Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
3 News – item reported on John Key’s visit to Greymouth – allegedly unbalanced
Standard 4 (balance) – complainant mistaken about contents of item – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An item on 3 News, broadcast on TV3 at 6pm on 24 October 2008, was introduced as follows:
[Labour is] poised to get back in Government, the head of a coalition of parties, and that’s a vision [leader of the National Party, John Key] describes as "a five-headed monster of the left", and one he hopes voters will flee from. Well, political editor Duncan Garner has travelled with Key to the West Coast today...
 Mr Garner reported that "John Key's comments today do come as a direct result of that poll last night...". Footage of Mr Key walking down a public street was shown, accompanied by a voiceover from Mr Garner stating, "John Key hit Greymouth's main street where the locals seemed pleased to greet him and tell him Labour's not looking too flash here". The political editor then commented that:
... last night's 3 News poll wasn’t so tasty for Key. It showed Helen Clark in a position to put together a coalition and rule for a fourth term. So Key’s decided to let loose, labelling that a "five-headed left-wing monster".
 Mr Key was shown commenting that New Zealanders had an easy choice to make, between "a National government with a fresh view... or... a potentially five-headed monster".
 Bryan Fisk made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item breached guideline 4a to the balance standard, because it stated that "Key hit Greymouth's main street to counter [the] 3 News poll".
 Mr Fisk asserted that TV3 had "no evidence that this event had anything to do with your 3 News poll (as the other media also have polls e.g. TVNZ, newspapers)". He requested that TVWorks broadcast a retraction of the statement made in the item, unless it had a written or verbal statement from John Key to the effect that he knew of the 3 News poll results and had reacted by visiting Greymouth's main street.
 Mr Fisk considered that the news item lacked balance and impartiality as it created the impression that John Key had reacted to the TV3 news poll, but did not give any evidence in that respect.
 The complainant noted that the same statement had been repeated on TV3's website.
 Mr Fisk nominated Standard 4 and guideline 4a of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in his complaint. These 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.
Programmes which deal with political matters, current affairs, and questions of a controversial nature, must show balance and impartiality.
 TVWorks maintained that there was no suggestion in the item that "Key hit Greymouth's main street to counter [the] 3 News poll'" as argued by the complainant. Accordingly, the broadcaster declined to uphold the complaint.
 Dissatisfied with TVWorks' response, Mr Fisk referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He considered that TVWorks had not addressed the points he made in his complaint.
 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 Authority notes that the 3 News political editor made the following statements in the item:
John Key's comments today do come as a direct result of that poll last night...
John Key hit Greymouth's main street where the locals seemed pleased to greet him and tell him Labour's not looking too flash here.
Last night's 3 News poll wasn't so tasty for Key. It showed Helen Clark in a position to put together a coalition and rule for a fourth term. So Key's decided to let loose, labelling that a "five-headed left-wing monster".
 Accordingly, the Authority is satisfied that the item did not state that "Key hit Greymouth's main street to counter [the] 3 News poll", as argued by the complainant. The political editor remarked that Mr Key's comments about the "five-headed monster" – not his visit to Greymouth – were a reaction to the poll.
 As the complainant was mistaken about the contents of the item, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
 In addition to his complaint about the 3 News item, Mr Fisk complained about the contents of TV3's website. As the Authority has no jurisdiction over such content on websites, it cannot consider this part of the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
17 February 2009
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1. Bryan Fisk's formal complaint – 24 October 2008
2. TVWorks' response to the complaint – 12 November 2008
3. Mr Fisk's referral to the Authority – 14 November 2008
4. TVWorks' response to the Authority – 14 January 2009