BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

SilkRoutes Artifacts and Carpets Ltd and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2000-063

Members
  • S R Maling (Chair)
  • J Withers
  • R McLeod
  • L M Loates
Dated
Complainant
  • SilkRoutes Artifacts and Carpets Ltd
Number
2000-063
Programme
Holmes
Channel/Station
TV One

Complaint
Holmes – bargain priced Persian rugs – false statements – implied discounts not genuine

Findings
(1) Standard G1 – no express or implied inaccuracy – no uphold 

(2) Standard G4 – no implication of fraudulent misrepresentation – no unfairness to complainant or its director – no uphold 

(3) Standard G6 – reasonable opportunity given for comment – no uphold

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Summary

An item on Holmes broadcast on TV One at 7pm on 22 November 1999 featured Persian rugs sold by SilkRoutes Artifacts and Carpets Ltd. It was reported that rugs sold by SilkRoutes were advertised as "massively discounted". Customer concerns about the value of the rugs were raised, in particular by the purchasers of a Qum rug.

SilkRoutes, through its solicitor, complained to Television New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, that the item was inaccurate, unbalanced, inflammatory and unfair.

In its response, TVNZ said the programme had not stated or implied that SilkRoutes’ discounts or the replacement prices quoted in certificates of origin accompanying its rugs were other than genuine. TVNZ also disagreed that statements made in the programme about the valuation of the Qum rug were misleading.

Dissatisfied with TVNZ’s decision, SilkRoutes referred the complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.

For the reasons given below, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Decision

The members of the Authority have viewed a tape of the item complained about and have read the correspondence which is listed in the Appendix. On this occasion, the Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

An item on Holmes, broadcast on TV One at 7pm on 22 November 1999, raised questions about a discount sale of Persian rugs by SilkRoutes, and pointed to customer concerns about what they saw as inflated valuations placed upon the rugs. These concerns were voiced in particular by a couple who had purchased a Qum rug from SilkRoutes.

The Complaint

SilkRoutes complained to TVNZ about seven statements made in the item.

1.    "massively discounted prices - apparently these carpets from a company called SilkRoutes"

SilkRoutes wrote that immediately following this statement was a reference in the item to the Qum rug sold for $15,000 but said to be worth $83,000. It complained that the statement implied that the reduction was not genuine.

2.    "but was it worth $83,000 and is the certificate of value genuine?"

SilkRoutes maintained that this statement suggested that the replacement price was false. In addition, SilkRoutes stressed that it had never said that any "value" could be placed on the Qum rug. It submitted that certificates of origin from time to time issued by SilkRoutes each contained a "statement of what the replacement price of the rug would be if purchased on the open market at normal retail prices". Such certificates were not valuations, it said. SilkRoutes maintained that it was false and misleading to suggest that the replacement price statement was a valuation, or that "the certificate of value (which does not exist in any event) [was] not genuine".

3.    "A one-off piece but is it? How do you know what you are getting is the real McCoy?"

SilkRoutes argued that this statement was inaccurate. It maintained that the Qum rug was "undeniably" a one-off piece which was genuine.

4.    "Are the valuations provided by traders worth the paper they’re written on?"

SilkRoutes repeated that the rugs sold by it had a "notation as to replacement price", but no valuation.

5.    "Clients are paying roughly market prices but complain that they are being sucked into buying by inflated valuations"

Again, SilkRoutes denied that it provided customers with any valuations or represented that it was a valuer. It contended that to suggest this was the case was false and misleading.

6.    "Three valuers in Auckland said the rug was no bargain. It was worth the $15,000 she paid"

SilkRoutes also disagreed with the valuation of the Qum rug provided by "three Auckland valuers" contacted by the Holmes programme. It said that there was no direct comparison for such a rug in New Zealand. It suggested that the closest comparison for the Qum rug would be a comparable rug in Australia and that it was satisfied that a comparable rug would be worth $83,000.

