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Southland Fuel Injection Ltd and Television New Zealand Ltd - 1994-091

Members

  • I W Gallaway (Chair)
  • J R Morris
  • L M Loates
  • R A Barraclough - Co-opted Member

Complainant

  • Southland Fuel Injection Ltd

Dated

29th September 1994

Number

1994-091

Programme

Fair Go

Channel/Station

TV2

Broadcaster

Television New Zealand Ltd


An appeal against this decision was dismissed in the High Court in March 1998: AP 298/94  PDF
1.04 MB


Summary

A dispute between the complainant and a customer about the work done to repair a faulty glow plug was dealt with during an item on Fair Go broadcast on Channel Two at 8.00pm on Wednesday 23 February 1994.

Southland Fuel Injection Ltd's solicitors complained to Television New Zealand Ltd that the item breached the standards relating to taste, privacy, balance and fairness in view of both the reporter's behaviour in gathering the information and the content of the item which omitted considerable relevant material about the background of the dispute.

TVNZ acknowledged that the item was unfair by omitting any reference to the fact that the complainant had supplied the customer with a car while the repairs were being carried out and by not explaining that the complainant declined to comment to the Fair Go reporter as he believed the matter was sub judice. It advised that these matters would be covered in a further Fair Go item. It declined to uphold any other aspect of the complaint although it expressed its dissatisfaction with some aspects of the reporter's approach.

Southland Fuel Injection's solicitors then complained to TVNZ about the statement on Fair Go broadcast on 18 May in response to the initial complaint. They alleged that it was inaccurate and added to the erroneous impressions left by the original item. On the basis that the second complaint amounted to dissatisfaction with the action taken after the original complaint had been upheld, TVNZ advised the complainant that its appropriate action was to refer the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

On receipt of that advice, the complainant's solicitors referred the complaint about TVNZ's decision on both broadcasts to the Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority upheld the aspects of the complaint that some additional segments in the 23 February broadcast breached s,4(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act 18 May broadcast added to the erroneous impressions left by the original item.

Decision

The members of the Authority have seen both items complained about and have read the correspondence (summarised in the Appendix). As is its practice, the Authority has determined the complaint without a formal hearing.

Mr Chris Coughlan's problems with Southland Fuel Injection Ltd were dealt with in an item on Fair Go on 23 February. It was reported that the company's mechanic broke the replacement glow plug he was fitting to Mr Coughlan's diesel-powered car. As a result Mr Coughlan was without his car for a week and, after being assured that the company would not charge him for repairs, received a bill for nearly $600 rather than the expected account for $30. The item also showed Fair Go's reporter's aggressive but unsuccessful attempts to interview Mr Kemp, a director of Southland Fuel who, at the time of the reporter's arrival in his office was meeting with another person.

The company complained to TVNZ that the item was in bad taste, breached Mr Kemp's privacy and was unbalanced. TVNZ declined to uphold the complaint that the item breached the good taste or privacy provisions but upheld two aspects of the complaint alleging a lack of balance. First, while maintaining that the item was accurate in reporting that Mr Coughlan had been without his vehicle for a week, it was unbalanced by not reporting that Southland Fuel had provided him with a vehicle to use during that time. Secondly, the item had not explained that Mr Kemp's reluctance to talk about the matter was based on his belief that the issue was sub judice as it was before the Disputes Tribunal.

In its letter to Southland Fuel reporting the Complaints Committee's decision, TVNZ apologised for the errors and stated that it intended to run an item on the next Fair Go programme (18 May):

Outlining the decision of the Small Claims Tribunal and correcting the erroneous impressions left by the original item.

While declining to uphold the complaint which alleged a breach of privacy as the broadcast did not contravene the privacy principles applied by the Authority, TVNZ acknowledged that members of the public, unlike reporters, were often bewildered when confronted with a camera crew. Furthermore, TVNZ reported that it was "less than happy" with the reporter's approach on this occasion as, first, she should have made a greater effort to establish the status of the second person in Mr Kemp's office when she entered, and secondly, she should have recognised that Mr Kemp's reluctance to talk about the case "stemmed from his genuine fear" of endangering the Disputes Tribunal case.

On receipt of TVNZ's ruling and before the 18 May broadcast, the complainant's solicitors supplied TVNZ with a copy of the decision from the Disputes Tribunal approving a settlement whereby Mr Coughlan agreed to pay Southland Fuel $42.75 and Autobarn in Invercargill (the company which sold the car to Mr Coughlan) agreed to pay Southland Fuel $417.82.

