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Peapell and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2007-103

Members

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

Complainant

  • Craig Peapell of Orewa

Dated

18th March 2008

Number

2007-103

Programme

Fair Go

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Fair Go – item revisited a previous report that was critical of a real estate contract between Ms K and the National Property Centre – revisited a number of issues from the original item including the actions of the agent involved in drawing up the contract, some of the contract’s terms and conditions, another contract between related parties for renovation work and two caveats that had been placed on the property – item allegedly in breach of privacy, balance, accuracy and fairness standards  

Findings
Standard 4 (balance) – item did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – complainant did not specify how the item was inaccurate – not upheld

Standard 6 (fairness) – complainant given adequate opportunity to respond – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1]   An item on Fair Go,broadcast on TV One at 7.30pm on 25 July 2007, revisited an item broadcast two weeks earlier that had looked at a real estate contract between a woman called Ms K and a real estate company called The National Property Centre MREINZ (NPC). The item explained that the contract gave NPC exclusive rights both to market and sell Ms K’s property. It went on to discuss the actions of the agent involved in drawing up the contract, Craig Peapell, some of the terms and conditions of the contract and what had happened since the original broadcast.

[2]   During the course of the item, the following matters were discussed:

  • The terms of the contract gave NPC sole and exclusive rights both to market and sell Ms K’s property for 1095 working days.
  • The terms of the contract allowed NPC to cancel the contract by giving one week’s written notice to Ms K, but Ms K had no right to cancel the contract during the 1095 working day term.
  • Ms K’s allegations that she had not fully comprehended what she had signed up to.
  • Mr Peapell had admitted that the 1095 working day term was a mistake, but that NPC had not terminated or amended the contract.
  • Mr Peapell believed that Ms K had tried to sell her house through another agency while it was listed with him.  
  • NPC had removed one of the two caveats it had placed on the property and said that the other caveat would be lifted if the parties could agree to the bill for improvement work carried out on Ms K’s house and section.
  • Mr Peapell was not going to comment any further until the outcome of Ms K’s complaint to the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ).

Complaint

[3]   Craig Peapell made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the item had breached standards of balance, accuracy and fairness.

[4]   The complainant argued that the item was not a fair representation of the events in question, but was a misrepresentation of the facts. He maintained that the programme was “intentionally presented in a malicious manner in order to favour one side over the other”.

[5]   Mr Peapell considered that the item lacked “professional research and investigation of the facts”, and that he had provided Fair Go’s reporters with enough information before the broadcast for them to question the credibility of Ms K.

[6]   The complainant stated that he had visited TVNZ’s head office on 17 July 2007 and had shown the Fair Go reporter copies of the written evidence responding to Ms K’s complaint to REINZ. He maintained that he had pointed out the pivotal parts of the evidence to the reporter, but that she was not interested in reading the evidence. This confirmed that the reporter was not capable of being balanced, fair or honest, he said.

[7]   Mr Peapell argued that a reporter he had spoken to in a phone call “on or about 24 July 2007” had, during the item, continually misquoted what he had actually said. He maintained that Fair Go’s reporters had the facts at hand, but had picked out only what they wanted to screen and the item was unbalanced and unfair as a result.

[8]   The complainant also pointed out some concerns he had with the wording in a page on Fair Go’s website which discussed the item.

Standards

[9]   Standards 4, 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this 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.

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.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[10]   In response to the balance complaint, the broadcaster argued that the item had not discussed a controversial issue of public importance. It declined to uphold the complaint that the item was unbalanced.

[11]   TVNZ pointed out that the complainant had not identified which statements he believed the reporter had misquoted. It denied its reporter had misquoted anything and declined to uphold the accuracy complaint.

[12]   The broadcaster considered that Mr Peapell and NPC had been treated fairly in the broadcast and pointed out that the complainant had been offered the opportunity of an interview, but that he had declined.

[13]   With respect to Mr Peapell’s visit to TVNZ’s head office on 17 July 2007, the broadcaster stated that the meeting was not pre-arranged and that the Fair Go reporter spoke briefly with Mr Peapell in between other duties. It also maintained that while the complainant did have documents with him, he did not allow the reporter to properly view them or make copies. TVNZ argued that the reporter had repeatedly asked Mr Peapell to supply any information that was essential to the understanding and coverage of the issues. The broadcaster declined to uphold the fairness complaint.        

Referral to the Authority

[14]   Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s response, Mr Peapell referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8 (1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[15]   Mr Peapell maintained that during his visit to TVNZ’s head office on 17 July 2007 Fair Go’s reporter did not take the opportunity to examine the evidence while he was on hand to answer any questions. He also acknowledged that he “was not keen for the information to be copied as it was confidential”.

[16]   The complainant reiterated his arguments about the item being unfair and unbalanced. He also complained that he had not been given the opportunity to present his case to TVNZ’s standards committee.      

[17]   Mr Peapell raised a number of matters that were not included in his formal complaint to the broadcaster.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[18]   TVNZ stated that Mr Peapell had raised a number of new issues in his referral that were not included in his original complaint and that it would not be addressing those issues in its response to the Authority.