7.    "If you can find a rug in this country that is the value that they claim to be normal retail price I’ll be happy to give you hundreds of rugs for the same value as a gift" (Nejat Kevvas)

SilkRoutes contended that this statement was misleading as Mr Kevvas referred to "normal retail price". It said this was not a phrase which appeared in SilkRoutes’ advertising. It also alleged that Mr Kevvas was not comparing "like with like" when he made his assessment as he did not stock, and was not familiar with, a rug of equivalent quality.

Essentially, SilkRoutes considered that the Holmes item suggested "some type of fraudulent misrepresentation". It summarised its complaint:

Any person seeing the programme would consider that the discounts being offered by SilkRoutes were not genuine discounts, that the rugs were not genuine rugs, that prices stated as being comparable prices were false and that the rugs that were being sold or offered for sale were worth only the discounted prices at which they were being offered for sale. In addition, many of the statements made in the programme that we have identified above are totally false.

TVNZ’s Response to the Complaint

TVNZ assessed the complaint under standards G1, G4, G6, G16 and G21 of the Television Code of Broadcasting Practice, as had been requested by the complainant. The first three of the standards require broadcasters to:

G1  To be truthful and accurate on points of fact.

G4  To deal justly and fairly with any person taking part or referred to in any programme.

G6  To show balance, impartiality and fairness in dealing with political matters, current affairs and all questions of a controversial nature.

The remaining two standards provide:

G16  News, current affairs and documentaries should not be presented in such a way as to cause unnecessary panic, alarm or distress.

G21  Significant errors of fact should be corrected at the earliest possible opportunity.

In TVNZ’s opinion, the complaint centred on the certificates of origin for SilkRoutes’ rugs, which advised buyers of replacement prices. TVNZ said that it was unclear how SilkRoutes differentiated between the "replacement price" noted on a certificate of origin and a "value". TVNZ also explained that Holmes had made strenuous efforts to contact SilkRoutes and/or its director Shahid Chaudhary, with limited success. In its view SilkRoutes could not complain that its view was not presented in the programme when it had "consistently refused to answer legitimate questions put by the reporter".

TVNZ then turned to the specific points complained about by SilkRoutes.

1.  TVNZ said that it had found no evidence that the item had either stated or implied that discounts offered by SilkRoutes were not genuine. It considered that it was accurate to call the discounts "massive" and this did not carry with it any implication that they were not genuine.

2.  TVNZ considered that this complaint "move[d] into the area of semantics" and that SilkRoutes may not have recognised Holmes’ obligation to present information in a manner which was readily understood by viewers. TVNZ said that it was not clear how SilkRoutes differentiated between the "replacement price" noted on a certificate of origin and a "valuation". It added that it was clear that the purchasers of the Qum rug believed that the value of the rug was reflected in the retail price shown on the certificate of origin.

TVNZ maintained that it had not stated that replacement prices were false. It said it had asked legitimate questions about pricing after the claims by the vendor were shown to be suspect.

TVNZ then referred to dictionary definitions of "value" and "worth" and submitted that "to a person of ordinary sensibilities, a retail price of $83,000 on the open market would equate to the value of that product".

3,4. TVNZ contended that the premiss of SilkRoutes’ argument about these statements was incorrect, as the statements did not refer to either SilkRoutes or the Qum rug. It pointed out that the matter of the specific Qum rug had not been drawn to viewers’ attention at this point in the item, and that the rug shown in this segment was not the Qum rug or, as far as it was aware, even a rug sold by SilkRoutes.

5.  TVNZ reiterated its view that purchasers of rugs from SilkRoutes were entitled to believe the replacement prices quoted on certificates of origin were what they would have to pay to have the rugs replaced and equated to their value.

With respect to Mr Chaudhary, TVNZ said that he could not "have it both ways." As TVNZ saw it:

He told the couple featured on Holmes that he did valuations for Lloyd’s, Sotheby’s and Christie’s. He was clearly portraying himself as an expert valuer in the field while selling a rug with a certificate of origin identifying its replacement price as $83,000.

6.  TVNZ said that it was fact that three Auckland valuers had said that the Qum rug was worth $15,000. It noted that Mr Chaudhary was given "every opportunity" to answer questions about the rug but had declined to do so.

