Complaint under section 8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Truth Radio – host made statements about ChildFund and other child sponsorship organisations – allegedly inaccurate
Principle 6 (accuracy) – comments made by host were clearly distinguishable as opinion – accuracy standard did not apply – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 During an item broadcast on Radio Pacific’s Truth Radio programme on 28 March 2007, the host John Banks made some comments regarding child sponsorship organisations. The host had taken a call from a listener who wanted to discuss how the organisation Child Fund New Zealand operated.
 In relation to ChildFund’s operations the host said that it was a:
...very commercial organisation, very little of the money goes to any child that needs the money, a lot of the cash goes to fat cats running it and it is a bad thing to be putting your money into that, that’s my view.
 The host went on to say :
There’s another one, I don’t know what it’s called. They send you pictures of kids, until I went to a friend’s house one night and I saw the same picture of the same kid on the mantelpiece.
 The host then advised the caller that these types of organisations used commissioned agents and told the caller not to give them any money.
 ChildFund New Zealand complained to CanWest Radio Works Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging the item was inaccurate and in breach of Principle 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.
 The complainant argued that it was inaccurate to call ChildFund a “very commercial” organisation as it was a registered charity with the Charities Commission and was a non-profit organisation.
 Responding to the host’s comment that “very little money goes to the child that needs the money”, the complainant said this was wrong and that for every sponsorship dollar ChildFund New Zealand receives, 80% was sent overseas.
 The complainant maintained that New Zealand sponsors donate to one individual child or a particular family.
 ChildFund stated it used its own salaried staff and did not use commissioned agents to obtain sponsorship.
 CanWest RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, assessed the complaint under Principle 6 and guidelines 6b and 6c of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:
Principle 6 Accuracy
In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.
6b In the event of an allegation of inaccuracy, broadcasters will act promptly to check the allegation against the original broadcast, and will broadcast with similar prominence a suitable and appropriately scheduled correction if that is found to be justified.
6c Factual reports on the one hand, and opinion, analysis and comment on the other, shall be clearly distinguished.
 As it had not received a response from CanWest within the statutory timeframe, ChildFund referred its complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It reiterated its argument contained in its original complaint.
 CanWest argued that the accuracy principle did not apply to the complaint because the comments made were not part of a news and current affairs programme, but an expression of the host’s opinion. It argued the accuracy principle was aimed at the reporting of news as opposed to radio talkback.
 The broadcaster stated that “the caller was asking the host for his opinion and the host provided it – his belief that the organisation was very commercial and run by fat cats”. It maintained the remaining comments referred to by the complainant were in relation to another unidentified organisation.
 The broadcaster believed that the statements made by the host were not unqualified statements of fact, but were opinion and regular listeners of the show were accustomed to the robust and outspoken manner in which the host expresses himself.
 CanWest noted that ChildFund had been invited to go on air and talk about the organisation, but had declined to participate. It pointed out that ChildFund had organised a pre-recorded statement that it wanted to be played which explained how it operated. CanWest believed the statement was too lengthy and declined to play it because the voice used in the statement was that of a host from a competing radio station. CanWest said it had then offered ChildFund another opportunity to go onto the programme and talk, but that offer was rejected.
 The broadcaster maintained that it had given the complainant opportunities to rebut the opinion expressed by the host and considered that all of the requirements of the Radio Code had been met. It declined to uphold the complaint.
 The members of the Authority have listened to 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.
 Guideline 6c to Principle 6 states that broadcasters must clearly distinguish between factual reports on the one hand, and opinion, analysis or comment on the other. In terms of the host stating that Childfund was “very commercial” and “a lot of the money went to fat cats running it”, the Authority is of the view that listeners would have been able to clearly distinguish these statements as the host’s own opinion. This is especially so when at the end of making those statements the host said “…that’s my view”.
 The Authority agrees with CanWest that when the host commented on pictures of children he was not referring to ChildFund, but to another unidentified organisation.
 It is Authority’s view that the host’s remark relating to the use of commissioned agents was not specifically directed at ChildFund, but at sponsorship organisations in general. Further, it was clearly distinguishable as the host’s opinion. Accordingly, the Authority finds that the accuracy standard did not apply to the host’s statements and it declines to uphold the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
14 August 2007
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 ChildFund New Zealand’s formal complaint to the broadcaster – 20 April 2007
2 ChildFund’s referral to the Authority – 29 May 2007
3 CanWest’s response to the Authority – 6 June 2007