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Pekepo and MediaWorks Radio Ltd - 2014-116

Members

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

Complainant

  • Metua Pekepo of Auckland

Dated

19th September 2014

Number

2014-116

Channel/Station

Radio Live

Broadcaster

MediaWorks Radio Ltd


Summary [This summary does not form part of the decision.]

In an election advertisement for the National Party, John Key referred to ‘Labour, The Greens and Dotcom’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the reference to ‘Dotcom’ was misleading because there was no ‘Dotcom Party’. The advertisement did not explicitly refer to any ‘Dotcom Party’, Kim Dotcom has been a prominent figure in the election, and most listeners would have understood it to be a reference to the Internet Party, and that political party advertising is broadcast in the context of a robust political arena in the lead-up to a general election.

Not Upheld: Election Programmes Subject to Other Standards (Accuracy)


Introduction

[1] An advertisement for the National Party was broadcast on Radio Live on 15 September 2014. The advertisement stated:

What have we learnt in this election? We’ve learnt Labour, the Greens and Dotcom want to spend more than 30 billion dollars, we’ve learnt they want to impose five new taxes, and we’ve learnt they can’t work together.

[2]  Metua Pekepo made a formal complaint alleging that the advertisement was misleading, because there was no political party named ‘Dotcom’.

[3] The issue is whether the advertisement breached Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes) of the Election Programmes Code, and the accuracy standard of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4] The members of the Authority have listened to the content of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the advertisement misleading?

[5] Ms Pekepo complained that ‘Dotcom’ was not a registered political party. She said Kim Dotcom was not a candidate in the election, and if the advertisement was intended to refer to the Internet Mana Party then it should have used that name.

[6] In response, the National Party said the advertisement did not refer to a Dotcom Party, but simply referred to ‘three well known political entities in this campaign’. It said, ‘Mr Dotcom is a high-profile political figure who is the founder, funder, and principle advocate for the Internet Party (campaigning as Internet Mana)’, and that political parties are entitled to associate the policies of other parties with the political figures that belong to, and advocate for, those parties.

[7] The accuracy standard (Standard 5) in the Radio Code 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. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[8] The advertisement stated that ‘Labour, the Greens and Dotcom want to spend 30 billion dollars…’ We do not think that the reference to ‘Dotcom’ rather than the Internet Mana Party was a material point of fact to which the accuracy standard applied, or that it would have misled listeners.

[9] Standard E1 of the Election Programmes Code expressly acknowledges that election programmes, including political party advertisements, are broadcast in a robust political arena, and should be viewed and interpreted accordingly. It states:

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.

[10] We think that in this political context, listeners understand that election advertisements in which political parties are pushing their own policies and agendas, by their nature, are not ‘factual’, but are more spin and analysis. They are framed for immediate and maximum impact, often using short-hand or hyperbole for effect.

[11] Kim Dotcom has been a particularly prominent figure in the lead-up to the 2014 general election, and is a high-profile public figure in general. Most listeners would have understood the advertisement to be referring to Kim Dotcom as the founder of the Internet Party, and would not have taken it as a reference to a ‘Dotcom Party’ which does not exist. We expect that, in the course of the lead-up to the election and the extensive media coverage of Kim Dotcom, the public understand his particular place and where he fits in the political landscape, including his role as a founder of the Internet Mana Party.

[12] We are satisfied that listeners were not misled, and we consider that upholding the complaint would unjustifiably restrict the right of the National Party and of the broadcaster to free political expression. Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the advertisement breached Standard E1 and Standard 5 (accuracy).

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Peter Radich
Chair

19 September 2014

Appendix

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

1 Metua Pekepo’s formal complaint to the Authority – 15 September 2014

2 The National Party’s response to the complaint – 17 September 2014

3 Ms Pekepo’s final comment – 17 September 2014


Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2010-036