7.  TVNZ did not believe that the opinion given by Mr Kevvas was misleading, saying that it was the genuine opinion of a person qualified to comment on the subject. It also contended that SilkRoutes had "shifted ground" on this aspect of its complaint as it had earlier insisted that replacement prices were normal retail prices, but now objected to the use of the same phrase.

In conclusion, TVNZ found no inaccuracies in the programme and declined to uphold the complaint under either standard G1 or G21. It also found no unjust or unfair treatment of either SilkRoutes or Mr Chaudhary in terms of standard G4. As to standard G6, TVNZ considered that "every effort" had been made to include comment from SilkRoutes, noting that viewers had been told that SilkRoutes had refunded the money of the couple who had purchased the Qum rug willingly and that SilkRoutes believed that it was the victim of attacks by competitors.

TVNZ found no breach of standard G16 either. It said that the item was "a legitimate cautionary tale about an unusual sale around which remain a number of unanswered questions". It was unable to discern who might be caused unnecessary panic by the item.

SilkRoutes’ Referral to the Authority

1. SilkRoutes said that TVNZ had not addressed the matter in full and had missed the point of its complaint, which was not about the word "massive" but about the inference that there was no genuine discount. SilkRoutes added that TVNZ had overlooked the fact that the Qum rug was never advertised for sale.

2. SilkRoutes repeated that it did not issue "certificates of value". Instead, it said that it issued " a certificate of origin which stated its replacement (retail) price for the Qum rug". In its view, TVNZ’s "misdescription" of the certificate was serious because it inferred that SilkRoutes issued valuations. It insisted that it was common for unique works to have both a price and a value. By way of example, it said that a painting may have a particular value, but still be sold at a higher or lower price. It elaborated:

Value must by necessary implication and on the basis of the definitions considered by the broadcaster under this section be the highest price that a willing purchaser would pay for a particular rug.

According to SilkRoutes, any difference in price reflected that the seller might negotiate a discount on a high value item.

SilkRoutes then used the insurance business as an example of an industry which distinguished between value and replacement value.

SilkRoutes then asked how TVNZ could assert that it did not say in the item that the replacement price was false. It asked "what else could have been meant by the words ‘is the certificate of value genuine?’"

3. SilkRoutes again disagreed with TVNZ, saying it was extraordinary that the broadcaster suggested that the statement did not refer to SilkRoutes or the Qum rug. Further, it said that the only inference to draw was that the programme clearly alleged that the Qum rug and its price "may well not be genuine" and that overall it was probable that the purchaser was not acquiring anything genuine.

SilkRoutes then described TVNZ’s response that the rug featured in this segment was not the Qum rug and probably was not even a SilkRoutes’ rug as "bordering on the fanciful".

4,5.SilkRoutes reiterated that the company did not provide valuations. It went on to say that Mr Chaudhary "had experience in providing valuations to Sotheby’s and Christie’s" and this aspect of the programme was "purely anecdotal" and without factual foundation.

SilkRoutes maintained that:

Of the essence of this complaint… is the clear statement by the broadcaster first that the valuations are provided, secondly that they are worthless and thirdly that the valuations are grossly inflated well beyond market price.

6. SilkRoutes contended that the statement implied that the rug would "in no way be worth more than $15,000". It also observed that the "valuers" were SilkRoutes’ competitors and not qualified valuers.

7. SilkRoutes complained that the use of Mr Kevvas as an authority for offering a view on the value of the Qum rug was inappropriate, as he had no experience in rugs of the quality of the Qum rug and was a direct competitor of SilkRoutes.

Overall, SilkRoutes maintained that the programme lacked balance and objectivity. It also said that the programme was not about the purchase of rugs "generally". As its final point, SilkRoutes said that the programme ought to be viewed by the Authority as a whole, bearing in mind that television was a fleeting medium, and that "the attention of the viewer is caught by what is immediately viewed on the screen and the voiceover".

TVNZ’s Response to the Authority

TVNZ observed first that, in its view, the dispute was in essence a matter of semantics about the words "worth", "value" and "price". It submitted that the question should be asked by the Authority: " What would a person of ordinary sensibilities make of the certificate of origin/certificate of value issue, and what would that person be entitled to conclude about the price appearing on that certificate?" In its opinion, the certificates were clearly not just certificates of origin.

