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Cordes and RadioWorks Ltd - 2010-173

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Scott Cordes of Auckland

Dated

29th March 2011

Number

2010-173

Programme

George FM

Channel/Station

George FM

Broadcaster

RadioWorks Ltd


Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
George FM – ran a competition to win $2,500 worth of travel – complainant qualified for entry into the competition but was not included in the final prize draw – allegedly in breach of accuracy and fairness standards

Findings
Standard 6 (fairness) – complainant did not take part and was not referred to on the day of the prize draw so Standard 6 does not apply – unfortunate that a mistake was made but the broadcaster handled the situation appropriately – not upheld

Standard 5 (accuracy) – not a news, current affairs or factual programme – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Broadcasts

[1]   Between 4 and 8 October 2010, George FM ran a competition with a chance to win $2,500 worth of travel. Each day, callers were given clues by the hosts and asked to guess “where in the world” the hosts were. The first person to guess correctly each day was entered into the final draw for the prize. One day, a caller, “Scotty”, was told he had qualified for the prize draw, after correctly guessing that the host was on the “bullet train” from Tokyo to Kyoto.

[2]   Leading up to the prize draw on Friday 8 October, the hosts announced that so far “Johnny”, “Paul” and “Noah” were in the draw, and sought two more finalists on air to go into the draw before the prize was drawn. At the time of the draw, the hosts announced that “Julia”, “Bard”, “Noah”, “Paul” and “Johnny” were the five people in the draw. The hosts then phoned Paul and announced that he was the winner.

Complaint

[3]   Scott Cordes, the caller “Scotty”, made a complaint to RadioWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that George FM had breached broadcasting standards. He said that, having been advised that he was entered into the draw, he told many friends and colleagues to listen to the prize draw to see if he was the winner. At the time the hosts sought the last two finalists, Mr Cordes phoned the station and told them that he was one of the finalists, and was assured he would be entered into the draw. However, at the time the prize was drawn, his name was not included in the five finalists, he said. Mr Cordes wrote, “Consequently, my name was not in any way included in the prize draw, so there was no way I could have won, despite legitimately qualifying and being supposedly acknowledged as qualifying.”

[4]   Mr Cordes said that after the announcement of the winner, he phoned the station to speak to the manager, but had not heard back from him. He considered that the way the competition was run was “fraudulent”, and said that he was embarrassed because he had told his friends to listen to the prize draw, and his name was not included.

Standards

[5]   RadioWorks assessed the complaint under Standards 5 and 6 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice, which provide:

Standard 5 Accuracy

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:

  • is accurate in relation to all material points of fact; and/or
  • does not mislead.
Standard 6 Fairness

Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Complainant

[6]   RadioWorks said it was “clear that a mistake took place”, and that it was satisfied it was a genuine mistake. It accepted that “technically there may have been a breach of the code obligations of fairness and accuracy”, but considered that the actions taken by the station were genuine and appropriate. It noted that the station had offered Mr Cordes compensation in the form of a package worth approximately $700, which was assessed against “the chance of being one in five in to win the $2,500 travel prize”.

[7]   The broadcaster said that, having reviewed all the relevant circumstances and actions taken by the station, it declined to uphold the complaint that broadcasting standards had been breached.

Referral to the Authority

[8]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr Cordes referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

[9]   Mr Cordes pointed out that the station manager had not contacted him until after he had lodged a formal complaint through the Authority’s website. He said that the manager “admitted the station’s error and apologised. He then, without actually consulting me on what would suffice as recompense, offered ‘compensation’ of two tickets to a New Year’s concert in Gisborne, CDs, and a dozen bottles of beer”. Mr Cordes said that, had the manager consulted him, he would have ascertained that he could not attend the Gisborne concert, and did not drink that particular brand of beer. Further, the complainant was of the view that “the offer did not truly reflect the amount of embarrassment and hurt suffered by myself as a result of the station’s confessed error”. He therefore had declined the offer of recompense and asked the manager to reconsider. Mr Cordes also noted that RadioWorks had not contacted him to seek his input as to what would be a fair offer. He stated that he was dissatisfied with the station’s and the broadcaster’s “[failure] to negotiate an acceptable resolution”.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[10]   RadioWorks provided comments from the programme director at George FM, and a timeline of events and of the relevant broadcasts. The programme director said:

There was an internal error in the processes which kept the correct five names for the draw on the Friday morning. This was due mostly to there being a stand-in presenter on the Friday morning. However, four of the names were correct but Mr Cordes’ name was mistakenly absent and replaced by an entrant to a separate competition. The draw went ahead as planned and one of the four other correct entrants were drawn as the winner.

[11]   The programme director said that since Mr Cordes had brought this issue to light, the station had taken a “close look at the systems to ensure this [does not] happen again”. The programme director noted that the station had had extensive written and phone contact with Mr Cordes since the competition, and had expressed its regret at the breakdown in processes. They said, “As a gesture of goodwill we have made three offers to [Mr Cordes] of various high value items including tickets to our most in demand New Year’s Eve event (Rhythm and Vines – which were worth $700)”. However, the complainant had not been satisfied with any of the offers.

[12]   The programme director concluded by apologising for the “unfortunate situation” that had eventuated, but noted that the incorrect name in the draw was not the person drawn out as the winner, so that “had Mr Cordes been in the draw he would have been one of the losing finalists”.

[13]   The programme director provided the following timeline:

Mon 4 October:       Competition begins and first caller is entered in the draw.

Tues 5 October:      Mr Cordes is entered in the draw as the second finalist.

Wed 6 October:       Third finalist is entered in the draw.

Thurs 7 October:     Competition is missed because an interview went over time and the
                              show ended.

Fri 8 October:          Stand-in host fills in for regular host, and seeks two more finalists to
                              make up for the missed competition on Thursday. The host reads out the
                              five finalists, one of which is incorrect and therefore not Scott Cordes.
                              Winner is announced; it is one of the correct entrants and not the incorrect
                              name that replaced Mr Cordes.

[14]   RadioWorks provided copies of the email correspondence between the complainant and the operations manager at George FM.

Authority’s Determination

[15]   The members of the Authority have listened to recordings of the broadcasts complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[16]   Standard 6 states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. On Friday 8 October when the prize was drawn, Mr Cordes did not take part, and, due to a mistake, he was not referred to. This means that Standard 6 does not apply to him in relation to the 8 October programme, and therefore we do not uphold the fairness complaint.

[17]   Standard 5 states that broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. In our view, the morning show on George FM was not “news, current affairs or factual programming” to which Standard 5 applied. Accordingly, we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.

[18]   Although Mr Cordes’ complaint does not fall within scope of the broadcasting standards, we acknowledge that this was an unfortunate situation resulting from a genuine mistake made by the radio station. In our view, the broadcaster dealt with the situation adequately and appropriately by acknowledging the mistake and offering the complainant compensation which broadly reflected his chances of winning the original prize.

[19]   We note that the station manager offered Mr Cordes a double pass to Rhythm and Vines, 10 CDs, and two dozen beers – a package worth approximately $750. Mr Cordes rejected this offer, and asked for two mobile phones worth $250 each, and a $250 restaurant voucher. The station explained that it was unable to give him mobile phones, but offered him a $200 dining voucher, and two tickets to an upcoming concert sponsored by George FM. Mr Cordes again declined the offer, repeating that he wanted mobile phones that had been given away by the station in a prior promotion.

[20]   Taking into account the fact that Mr Cordes may not have won the $2,500 travel prize even if he had been entered correctly into the draw, we consider that RadioWorks went above and beyond what was required to adequately deal with his complaint.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
29 March 2011

Appendix

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

1                 Scott Cordes’ formal complaint – 2 November 2010

2                 RadioWorks’ response to the complaint – 1 December 2010

3                 Mr Cordes’ referral to the Authority – 2 December 2010

4                 RadioWorks’ responses to the Authority including comments from programme director
                   and email correspondence – 16 and 17 February 2011