BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

Jeffries and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2014-069

Members
  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Te Raumawhitu Kupenga
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
Dated
Complainant
  • Joe Jeffries
Number
2014-069
Programme
Checkpoint
Broadcaster
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Channel/Station
Radio New Zealand National

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

An item on Checkpoint reported on the Lombard Finance case, focusing on a former investor and her reaction to the revised sentences handed out to the Lombard directors. The item included a quote which was incorrectly attributed to the directors. The Authority did not uphold the complaint that the misattributed quote was misleading. The quote was from the High Court judge who had summarised what he considered to be the directors’ position, so listeners’ impression of the directors from the item would not have been materially different.

Not Upheld: Accuracy


Introduction

[1]  An item on Checkpoint discussed the Lombard Finance case with a former investor, in relation to the sentences of home detention reinstated by the Supreme Court for Lombard’s directors (having overturned the Court of Appeal’s sentences of imprisonment). The host said:

One of the quotes from [the directors] at the time was, ‘yes, it’s likely to be very tight and we are worried about it, but we think we’ll squeeze through, so we needn’t raise unnecessary concerns’ – and that was about the liquidity of the company.

[2]  The item was broadcast on Radio New Zealand National on 7 May 2014.

[3]  Joe Jeffries complained that the quote was inaccurately attributed to the Lombard Finance directors, when in fact the words were Justice Dobson’s in the High Court decision on the case (subsequently quoted in the Supreme Court’s decision).

[4]  The issue is whether the broadcast breached the accuracy standard as set out in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.

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

Was the broadcast misleading or inaccurate?

[6]  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

[7]  RNZ acknowledged that the quote was not correctly attributed. However, it maintained that the audience’s understanding of the item would not have been affected because it did not constitute a material point of fact.

[8]  In assessing whether the misattribution of the quote was material to the overall focus of the item, we have had regard to the context in which the words were originally used. The original wording used in the High Court judgment of Dobson J was as follows:

Similarly, on the omission of any reference to the trend of reduced cash on hand, and the level of the accused’s concerns over liquidity. In essence, the accused’s claim to reasonable grounds for the belief that their concerns did not need to be acknowledged depended on their view, to the effect that, ‘yes, it’s likely to be very tight and we are worried about it, but we think we’ll squeeze through, so we needn’t raise unnecessary concerns’. Readers of the offer documents ought not to have been reliant on the directors’ judgement on that matter, and I am not persuaded that it was reasonable for the accused to believe they could omit any such reference.2 [our emphasis]

[9]  Dobson J concluded overall that the men had acted honestly, and were guilty of misjudgement rather than negligence – which the Supreme Court subsequently affirmed, overturning the sentences of imprisonment handed down by the Court of Appeal, and reinstating the sentences of home detention given by Dobson J in the High Court. The Supreme Court quoted the words which are the subject of this complaint, characterising them as the directors’ ‘actual view’ as put by Dobson J.3

[10]  In these circumstances, we do not think a direct quote from the directors (albeit incorrectly attributed), as compared to a summary or paraphrase of the directors’ view as assessed by two Courts of New Zealand, was materially different. Listeners’ understanding of the Checkpoint item as a whole would not have been significantly altered, whether they thought the words were those of the Lombard directors, or of the courts summarising the views of the Lombard directors.

[11]  The complainant’s concern was that attributing the quote to the directors was ‘damaging to the reputations of these men who have already suffered greatly from media misrepresentation of this case’. Given that the quote as used in the court judgments ultimately supported a lesser sentence for the men, we do not agree.

[12]  We therefore decline to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.

 

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

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 


Peter Radich
Chair
25 September 2014

Appendix

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

1            Joe Jeffries’ formal complaint – 7 May 2014

2            RNZ’s response to the complaint – 28 May 2014

3            Mr Jeffries’ referral to the Authority – 10 June 2014

4            RNZ’s response to the Authority – 9 July 2014



1Bush and Television New Zealand Ltd,

Decision No. 2010-036

2R v Graham, Reeves, Jeffries and Bryant, CRI-2010-085-2538 [2012] NZHC 265 at paragraph [127] per Dobson J
3Graham, Reeves, Jeffries and Bryant v R, [2014] NZSC 55 at paragraph [14]