TVNZ then commented on each of the points in the referral.

1. TVNZ disagreed that it had failed to answer SilkRoutes’ accusation that the programme implied there was no genuine discount. It also commented that, in its view, it was irrelevant that Holmes did not advise that the Qum rug had never been advertised for sale, and it claimed it had accurately represented the price of the Qum rug as "massively discounted".

2. TVNZ submitted that the item was clearly presented from a customer perspective and the customers to whom the programme had spoken believed that the value of the rug was reflected by the retail/replacement price shown in the certificate of origin. It believed that laypersons would also equate "replacement price" with "worth", and the belief that they were buying at a discount would be their motivation for responding to SilkRoutes’ advertisements, attending its sale and making purchases.
TVNZ said it considered that asking whether the carpet was value for money was a legitimate question which did not imply that the replacement price quotes were false. It provided further dictionary definitions of "worth", "value" and "price" to support its point.

As a separate point, TVNZ advised the Authority that the referral had included new material which referred to the insurance industry. It suggested the Authority should ignore this material, although it "in no way" undercut TVNZ’s initial response to the complaint.

3. TVNZ denied that its response bordered on the fanciful. It explained that the comment in contention was made in the item’s opening sequence "which sought to outline questions any lay-person would ask regarding the specialised world of Persian rugs".  TVNZ also said that the question was addressed to "you" – the viewer, not to the purchasers of the Qum rug, who had not yet been introduced in the item. It also reiterated that the rug shown at the time these remarks were made was not the Qum rug. TVNZ disagreed that it had said that the rug sold was "probably even a rug not sold by SilkRoutes".

4,5.TVNZ insisted that SilkRoutes had claimed that Mr Chaudhary had experience in providing valuations to Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and that he had told the purchasers of the Qum rug of his experience. That he claimed such experience was, according to TVNZ, an important factor in the purchasers’ decision to buy the rug. It denied SilkRoutes’ contention that this was "purely anecdotal evidence from the broadcaster without any factual foundation at all".

TVNZ said that Mr Chaudhary had portrayed himself as an expert valuer to his customers, yet SilkRoutes argued that he did not provide valuations. TVNZ repeated that Mr Chaudhary could not "have it both ways".

6. TVNZ said it did not dispute that the three valuers it used were competitors of SilkRoutes. It pointed out that there were no official qualifications for valuers of rugs of the type featured in the item and that Mr Kevvas was described in the item as a competitor of SilkRoutes.

7. TVNZ had nothing further to add to its initial response on this aspect of the complaint. It said that the referral had raised no new matter.

In conclusion, TVNZ stressed that every effort was made by Holmes to persuade Mr Chaudhary or a member of his company to appear on the programme. TVNZ did not deny that balance was required, but submitted that the standard requiring balance was not breached where, as in this case, a party was given every opportunity to comment but refused to do so. Further, it submitted that there was a strong public interest element to the story and that this would not have been served if Holmes had abandoned the story because SilkRoutes refused to put its side of the story.

As a further point, TVNZ said that an issue of credibility had been raised and accordingly it noted that SilkRoutes had not challenged the following aspects of the item:

  • The case of a man who believed that he had bought bargain rugs from SilkRoutes, but whose son was told by a dealer that they were not worth the replacement prices.
  • That SilkRoutes had told the couple who purchased the Qum rug it was selling the rugs on behalf of Westpac Bank, and that this had subsequently been denied by the bank.
  • That Sotheby’s and Christie’s had never heard of SilkRoutes or Mr Chaudhary.

TVNZ also advised the Authority that a Wellington viewer had informed TVNZ that she had bought a rug from SilkRoutes for $22,000, which had been marked as having a replacement price of $45,000 and which a rug auctioneer had told her was worth about $15,000.