Following the broadcast of the piece on Fair Go on 18 May, Southland Fuel complained to TVNZ that it:

... further added to the erroneous impression left by the original item.

Specifically, it argued that it had not been made clear that Mr Coughlan had been provided with a vehicle by Southland Fuel while his car was being repaired. Also, it had suggested that the Tribunal's decision was a surprise (possibly contrary to the evidence) and that the vehicle vendor (Autobarn) was considering taking legal action against Southland Fuel. The complainant's solicitors observed:

[The] point that quite clearly has escaped the "Fair Go" team is the fact that the order was endorsed by the consent of all the parties to the hearing, including the third party (vendor).

In the circumstances, the letter continued, Southland Fuel did not accept that the 18 May broadcast had adequately corrected the errors which TVNZ had acknowledged were contained in the 23 February item.

Treating Southland Fuel's complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction with the action taken on the upheld aspects of the complaint, TVNZ advised Southland Fuel that its appropriate action was to refer the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority on the basis of that dissatisfaction.

Pursuant to that advice, Southland Fuel's solicitors referred the matter to the Authority. The referral not only dealt with the "purported apology" broadcast on 18 May but involved all the matters covered in the original letter of complaint. The Authority thus considered the complaint under s.4(1)(a), (c) and (d) of the Broadcasting Act, according to which broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with:

(a) The observance of good taste and decency;

(c) The privacy of the individual;

(d) The principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest;

When asked by the Authority to comment on the referral, TVNZ quoted the text of the 18 May item and denied that it contained any implication that the Disputes Tribunal decision was contrary to the evidence. On the basis that the dispute dealt with on the 23 February item involved only two parties, TVNZ maintained that the decision, as reported on 18 May, was "probably not what anyone expected". A third party had become involved and had endorsed the decision and, as the 18 May item reported, had agreed "to pay money into court".

TVNZ also denied that the item stated that the car yard  the third party  was taking legal action. It was reported that it was "thinking of doing so" which was information supplied to Fair Go by a car yard representative. Insisting that the 18 May item was "fair and accurate", TVNZ noted in parentheses:

(The manager of Autobarn told "Fair Go" that his company felt badly about Mr Coughlan's position. It therefore decided to pay money into court, believing that it could then take a case against Southland Fuel Injection to recover the money).

In their final comment to the Authority, Southland Fuel's solicitors maintained its argument that the second item did not correct the erroneous impressions created by the first broadcast, emphasising among other matters that the Disputes Tribunal "simply endorsed an agreement between the three parties reached independently of the Tribunal" and Autobarn, having agreed to pay, "cannot issue proceedings against our client".

The first matter considered by the Authority was a procedural point - whether the complaint about the 18 May item amounted to a fresh complaint or whether it involved dissatisfaction with the broadcaster's decision on the complaint about the 23 February broadcast - and it decided to accept the referral on the basis that the complainant, first, was dissatisfied that the complaint about the 23 February item had not been upheld under s.4(1)(a) and (c), and secondly, maintained that the broadcast on 18 May did not correct the erroneous impressions which TVNZ admitted the 23 February item had conveyed.

The Authority concurred with much of TVNZ's decision with respect to the complaints under s.4(1)(a) and (c) of the Broadcasting Act. It did not believe that the item had contravened either the good taste standard in s.4(1)(a) or the privacy principles it applies when determining complaints under s.4(1)(c). It also agreed with TVNZ that the reporter's approach to Mr Kemp, while not in breach of the standards, was ill-mannered to say the least. In addition, some members of the Authority considered that her shrug of the shoulders shown when leaving Southland Fuel's office was gratuitously offensive.

The Authority noted that the complaint alleging a breach of good taste seemed to be concerned mainly with the manner in which the programme was prepared rather than with the item that was screened. On this matter, the Authority would repeat the points explained in some recent decisions (Nos: 34- 37/94) that while the requirement for good taste in s.4(1)(a) (or standard G2 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice) applies to the "presentation" of programmes, unlike the other standards, it is not applicable to their "preparation". Nevertheless, the Authority noted, and considered appropriate, TVNZ's apology to Mr Kemp for any embarrassment and discomfort felt as a result of Fair Go's unexpected visit.

