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Appleby and MediaWorks TV Ltd - 2014-097

Members

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

Complainant

  • Mike Appleby of Wellington

Dated

10th October 2014

Number

2014-097

Programme

3 News

Channel/Station

TV3

Broadcaster

MediaWorks TV Ltd


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

A 3 News item reported on the Labour Party’s election year conference, including details of the party’s education policy. The reporter referred to David Cunliffe ‘handing out an election year bribe’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that this was unfair. Political parties should expect their policies will be subject to commentary and scrutiny, particularly leading up to a general election, and it is not uncommon to refer to election ‘bribes’ in political reporting.

Not Upheld: Fairness


Introduction

[1]  A 3 News item reported on the Labour Party’s election year conference, including details of the party’s education policy. The reporter said, ‘David Cunliffe sits down at Wellington High School handing out an election year bribe, promising every school student from intermediate up, their own computer’. The item was broadcast on TV3 on 5 July 2014.

[2]  Mike Appleby complained that the reporter’s reference to an ‘election bribe’ indicated bias and was unfair.

[3]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the fairness standard as set out in the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.

Was the Labour Party treated unfairly?

[5]  The fairness standard (Standard 6) states that broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to in a programme. Programme participants and people referred to in broadcasts have the right to expect that broadcasters will deal with them justly and fairly, so that unwarranted harm is not caused to their reputation and dignity.1

[6]  Mr Appleby argued that ‘to label a policy release as a bribe is biased and replaces reporting with opinion’.

[7]  MediaWorks maintained that the item was not unfair, because references to election ‘bribes’ were not exclusive to the Labour Party. It noted the reporter’s comment toward the end of the item, ‘it’s important to remember these sort of election year bribes are going around at the moment. Just last week at the National Party conference they of course promised regional roading projects in exchange for votes …’ It also referred to an earlier 3 News item reporting on the 2014 Budget, which described another policy as ‘a shameless bid for centre voters in election year’.

[8]  We are satisfied that in the context of a robust political environment, particularly in the lead-up to a general election, the reference to Labour’s ‘election year bribe’ was not unfair. Political parties should expect that their policies will be subject to scrutiny and commentary, especially when those policies form a key part of their election campaign. As noted by the broadcaster, it is not uncommon to refer to election ‘bribes’ in political reporting, and 3 News also explicitly referred to other parties as offering them.

[9]  We therefore disagree that the item displayed bias against the Labour Party, and we decline to uphold the complaint that it was unfair.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Peter Radich
Chair

10 October 2014

Appendix

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

1            Mike Appleby’s formal complaint – 5 July 2014

2            MediaWorks’ response to the complaint – 4 August 2014

3            Mr Appleby’s referral to the Authority – 8 August 2014

4            MediaWorks’ response to the Authority – 8 September 2014


1Commerce Commission and TVWorks Ltd, Decision No. 2008-014