process of liquidation.
 As the reporter made those comments, video footage of the office of Trinity Real Estate Group was shown.
 Roger Brookes made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the item was unbalanced, inaccurate and unfair.
 With respect to the house that had been recently purchased by overseas owners, the complainant stated that the listing and selling agency was Professionals (Star Real Estate Ltd) Howick and this had been noted on the sales and purchase agreement issued by Professionals. He contended the Trinity agent introduced the buyer to the property on a “conjunctional sale arrangement” on terms agreed to by both agents.
 Mr Brookes said that individuals from both companies had a duty of care to the new owners and that the listing agent “would certainly know the history of the home and immediate area”.
 The complainant alleged that Trinity Real Estate did not sell the house and that TV3 had implied Trinity was the sole agency involved and failed in its duty of care to the new owners. He also considered that the item had implied that Trinity Real Estate had gone into liquidation as a direct result of unethical behaviour and poor business practices by association with the property sale, which was not the case. Mr Brookes argued the item challenged the integrity of all those that had been associated with Trinity Real Estate and that because it had gone into “voluntary liquidation” those people had no opportunity to respond.
 TVWorks assessed the complaint under Standard 4, 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Code of Broadcasting Practice. They provide:
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.
 With respect to Standard 4 (balance), the broadcaster considered that the item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance and that the complainant’s concerns would be more appropriately dealt with under accuracy and fairness. It declined to uphold the balance complaint.
 Turning to Standard 5 (accuracy), TVWorks said that the focus of the item was not on Trinity Real Estate and that it was only mentioned “solely as an agency involved in the sale and purchase of an affected home”. It noted Mr Brookes had not disputed the fact that Trinity had been involved in the sale. The broadcaster considered that there had been no breach of the accuracy standard and declined to uphold that aspect of the complaint.
 In relation to fairness, the broadcaster noted Mr Brookes’ contention that the item implied Trinity had been the sole agency involved and that it had failed in its duty of care. It agreed that the specific nature of Trinity’s involvement was not clear from the story, but it did not agree that the item insinuated that Trinity had failed in its duty of care. TVWorks said the report clearly pointed out that the liquidation was “an unfortunate coincidence” and did not discredit the agency in any way.
 The broadcaster noted the report had stated the agency had admitted “the buyers didn’t get a LIM report”, but said no discussion of liability or responsibility for obtaining the report was mentioned. TVWorks contended that the comments concerning Trinity’s role were “simply one aspect of the item which covered multiple facets of consequences of the landslip”. It declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with TVWorks’ response, Mr Brookes referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 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.
 The complainant contended that Trinity Real Estate was not the sole agent involved in the property deal referred to in the item, and that the item had implied that Trinity had failed in its duty of care to the purchaser.
 The Authority notes that Mr Brookes acknowledged that Trinity had acted for, and had a direct obligation to, the purchaser of the property. Therefore the information given in the item about Trinity’s involvement was accurate. Further, the purchase of 118 Clovelly Road was a sidebar in a brief news report; it was not the main focus of the item. Accordingly, the Authority finds that the item was not inaccurate in omitting to mention that another real estate agent was involved in the property purchase. In these circumstances, it declines to uphold the accuracy complaint.
 Mr Brookes argued that the item had implied that Trinity Real Estate had gone into liquidation as a direct result of unethical behaviour and poor business practices associated with the property sale. The Authority disagrees. The reporter made it clear that the liquidation of Trinity Real Estate was an “unfortunate coincidence”; the complainant has not pointed the Authority to any statement in the item which suggested that Trinity had acted unethically or displayed unsound business practices. Accordingly, the Authority finds that Trinity was not treated unfairly in this respect. It declines to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.
 Standard 4 requires broadcasters to provide balance when discussing controversial issues of public importance. This item discussed a recent landslip in Auckland that was jeopardising some homes in the area. In the Authority’s view, the report did not constitute a controversial issue of public importance as envisaged by the balance standard. Accordingly, the Authority finds that Standard 4 did not apply to the broadcast and it declines to uphold this part of the complaint.
 However, the Authority notes that it has already dealt with the complainant’s concerns about balance in its consideration of the accuracy and fairness standards.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
19 December 2008
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Roger Brookes’ formal complaint – 4 September 2008
2. TVWorks’ response to the formal complaint – 2 October 2008
3. Mr Brookes’ referral to the Authority – 7 October 2008
4. TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 15 October 2008