With reference to the 23 February broadcast, the Authority examined a number of other aspects including the point whether or not the broadcast, which stressed that an expected $30 account was now nearly $600, should also have reported that Mr Coughlan was asked to pay only $293.00. In view of the emphasis given to the sum of nearly $600, which it said Mr Coughlan was expected to pay, when the correct figure was slightly under $300.00, the Authority decided that the omission of this information contravened s.4(1)(d).

In addition to the specific points discussed in the preceding two paragraphs, the Authority was concerned whether the item was balanced overall. Following the usual practice adopted in Fair Go items, the segment highlighted the conflict between the parties and implied that one was in the right and the other in the wrong. In previous decisions, the Authority has stressed that, for balance to be achieved, it is important that the alleged "villain's" point of view is presented thoroughly. Although the director of the complainant company had declined to be interviewed on camera, he said that he explained to the reporter the reasons for the substantial repair account and the Authority decided that Fair Go, by not explaining those reasons, had not achieved overall balance on this occasion.

Having considered the original complaint, the Authority concluded that TVNZ's decision was in part correct and that the action suggested was appropriate in view of the errors acknowledged. With regard to that action, TVNZ reported:

"Fair Go" has acknowledged it has erred in these areas and apologises for that. It proposes to run an item on its programme next Wednesday (18 May) outlining the decision of the Small Claims Court and correcting the erroneous impressions left by the original item.

The Authority then assessed Southland Fuel's complaint that the item broadcast on 18 May did not correct the erroneous impressions left by the original item.

The first aspect of the correction was to report the matter  omitted in the initial item  that Southland Fuel had provided Mr Coughlan with a vehicle while his car was being repaired. The 18 May item stated:

... we should have mentioned they (Southland Fuel Injection) did lend Chris a car while his vehicle was off the road.

In the Authority's opinion, that comment adequately corrected the omission in the first item and it did not uphold Southland Fuel's complaint on this point. The Authority was also of the view the 18 May item adequately explained the reason for Mr Kemp's reluctance to be interviewed when it said:

... and the company refused to discuss the issue with Fair Go for fear of jeopardising their case. (TVNZ's emphasis)

However, the Authority agreed with Southland Fuel's complaint concerning the way the Disputes Tribunal's decision was reported on 18 May. While not agreeing with the complainant that the item contained the implication that the Tribunal's decision was necessarily contrary to the weight of evidence, the Authority accepted that the complainant was justified in its dissatisfaction with the broadcast comment:

... but now the car yard is thinking of taking Southland Fuel Injection to court.

The Authority was in no doubt that Fair Go accurately reported the car yard's representative's comment. As TVNZ pointed out, the car yard might well have been a party to the settlement because of some concern it felt for Mr Coughlan. However, as the complainant's solicitors explained, the Disputes Tribunal endorsed an agreement between the three parties reached independently of the Tribunal, and the car yard, having agreed to pay, could not subsequently issue proceedings against Southland Fuel. The Authority believed that Fair Go should be aware of this procedural point. The Authority then considered the other inaccuracies in the 18 May broadcast in its comment on the Tribunal's decision, eg the reference to enjoining a third party and paying money into court, and decided that while they were indicative of carelessness, they were not of such a degree to justify upholding the complainant's dissatisfaction with the action taken on these points.

In summary, the Authority agreed with TVNZ that the 23 February broadcast breached s.4(1)(d) of the Act for the reasons given. In addition, in the Authority's opinion, by omitting Southland Fuel's account of the reasons for the extensive repairs and broadcasting an incorrect figure of the account sent to Mr Coughlan, TVNZ had not presented the facts in that item in an even-handed manner. The Authority accepted that a broadcast correcting the errors was necessary and, in this instance, sufficient although it verged on the degree of fault which would justify a broadcast apology. However, while some of the broadcast adequately corrected the erroneous impressions which TVNZ accepted were contained in the initial broadcast, the Authority decided that the complaint about dissatisfaction was justified as the broadcast carried the suggestion that the matter had not been finally resolved. The correction, incorrectly and unfairly, implied that an element of doubt remained as to the final outcome of the dispute.

 

For the reasons given above, the Authority upholds the complaint that the broadcast by Television New Zealand Ltd of an item on Fair Go on 23 February 1994, in addition to the broadcaster's acknowledgment of some errors, breached s.4(1)(d) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 because:

(a) it did not record that Mr Coughlan was asked to pay approximately $293  not nearly $600 as stated; and

(b) it did not give the reasons for the size of the repair account.

In addition it upheld the complaint that the broadcast on 18 May 1994 was not satisfactory as action on the broadcaster's part on the aspects of the complaint upheld by the broadcaster.