[19]   The broadcaster maintained that the focus of both the original item and the item subject to this complaint was the length of the agency agreement, the one dollar weekly rent for the labourers doing work on Ms K’s property and a lack of an itemised invoice for the work done. It pointed out that the item did not “examine the amount or quality of the work carried out”.

[20]   The broadcaster pointed out that its formal complaints process was a written one and that complainants were never asked to present their case in person to its Standards Committee.

Complainant’s Additional Submission

[21]   With respect to his visit to TVNZ’s head office, the complainant argued that Fair Go’s reporter should have taken the time to examine NPC’s reply to Ms K’s REINZ complaint and that the item would have been more balanced if she had.

[22]   Mr Peapell stated that Fair Go had not tried to make an appointment to examine the evidence after his visit to TVNZ on 17 July 2007 and that the reporter had eight days to do so before the item was broadcast on 25 July 2007. He maintained that eight days was “ample time to include all the facts”.   

Broadcaster’s Additional Submission

[23]   The broadcaster reiterated that the complainant had arrived unannounced to TVNZ’s head office. It maintained that Mr Peapell did not allow the reporter to take copies of his documents or give her sufficient time to look at or understand them as they were lengthy and complex.

[24]   TVNZ argued that the complainant used the promise of more information as a stalling tactic.

Complainant’s Further Submission

[25]   Mr Peapell reiterated his argument that he had given Fair Go’s reporter the opportunity to “examine the very evidence they so demanded” and that she had eight days prior to the broadcast to examine the evidence and “supporting exhibits”.

Broadcaster’s Final Submission

[26]   The broadcaster reiterated its argument that Fair Go’s reporter had not been allowed to copy the documents or examine them in any depth when Mr Peapell turned up at its head office. It maintained that the documents were complex and lengthy and that TVNZ still had not seen any copies.

Complainant’s Final Submission

[27]   Mr Peapell stated that after arriving at TVNZ’s head office, it was Fair Go’s reporter who decided that she did not have the time to digest the document and that he had offered to wait and answer any questions she might have had regarding it.

[28]   The complainant maintained that if the reporter had briefly read the evidence “she would have very quickly seen that [Ms K] was not without blame and was in fact the repudiating party”.

Authority's Determination

[29]   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.

Preliminary Matters

[30]   In his original complaint, Mr Peapell raised specific issues relating to balance, accuracy and fairness. In his referral to the Authority, the complainant raised a number of additional matters. As these issues did not form part of Mr Peapell’s original complaint to the broadcaster the Authority has no jurisdiction to consider them.

[31]   The Authority notes, however, that these additional issues raised by Mr Peapell have in large part been addressed in the Authority’s Decision No. 2007-090, which dealt with Mr Peapell’s complaint about the Fair Go item broadcast on 11 July 2007.    

[32]   The Authority also points out that it only has powers to deal with complaints concerning television and radio broadcasts, as set out in the Broadcasting Act 1989. It does not have jurisdiction over the internet, and therefore it cannot determine Mr Peapell’s complaint about Fair Go’s website.

Standard 6 (fairness)

[33]   The fairness standard requires broadcasters to deal justly and fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. With respect to Mr Peapell’s unscheduled visit to TVNZ’s head office on 17 July 2007, the Authority notes that the complainant did not allow the reporter to make copies of the alleged evidence he had that responded to Ms K’s complaint to REINZ.  It also notes that Fair Go’s reporter repeatedly asked the complainant to supply any information he had relating to the issues that would be addressed in the programme.

[34]   In the Authority’s view, the complainant was given an adequate opportunity to supply any information he had to the programme makers and to respond to the questions being asked of him. Accordingly, the Authority finds Mr Peapell had a reasonable opportunity to present his side of the story. It concludes that the complainant was treated fairly by TVNZ, and it declines to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.

Standard 4 (balance)

[35]   Standard 4 requires that balance be provided only when controversial issues of public importance are discussed. On this occasion, the item discussed the contractual arrangement between Ms K and NPC to sell her property. The Authority finds that the programme did not discuss a controversial issue of public importance; it dealt solely with a contractual dispute between two parties. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that Standard 4 does not apply and it declines to uphold the balance complaint.

Standard 5 (accuracy)

[36]   Mr Peapell stated that he spoke to one of Fair Go’s reporters in a phone call “on or about 24 July 2007” and argued that, during the item, she had continually misquoted what he had said. The Authority notes that the complainant has not stated which parts of the conversation he considers were misquoted in breach of Standard 5. Accordingly, the Authority has no basis upon which  to uphold the accuracy complaint.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
18 March 2008

Appendix

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

1.            Craig Peapell’s formal complaint – 29 July 2007
2.           TVNZ’s response to the formal complaint – 30 August 2007
3.           Mr Peapell’s referral to the Authority – 7 October 2007
4.           TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 19 November 2007
5.           Mr Peapell’s additional submission – 18 February 2008
6.           TVNZ’s additional submission – 25 February 2008
7.           Mr Peapell’s further submission – 25 February 2008
8.           TVNZ’s final submission – 27 February 2008
9.           Mr Peapell’s final submission – 29 February 2008