SilkRoutes’ Reply to TVNZ’s Response

In its reply to TVNZ’s response, SilkRoutes:

  • took issue with what it called TVNZ’s treatment and description of its complaint as, largely, a matter of semantics – saying that this trivialised the complaint in circumstances where TVNZ had implied that SilkRoutes’ conduct was fraudulent.
  • contended that there was a distinction between asking whether the rugs were value for money and whether prices were not genuine – the former being a subjective issue and the latter being an allegation of fraudulent conduct.
  • suggested that an ordinary Holmes viewer’s attention would be caught by emotive words and phrases which evoked fraud or dishonesty.
  • suggested that the Authority should consider the immediacy of television programmes, the presenter’s intonation and manner of delivery and the context of the entire item when determining each aspect of SilkRoutes’ complaint.
  • contended that the programme was not about Persian carpets generally, but about SilkRoutes and Mr Chaudhary specifically.
  • maintained that the programme contained additional indications of imbalance and inaccuracy: viz:-

        i)  the rug and rug shop of a competitor of SilkRoutes was shown during the voice-over about the Qum rug.

        ii)  the certificate of origin featured did not identify the Qum rug and, furthermore, the couple featured had bought 13 rugs, but only sought to return two.

       iii)  the picture accompanying the voice-over asking about whether the certificate of value was genuine and one-off was not the featured Qum rug and not a Qum rug.

       iv) TVNZ did not mention the couple’s other purchases.

       v)  the rugs another man featured in the item said his father bought were purchased two and three years prior to the broadcast of the item without complaint at the time, and the certificates of origin were made out in a name suggested the purchaser was not the man’s father.

SilkRoutes then addressed the specific aspects of its complaint.

1.  SilkRoutes questioned the use of the word "apparently" by the presenter, which was used to describe "massively discounted prices" and it said connoted something "specious or seemingly so". It maintained that this word was not required if indeed TVNZ had not implied the discounts were anything but genuine.

2.  SilkRoutes disagreed with TVNZ’s submission which equated "replacement value" with a "valuation", saying that no person of ordinary sensibilities would equate the two concepts. In this context it said it was "interesting" that TVNZ did not appear to dispute that quoted replacement prices were genuine.

3.  SilkRoutes contended that a reasonable viewer would believe that the questions asked referred to the Qum rug, not to Persian rugs generally.

4,5.  Again SilkRoutes said that TVNZ ought to have made it clear that the certificates were not valuations. It also commented that the customer’s recollection was hearsay and contradicted the certificate of origin. Furthermore, SilkRoutes complained that the use of the word "inflated" in this part of the programme connoted falsehood and that the discussion about Sotheby’s and Christie’s did not occur at the time that was suggested.

6.  SilkRoutes said it was misleading to suggest that there were no official qualifications for rug valuers in New Zealand, arguing that a person who was an expert by qualification or experience and who was independent could be such a valuer.

7.  SilkRoutes reiterated that the Qum rug was unique and that comparisons must be of like items and be fair.

As its final point, SilkRoutes said that it was wrong for TVNZ to "seek to justify its position" by referring to certain matters relating to credibility in its response to the referral. Although SilkRoutes did not deny that there was a credibility issue involved, it said the matters were not covered in either the initial complaint or the programme. It believed that the "introduction" of the material was "improper" and asked for the opportunity to make further submissions if the Authority was to consider the matters.

TVNZ’s Further Response

TVNZ made the following comments about the general points raised in SilkRoutes’ reply. First, it disagreed with SilkRoutes’ contention that it had trivialised the complaint by referring to it as a semantic dispute. It repeated that it had not said or implied in the item that prices were not genuine, but had asked legitimate questions about the prices of SilkRoutes’ rugs.

Next, TVNZ denied that it stated or implied that SilkRoutes had engaged in fraudulent conduct, again repeating that its inquiry had been legitimate.

TVNZ then agreed that the complaint should be determined from the point of view of an "ordinary viewer", saying that it believed such a viewer would want the Holmes reporter to ask the questions he did. It also contended that the "overwhelming power of the [television] medium should not preclude journalists from following legitimate lines of inquiry".

TVNZ reiterated its contention that questions about whether purchasers were getting "the real McCoy" were generic.

