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Welsh and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2011-137

Members

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan

Complainant

  • Phil Welsh of Christchurch

Dated

14th November 2011

Number

2011-137

Channel/Station

TV One

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


Te Raumawhitu Kupenga declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the determination of this complaint.


Complaint under section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
One News – New Zealand Labour Party Opening Address included discussion about Capital Gains Tax – showed list of countries entitled “OECD countries with some form of tax capital” which included Singapore – allegedly inaccurate

Findings
Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes) – Standard 5 (accuracy) of Free-to-Air TV Code – inclusion of Singapore in list graphic was not a material point of fact – Singapore was not referred to verbally – broadcaster and the Labour Party acknowledged that it was an error and it will not appear in future broadcasts – Opening Address not misleading or inaccurate – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision. 


Broadcast

[1]  The New Zealand Labour Party Opening Address, broadcast on One News on TV One on 28 October 2011, included discussion about Capital Gains Tax. A graphic showing a list of countries including Singapore, entitled “OECD countries with some form of tax on capital”, was displayed, as Labour Party Minister David Cunliffe stated:

Only half of the wealthiest New Zealanders pay the top tax rate. Why? Because wages are taxed and capital is not and that’s one way that the wealthy can legally avoid tax. In most other countries those forms of income actually contribute to their respective economies through a Capital Gains Tax or CGT.

Referral to the Authority

[2]  Phil Welsh directly referred a complaint about the broadcast to the Authority under section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He argued that the inclusion of Singapore in the list of countries said to have Capital Gains Tax was factually incorrect.

Standards

[3]  Standard E1 of the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice, and Standard 5 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice are relevant to the determination of this complaint. These provide:

Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes)

An election programme is subject to all relevant provisions of the Codes of Broadcasting Practice for television and radio except for the requirement to present a range of significant viewpoints on issues of public importance.

Robust debate, advocacy and expression of political opinion are a desirable and essential part of a democratic society and broadcasting standards will be applied in a manner which respects this context.

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.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[4]  Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, said that while Singapore did not have Capital Gains Tax, its inclusion on the list was a genuine error which had since been corrected. It noted that Singapore was not referred to verbally in the item but was simply in the background as part of a list of 17 countries. In this respect, it argued that whether or not Singapore was included on the list would not have been material to the audience’s understanding of the programme.

Labour Party’s Response to the Authority

[5]  The Labour Party advised that the inclusion of Singapore in the list of countries shown was a genuine error in the source material used for the opening address, and noted that it had since been corrected for future broadcasts. It said that while the error was “regrettable”, it did not consider that it would have materially altered the overall impression given by the programme. Further, it noted that Singapore was not referred to verbally in the broadcast. 

Complainant’s Final Comment

[6]  Mr Welsh considered it irrelevant that Singapore was not referred to verbally in the item as television was a visual medium, and he asserted that viewers were heavily influenced by visual prompts in programmes that were fact or information based. In addition, he said that the number of countries listed in the item was not relevant to his complaint. Mr Welsh maintained that the error was unprofessional and a breach of broadcasting standards.

Authority’s Determination

[7]  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.

Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes): Standard 5 (accuracy)

[8]  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.

[9]  On this occasion, the segment subject to complaint contained a background graphic showing a list of 17 jurisdictions which were said to enforce some form of tax on capital. None of those countries was referred to verbally by Mr Cunliffe, and the graphic was shown only briefly, for 10 seconds as part of a 20-minute item.

[10]  In our view, while Singapore is not a member of the OECD, nor a country with a Capital Gains Tax, the inclusion of Singapore in that list did not amount to a “material point of fact” to which Standard 5 applied. It did not affect the accuracy of the point being asserted, namely that a number of other OECD countries have a Capital Gains Tax.

[11]  Nor do we consider that the inclusion of Singapore in that list resulted in the whole of the Opening Address, which canvassed a number of issues and proposed policies, being inaccurate or misleading.

[12]  Further, we note that both the Labour Party and TVNZ have acknowledged that the inclusion of Singapore was a genuine error, and that the graphic has been corrected for any future broadcasts.

[13]  Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the graphic breached Standard 5 and Standard E1.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Peter Radich
Chair
14 November 2011

Appendix

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

1                  Phil Welsh’s direct referral to the Authority – 28 October 2011

2                 TVNZ’s response to the Authority – 1 November 2011

3                 The Labour Party’s response to the Authority – 8 November 2011

4                 Mr Welsh’s final comment – 9 November 2011