The Authority declined to uphold any other aspect of the complaint.

Having upheld a complaint, the Authority may make an order under s.13(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. As the broadcast on May 18, which included reporting the Disputes Tribunal decision, suggested erroneously that the matter was not finally resolved, the Authority decided that the following order was appropriate.

Order

Pursuant to s.13(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989, the Authority orders Television New Zealand Ltd to broadcast a brief summary of this decision, approved by the Authority, arising from complaints concerning items on Fair Go on 23 February and 18 May 1994. The statement shall be broadcast during a Fair Go programme within one month of this decision and shall make particular reference to the following points.

(1) TVNZ upheld the complaint that a 23 February item on Fair Go was unbalanced and unfair to Southland Fuel Injection Ltd and breached s.4(1)(d) of the Act.

(2) The Authority decided that the item was also unbalanced by not recording correctly the amount that Mr Coughlan was asked to pay and the reasons for the size of the account.

(3) TVNZ offered to broadcast an item on 18 May correcting the erroneous impression left by the original item. That offer was accepted by the complainant.

(4) While some of the erroneous impressions were corrected, the 18 May broadcast wrongly implied that the dispute had not been resolved and could be the subject of further legal action when the Disputes Tribunal's decision, which was known to Fair Go, recorded that the matter had been fully settled.

Signed for an on behalf of the Authority

 

Iain Gallaway
Chairperson
29 September 1994

Appendix
Southland Fuel Injection Limited's Complaint to Television New Zealand Limited

In a letter dated 18 March 1994, the solicitors for Southland Fuel Injection Ltd complained to Television New Zealand Ltd about an item broadcast on Fair Go on Channel Two at 8.00pm on 23 February.

The company complained that the item breached the standards requiring good taste and decency, maintaining the privacy of the individual, and fair, balanced and accurate reporting.

The complainant provided background to the dispute which had been covered in the item and also dealt in detail with Fair Go's handling of the matter.

With regard to the background of the dispute, Southland Fuel's director (Mr Kemp) recorded that a new glow plug had broken while being placed in a vehicle belonging to a Mr Chris Coughlan who, as a result, became agitated and abusive. While carrying out the work necessary to remove and replace the broken glow plug, it became apparent that substantial work was required. While that was being carried out, Mr Coughlan was lent a vehicle by the complainant. When he collected the repaired vehicle, Mr Coughlan said he would pay for the glow plug only. He continued with that approach, Mr Kemp added, although the complainant company informed him that the work was necessary to ensure more than a limited life for the vehicle and was "in no way related to the glow plugs". The company advised Mr Coughlan that if it was not able to reach a compromise, the matter would be taken to the Disputes Tribunal. In reply, Mr Coughlan said he would take the matter to Fair Go.

Regarding the background to the dispute, Mr Kemp concluded:

Although I've made it quite clear that we accept absolutely no responsibility as regards what happened to Mr Coughlan's car, we feel that the manner in which we approached the whole job from the start, even with the fitting of the glow plug that broke, was done in the normal professional manner. The fact that I was prepared to help or to compromise with Mr Coughlan was because it happened in our workshop and as a goodwill gesture we were prepared to meet him some way in settling the account.

Mr Kemp's statement outlining Fair Go's approach began by noting that Fair Go's reporter had walked into his office uninvited and had "proceeded to attack me verbally in a forceful manner with regards to a dispute we have with Chris Coughlan". Expressing his resentment at the reporter's rudeness, Mr Kemp said that he told her he declined to comment as the matter had been referred to the Disputes Tribunal. He added that he told her that he would act as required by the Tribunal. He also told her the history of the dispute as outlined above and explained that Mr Coughlan was supplied with a company vehicle while his was being repaired. However, during the broadcast she had said Mr Coughlan had been without a vehicle during the repairs. In addition, the reporter was told that the company, in an effort to settle the dispute, had suggested to Mr Coughlan that he pay $293 rather than the full figure approaching $600. However, only the full figure was reported during the broadcast.

As the reporter had been advised of these facts, Mr Kemp said the broadcast was biased and untrue, observing:

To me, it was quite clear by the arrogant way in which she [the reporter] approached our workshop, entered our workshop, carried on the conversation and left the premises that there was no intention whatsoever to get a fair and balanced view of this dispute.