Finally, as to the other alleged indications of imbalance and inaccuracy, TVNZ said:

  • it was unclear of SilkRoutes’ point about the screening of a rug and rug shop of a competitor
  • it disagreed that a featured certificate of origin was inaccurate because it did not identify the Qum rug
  • it disagreed that the couple’s other purchases were relevant to the item
  • it did not doubt the genuineness of the claim made by a man featured in the item who said his father had bought rugs from SilkRoutes
  • the fact that the man’s father had not complained did not preclude the man from later complaining, TVNZ argued.

Next, TVNZ addressed the comments made about SilkRoutes’ specific complaints.

  1. TVNZ did not accept that the use of the word "apparently" had the connotations which were attached by SilkRoutes. In its view, the word was used appropriately to indicate that, from the customer’s point of view, the status of prices was unclear. Again, TVNZ repeated its view that its inquiry had been legitimate.
  2. TVNZ did not accept that the distinction which SilkRoutes had attempted to draw was other than sematic. Furthermore, TVNZ contended that a viewer would not "sit in front of Holmes and work out the difference between price, value and worth". In TVNZ’s opinion:
  3. It is the complainant who [was] arguing on the basis of semantics; TVNZ submit[ted that] the viewer was told in accurate terms why questions were being asked and where the focus of customer dissatisfaction lay. If the complainant saw a need for clarification of these fine points of wording, why did it not avail itself of the opportunity to be interviewed?

  4. TVNZ did not accept that viewers were informed that what was being discussed was the Qum rug. It stressed that its reporter had not said the rug was not genuine or one-off, only that three valuers had challenged the view that it was a bargain. As to the views of the valuers, TVNZ said again that SilkRoutes had the opportunity to appear on the programme to respond.
  5. TVNZ said that although SilkRoutes described statements made by the purchasers of the Qum rug as hearsay, it believed those statements accurately reflected their recollection. Once again, TVNZ asked why Mr Chaudhary was not prepared to come on the programme to challenge the purchasers’ recollection.
  6. ......
  7. TVNZ commented that the use of the word "inflated" was ascribed to customers of SilkRoutes, and that it did not understand the relevance of when discussion between the customers and Mr Chaudhary took place. In relation to the valuers, it said it was not its policy to reveal sources, but that those approached were from Auckland and Mr Kevvas was clearly acknowledged to be a competitor of SilkRoutes.
  8. TVNZ said that Mr Kevvas was entitled to express his opinion.

Finally, TVNZ disagreed that there was anything new about the matters concerning credibility detailed in its response. These matters appeared both in the item and on the transcript, it said.

The Authority’s Findings

At the outset the Authority records that in view of the overlap between the relevant issues raised under standards G4 and G6, it has subsumed its consideration of issues raised under standard G6 under its findings on standard G4.

Standard G1

SilkRoutes complained that seven separate statements made in the item were inaccurate. For the reasons set out below, the Authority concludes that standard G1 was not breached in relation to any of the statements.

1.  "massively discounted prices - apparently these carpets from a company called SilkRoutes"

SilkRoutes complained that this statement implied that prices for its rugs were not genuine. It considered that the presenter’s use of the word "apparently" connoted something "specious or seemingly so". The Authority prefers TVNZ’s submission on the point. It concludes that the description used was accurate given the very substantial price reductions promised by the complainant. Furthermore, it is not persuaded that the average viewer would have concluded that there was "something specious or seemingly so" about SilkRoutes’ rug offer from the words used in this part of the programme. In the Authority’s view, the comment made may, at most, have raised a question about the pricing of the rugs in the minds of viewers. In the circumstances, that was a perfectly legitimate position for the presenter to take and, it concludes, there was nothing inaccurate or misleading about the words used in this context on the programme. 

2.  "but was it worth $83,000 and is the certificate of value genuine?"

The Authority observes first that this was a question, not a statement of fact. But to the extent that the question implies assertions of fact, the Authority agrees that it technically misdescribed what the vendor called a "certificate of origin" for the Qum rug as a "certificate of value". However, despite the technical misdescription, the Authority notes that the certificate of origin included a representation about the replacement price of the rug, which could well have influenced an intending purchaser. That was an assertion about price and value as offered by the vendor. Although the description used was loose, the Authority is not persuaded it was inaccurate or misleading.

