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Willetts and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2014-031

Members

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

Complainant

  • David Willetts of Auckland

Dated

3rd December 2014

Number

2014-031

Programme

Prime News

Channel/Station

Prime TV

Broadcaster

SKY Network Television Ltd


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

A Prime News item summarised the findings of a report released by the Auckland City Council on former mayor Len Brown’s spending while in office, and said, ‘Mr Brown received nine free stays at hotels worth more than $6,000 and 64 hotel upgrades worth nearly $33,000’. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the item was inaccurate to report the ‘freebies’ in terms of free nights, when in fact they were mostly room upgrades. The value of the free rooms as compared to room upgrades was clearly outlined and accurately reflected the report. Viewers were not misled.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  An item on Prime News summarised the findings of an Ernst and Young (EY) report released by the Auckland City Council on former mayor Len Brown’s spending while he was in office. It was stated that the report showed ‘Mr Brown received nine free stays at hotels worth more than $6,000 and 64 hotel upgrades worth nearly $33,000’.

[2]  Mr Willetts complained that it was inaccurate to report ‘the freebies in terms of the number of hotel nights that [Mr Brown] received’ as ‘according to… the [EY] report, mostly Len received hotel room upgrades, not free rooms’.

[3]  The issue is whether the item breached the accuracy standard of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

[4]  The news item aired on 13 December 2013 on Prime. 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 broadcast inaccurate or misleading?

[5]  The accuracy standard (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. The objective of this standard is to protect audiences from receiving misinformation and thereby being misled.1

[6]  In the item, the reporter gave a breakdown of the value of Mr Brown’s hotel rooms and upgrades, as follows:

The report shows Mr Brown received nine free stays at hotels worth more than $6,000, and 64 hotel upgrades worth nearly $33,000. The majority should have been declared as gifts but weren’t, though the Mayor won’t be reprimanded.

[7]  In determining whether the item was accurate, we have considered the EY report released by the Council.2 The  summary of findings states:

  • ‘The mayor has received nine complimentary (free) hotel rooms or suites which have not been registered as gifts or disclosed in his completed annual Declaration of Interests. The value of the complimentary rooms/suites based on rates provided by the hotels is $6,130.’
  • ‘The mayor has received hotel upgrades (to better quality rooms or suites) which have not been registered as gifts or disclosed in his completed annual Declaration of Interests. A total of 64 such upgrades have been identified. The value of the upgrades based on rates provided by the hotels is $32,888.50.’

[8]  While the value of the complimentary rooms was significantly less than the value of the room upgrades, EY concluded that Mr Brown nevertheless did receive complimentary rooms on nine occasions, which he had not declared. The value of the free rooms as compared to the upgrades was clearly outlined by the reporter in the item (as in paragraph [6]), and accurately reflected the contents of the EY report, so viewers would not have been misled.

[9]  Accordingly, we find that the report was accurate and we decline to uphold the complaint.

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

Peter Radich
Chair

3 December 2014

Appendix

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

1            David Willetts’ referral to the Authority – 21 March 2014

2            SKY TV’s response to the Authority – 20 May 2014


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

2 ‘Independent Review Commissioned by the Auckland Council Chief Executive’: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/SiteCollectionDocuments/Independent%20Review%20Report%22FINAL%20131213.pdf