Mr Kemp also complained that his privacy was breached as the camera crew walked into the office and started filming  contrary to his express wishes  while he was talking to the reporter. The reporter had spent some 20 minutes in his office and consequently would have been in no doubt about the company's attitude but it had not been reported during the broadcast. Mr Kemp concluded:

As [the reporter] left the workshop she did say to me "You won't come out then and put your case" and I said I had made it quite clear that this matter was going to the Disputes Tribunal and that I would not in any way be seen to make statements that may in some way jeopardise or influence the Court's decision but after the Court had made a decision she could come back and I would talk to her then.

TVNZ's Response to the Formal Complaint

TVNZ advised the complainant's solicitors of its Complaints Committee's decision in a letter dated 13 May 1994. It apologised for the delay in responding which occurred while awaiting the decision of the Small Claims Court. It reported that the complaint had been considered under s.4(1)(a), (c) and (d) of the Broadcasting Act.

TVNZ began its report by commenting on two matters it had been concerned with. First, although the item had reported accurately that Mr Coughlan had been without his vehicle, it had not been made clear that the complainant had supplied him with one. That was considered to be a significant omission and the complaint was upheld on this point as being unfair.

Secondly, the item had not explained that the director's reluctance to talk about the issue arose from his concern that the proceedings could be sub judice. Again, TVNZ reported, that aspect of the complaint had been upheld as Fair Go had been at fault.

TVNZ then considered the privacy aspect of the complaint and, taking into account the five privacy principles applied by the Authority in determining complaints under s.4(1)(c) of the Act, concluded that a breach had not occurred. The film crew, it noted, had left the premises on request. However, TVNZ added:

Having made that decision, the [Complaints] Committee records that it was less than happy with the approach of the reporter. It felt that the reporter should have made a greater effort to establish the status of the second person in the office and, as indicated above, should have recognised that Mr Kemp's reluctance to talk about the case stemmed from his genuine fear of endangering a claim before the Small Claims Court.

The Committee is conscious that reporters (professionally trained in the use of television equipment and techniques) sometimes overlook the fact that members of the public encountering television for perhaps the first are often bewildered and ill at ease - a situation which calls for understanding on the part of the television crew.

On behalf of TVNZ the Committee extends its apologies to Mr Kemp for any embarrassment and discomfort he felt as a consequence of the unexpected approach by the "Fair Go" reporter.

Maintaining that taste and decency requirement in s.4(1)(a) was not really an issue, TVNZ repeated that the two aspects of the complaint had been upheld as a breach of s.4(1)(d). It advised the complainant that it intended to run an item on Fair Go on 18 May to outline the decision of the Small Claims Court and to correct the erroneous impressions left by the original item.

Further Correspondence

The complainant's solicitors in a letter dated 16 May 1994 forwarded TVNZ a copy of the Order from the Disputes Tribunal in which it was recorded that Mr Coughlan agreed to pay the complainant $42.75 and the vendor (Autobarn), from whom Mr Coughlan had bought the vehicle, agreed to pay the complainant (Southland Fuel) $417.82.

The solicitors commented:

Mr Kemp feels he has now been vindicated completely because of the Order of the Disputes Tribunal which upholds his initial stance and attitude taken to this matter.

TVNZ broadcast on Fair Go on 18 May 1994 a further item about the dispute between Southland Fuel Injection Ltd and Mr Coughlan.

In a letter dated 26 May 1994, the complainant's solicitors advised that their client was "most dissatisfied" with the 18 May item. They added:

The most recent programme not only failed to accurately outline the decision of the Small Claims Tribunal, but more importantly, further added to the erroneous impressions left by the original item.

The 18 May broadcast, the solicitors continued, did not make it clear that the complainant had supplied Mr Coughlan with a vehicle and did nothing about correcting the omission in the first broadcast as to why Mr Kemp had declined to reply to Fair Go's questions.

The solicitors put the matter in the following way:

Notwithstanding that our client's complaint was upheld, the most recent item is in error in two respects. Firstly, it is suggested that the outcome of the Tribunal is a surprise, and by implication contrary to the evidence. Secondly, it is suggested that a third party, namely the vendor of the faulty vehicle, is in some way taking legal action against Mr Kemp.

They emphasised that the parties had consented to the Tribunal's Order and asked:

How then, when the money is voluntarily offered to Mr Kemp, can a reporter possibly suggest on national television that the vendor is suing, or taking legal action against our client.

In these circumstances, the solicitors concluded, TVNZ had made no effort to acknowledge its error and had broadcast an item which contradicted the Complaints Committee's findings.