3. "A one-off piece but is it? How do you know what you are getting is the real McCoy?"

4. "Are the valuations provided by traders worth the paper they’re written on?"

Again the Authority finds that these were questions, not statements of fact, and in the context of this programme the questions were legitimate ones to be asked. But, like most questions, they were capable of more than one response. The Authority does not accept that these were questions made of SilkRoutes specifically, and it is not satisfied that either on their own or in the context of the programme these questions predicated any particular reply. They are the sort of questions frequently asked on this type of programme and viewers no doubt would have been interested in the reply. Again, the Authority concludes that there was nothing misleading or inaccurate in terms of standard G1. But the questions do raise issues under standard G4. The Authority deals with these issues below.

5. "Clients are paying roughly market prices but complain that they are being sucked into buying by inflated valuations"

The Authority concludes that this part of the programme can be sourced to the three Auckland rug dealers who commented on the market price of SilkRoutes’ rugs, and the disappointed purchasers featured in the programme who believed they had invested in rugs unwisely. In both cases, it is satisfied that the sources were accurately reported. Again, to the extent that the comments made raised issues which were potentially unfair to the complainant, the Authority prefers to deal with these under its consideration of standard G4 below.

6.  "Three valuers in Auckland said the rug was no bargain. It was worth the $15,000 she paid"

The Authority considers this statement was an accurate summary of the opinion of the three Auckland rug dealers. There may be some room for debate as to whether those dealers could be properly described as "valuers", or indeed just what qualifications are required before such a claim could be made. But overall, the Authority prefers the view that the description was appropriate to describe experienced people in the trade who had been asked to give an opinion as to value. To the extent that there was any inherent unfairness to the complainant in using this source for the report, then the matter is again best addressed under standard G4.

7. "If you can find a rug in this country that is the value that they claim to be normal retail price I’ll be happy to give you hundreds of rugs for the same value as a gift" (Nejat Kevvas)

This statement was an opinion given by a contributor to the programme. Standard G3 acknowledges the right for individuals to express their own opinions, and the Authority finds no breach of standard G1 in relation to the comments made. But it accepts that an adverse inference could be drawn from these reported comments which is required to be dealt with under standard G4.

Standard G4

In the Authority’s view, any substance to this complaint arises from the potential for unfairness to the complainant, given the reasonably direct inferences which could be drawn from parts of the programme and its effect overall.

At the outset, the Authority notes that both SilkRoutes and Mr Chaudhary were given every opportunity to participate in the programme. It accepts TVNZ’s submission that the complainant "consistently refused to answer legitimate questions put by the reporter". The Authority has held in other cases (such as Decision No: 1997-112) that where reasonable opportunity is given, but not taken advantage of, then that may discharge the broadcaster from further obligation. The Authority concludes that that is the position here. It finds that a reasonable opportunity was given for the complainant to take part in the programme and to put its view. For whatever reason, the complainant chose not to do so. It is satisfied that the broadcaster has discharged its obligations and declines to uphold any complaint under standard G4. The Authority repeats its earlier view that this was a cautionary story which there was a public interest in broadcasting

Standards G16 and G21

The Authority records its findings in relation to the remaining standards against which the complaint was assessed. First, it considers that standard G16 was not breached on this occasion. There was no evidence that the presentation of the programme caused any panic, alarm or distress as contemplated by the standard.

Finally, the Authority records that standard G21 is not apposite to the complaint given its finding that the programme did not contain inaccuracies or errors of fact.

 

For the reasons set forth above, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Sam Maling
Chairperson
17 May 2000

Appendix

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

1.    SilkRoutes Artifacts and Carpets Ltd’s Complaint to Television New Zealand Ltd –
      20 December 1999

2.    TVNZ’s Response to the Formal Complaint – 25 January 2000

3.    SilkRoutes’ Referral to the Broadcasting Standards Authority – 23 February 2000

4.    TVNZ’s Response to the Authority – 14 March 2000

5.    SilkRoutes’ Reply to TVNZ’s Response – 12 April 2000

6.    TVNZ’s Further Response – 19 April 2000

7.    SilkRoutes’ Final Comment – 4 May 2000