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Accident Compensation Corporation and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2006-126

Members

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

Complainant

  • Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) of Wellington

Dated

22nd February 2007

Number

2006-126

Programme

Dragon’s Den

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Dragon’s Den – contestant said that ACC paid $68 million per year for people to hang out washing for people who were unable to do it themselves – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – not a factual programme to which the accuracy standard applies – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] Dragon’s Den was a series in which would-be entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to five successful business people in the hopes that they might invest. In the episode broadcast on TV One at 8.30pm on 19 October 2006, one of the contestants said:

The ACC spends $68 million a year on helping people hang out their washing alone – I know, it’s a staggering amount...

[2] His remark was challenged by one of the business people who said that he did not believe the claim. The businessman said:

That means there’s a profession in New Zealand of washing hanger-uppers which – on my estimation – about 2000 people. Is that what you’re telling me, that there are people whose full time occupation is going around hanging up washing?

The contestant’s business partner clarified that occupational therapists and home help agencies would often visit disabled people to hang out washing or do other household chores.

Complaint

[3] Through its senior media advisor, the ACC made a formal complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the contestant’s statement that ACC paid people $68 million to hang up washing was inaccurate. It asked TVNZ to broadcast a statement correcting the error.

Standards

[4] TVNZ assessed the complaint under Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, which 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] In response, TVNZ noted that Standard 5 (accuracy) applied to “news, current affairs and other factual programmes”. It did not believe that an entertainment series such as Dragon’s Den fell into any of those categories, and therefore it concluded that the standard was not relevant. It declined to uphold the complaint on that basis.

[6] Responding to the substance of the complaint informally, TVNZ noted that the contestant’s remark had been challenged and ridiculed by one of the business investors. It would have been clear to the audience that the claim was wild and inaccurate, it said, and when the sequence was viewed as a whole it seemed that the contestant had “probably plucked the $68 million figure out of the air”.

Referral to the Authority

[7] Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, the ACC referred its complaint to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. It maintained that Standard 5 was intended to “broadly distinguish between programmes which are clearly fictional and those which are not”. The ACC was of the view that Dragon’s Den was clearly not intended to be fictional, and therefore it was required to be accurate.

Broadcaster's Response to the Authority

[8] TVNZ reiterated its view that Standard 5 was not relevant to Dragon’s Den because it was an entertainment programme. It wrote:

We do not agree with [the complainant’s] assertion that the standard is designed to distinguish between programmes which are fictional and those which are not. That definition would require series such as Celebrity Love Splits, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Fear Factor, Full on Food, Game of Two Halves and Celebrity Treasure Island, to name but a few, to be strictly accurate and truthful.

[9] If the Authority considered the programme to be a factual programme, TVNZ pointed out that the contestant’s figure of $68 million was almost immediately challenged by the “incredulous” business investor. Upon hearing the challenge, it noted, the business partner of the man who made the claim modified and corrected it. He pointed out that the figure of $68 million referred to money paid to those people whose work, in part, may have involved hanging out washing.

Complainant's Final Comment

[10] The ACC pointed out that viewers may assume that comments made by contestants on programmes such as Game of Two Halves were mere opinion, because the people making them were entertainers. Viewers would not make this assumption, it said, when the contestants were business people or aspiring business people.

[11] The complainant also asserted that programmes produced in New Zealand should be accurate about New Zealand facts. Viewers’ impressions about organisations such as ACC were shaped by information from programmes such as Dragon’s Den, the complainant contended, and false information could lead to consequences for their health and that of their families and communities.

Authority's Determination

[12] 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.

[13] Standard 5 (accuracy) applies to news, current affairs and “other factual programmes”. Dragon’s Den is not a news or current affairs programme, and therefore the Authority must decide whether the programme falls within the definition of a factual programme.

[14] The Authority considers that factual programmes are those which present themselves, and are reasonably understood by the audience, to be authoritative sources of information. This may include, for example, a section of a radio talkback programme in which a host asserts a statement or series of statements as the truth. The important criterion is whether a reasonable viewer or listener is entitled to expect that the information given in the programme will be truthful and authoritative, and not just opinion or hyperbole.

[15] In the Authority’s view, Dragon’s Den does not meet these conditions. The contestants were not presented as being authoritative sources of information, and the audience would have understood that they were presenting sales pitches which would inevitably contain exaggeration. Accordingly, the Authority concludes that Dragon’s Den was not a factual programme to which the accuracy standard applies, and it does not uphold the complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
22 February 2007

Appendix

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

1   The Accident Compensation Corporation’s formal complaint – 20 October 2006

2   TVNZ’s decision on the formal complaint – 22 November 2006

3   The ACC’s referral to the Authority – 30 November 2006

4   TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 8 December 2006

5   The ACC’s final comment – 14 December 2006