Please accordingly advise what steps TVNZ now intends to take as a result of the broadcast of the most recent programme.

In its reply to the complainant's solicitors dated 27 May 1994, TVNZ said that as far as it was concerned the Complaints Committee's decision was the end of the matter. The next appropriate step was a referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. Nevertheless, TVNZ expressed surprise that the complainant believed that the item did not report that Mr Coughlan had been lent a car, quoting the transcript:

... as we should have mentioned they (Southland Fuel Injection) did lend Chris a car while his vehicle was off the road.

With regard to the reason for Mr Kemp's reluctance to comment to Fair Go, TVNZ said that the programme had stated:

... and the company refused to discuss the issue with Fair Go for fear of jeopardising their case

Southland Fuel Injection Ltd's Complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

In response to TVNZ's advice, the solicitors for Southland Fuel referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 in a letter dated 31 May 1994.

They enclosed copies of the correspondence and pointed out that, after the 23 February broadcast, a formal complaint had been filed alleging breaches of s.4(1)(a), (c) and (d) of the Act. TVNZ upheld aspects of the complaint under s.4(1)(d) and advised that a correction would be broadcast on 18 May.

However, the solicitors argued, the 18 May item involved further breaches of s.4(1) but, after making a formal complaint, they had been advised by TVNZ that the appropriate action was to refer the earlier decision to the Authority for review.

Accordingly, the complainant referred to the Authority the complaints about the "initial broadcast" on 23 February and the "purported apology" on 18 May.

TVNZ's Response to the Broadcasting Standards Authority

As is its practice, the Authority sought the broadcaster's response to the referral. Its letter dated 2 June 1994 and TVNZ's reply 10 June.

TVNZ reported that its Complaints Committee, having upheld two aspects of the complaint, ordered Fair Go to carry an item correcting the impression given in the original broadcast.

TVNZ said it had nothing to add to its letters of 13 and 27 May to the complainant's solicitors reporting the Complaints Committee's decision.

With regard to the complainant's solicitors letter of 26 May objecting to the 18 May item, TVNZ wrote:

We considered treating these [objections] as a fresh formal complaint. We decided not to do so because we believe that essentially Preston Russell [the complainant's solicitors] was expressing dissatisfaction with the action taken over the formal complaint concerning the 23 February broadcast and that the proper forum for ruling on this was the Broadcasting Standards Authority. We were also aware that another formal investigation would prolong the complaints procedure  to the satisfaction of nobody.

Dealing with the objections raised, TVNZ first denied that the item implied that the Tribunal's decision was a surprise because it was contrary to the evidence. The decision was "probably not what anyone expected" (to quote the broadcast), TVNZ maintained, as contrary to earlier advice that Mr Coughlan and Southland Fuel were the parties, a third party (Autobarn  the car vendor) was a party to the decision.

Secondly, the item had not suggested that Autobarn was taking legal action against Southland Fuel. It had said, based on what Autobarn had told Fair Go, that "the car yard was thinking of taking Southland Fuel Injection to court".

TVNZ concluded:

We draw the Authority's attention to the decision by the Small Claims Tribunal and respectfully suggest that the account of it broadcast by Fair Go on 18 May was fair and accurate. We also inform the Authority that Fair Go was in possession of that decision when it prepared the 18 May story and did not rely on any second-hand information.

Southland Fuel Injection's Final Comment to the Authority

When asked to comment briefly on TVNZ's reply, in a letter dated 30 June the complainants' solicitors repeated the points that they believed that the 18 May broadcast did not contain the expected correction. They maintained:

The [18 May] programme simply attempts to gain some justification for the original programme from the Disputes Tribunal decision.

That programme inaccurately said the Tribunal had "enjoined" a third party whereas the Tribunal had endorsed the agreement reached by the parties independently of the Tribunal. Having agreed to the order, the letter continued, Autobarn could not take action against the complainant.

The solicitors summed up:

Accordingly, the subsequent programme published by Fair Go is in reality deflected from the original intent ie the correcting of erroneous impressions, and the apology. To focus on the decision of the disputes Tribunal is in itself erroneous and at the same time inaccurate reporting.

We respectfully submit that this dispute must be viewed from our client's perspective. That means that when a letter was received suggesting that an apology would be forthcoming, and a subsequent programme would be broadcast to "correct an erroneous impression", that in fact would happen.

The principal of Southland Fuel Injection, Mr R. Kemp, is sadly quite firmly of the view that the programme failed in both respects.