Wood and SKY Network Television Ltd - 2011-135
- Peter Radich (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Mary Anne Shanahan
- Greg Wood
BroadcasterSKY Network Television Ltd
Te Raumawhitu Kupenga declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in the determination of this complaint.
Complaint under section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
National Party Infrastructure Advertisement – contained images of infrastructure that was allegedly planned, consented, funded and mostly completed under the previous Labour Government – allegedly in breach of accuracy and fairness standards
Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes) – Standards 5 (accuracy) and 6 (fairness) of the Free-to-Air TV Code – advertisement created impression that the National-led Government had a role in the examples of infrastructure shown – however language in the advertisement was couched in present and forward-looking terms rather than looking at past achievements – not inaccurate – fairness standard only applies to individuals or organisations taking part or referred to – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 An advertisement for the New Zealand National Party was broadcast on Prime a number of times, including at 5.40pm on 1 November 2011. The advertisement contained images of New Zealand infrastructure, as the National Party leader and Prime Minister John Key stated:
National is building world class infrastructure, with ultra fast broadband to encourage greater innovation, and better roads and rail to help our economy grow. Make no mistake, we can have a brighter future, but only if you choose it.
Referral to the Authority
 Greg Wood directly referred a complaint about the advertisement to the Authority under section 8(1) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He asserted that the infrastructure shown in the item was planned, consented, funded and mostly completed under the previous Labour Government. On this basis, he argued that the broadcast was fundamentally misleading because it created the impression that the projects shown were achieved by the National Party and implied that the National Party had been much more productive (in terms of infrastructure) than it actually had been.
 The broadcaster assessed the complaint under Standard E1 of the Election Programmes Code of Broadcasting Practice, and Standards 5 and 6 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice. These provide:
Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes)
An election programme is subject to all relevant provisions of the Codes of Broadcasting Practice for television and radio except for the requirement to present a range of significant viewpoints on issues of public importance.
Robust debate, advocacy and expression of political opinion are a desirable and essential part of a democratic society and broadcasting standards will be applied in a manner which respects this context.
Standard 5 Accuracy
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/or
- does not mislead.
Standard 6 Fairness
Broadcasters should deal fairly with any person or organisation taking part or referred to.
National Party’s Response to the Authority
 The National Party argued that the advertisement did not make any specific claims regarding the projects featured in the broadcast, but was making general claims about the Party’s emphasis on improving infrastructure overall. It stated that the images were included in the item to illustrate this point, and not for the purpose of claiming credit for them. National asserted that infrastructural initiatives tended to require attention and work from successive governments and noted that the National Party had worked on a number of the initiatives shown in the item, for example through policy changes and increased funding. The National Party did not consider that the advertisement contained any inaccuracies, visual or otherwise, or that it would have misled viewers.
Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority
 SKY Network Television Ltd, the broadcaster, noted that the fairness standard applied to individuals or organisations taking part or referred to in programmes. It noted that the only organisation taking part or referred to was the National Party, who it considered was treated fairly. Accordingly, it declined to uphold the Standard 6 complaint.
 SKY considered that the complainant’s Standard 5 concerns had been adequately dealt with by the National Party in its response to the Authority. It therefore declined to uphold this part of the complaint.
 The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes): Standard 5 (accuracy)
 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 Authority has previously considered the accuracy standard in relation to election advertisements.1
 In our view, the advertisement subject to complaint did create an impression that the National-led Government had some role in the pictured projects. However, we consider the language in the advertisement was sufficiently couched in terms of the present and looking ahead to the future, rather than claiming that the National-led Government had undertaken the major infrastructure projects shown. In our view, the projects referred to by the complainant were selective visual examples and illustrations of the types of infrastructure the National Party intended to build if re-elected.
 We consider that most viewers, in the first instance, would not have been able to instantly identify the projects pictured, and second, would not have been aware of whether those projects were initiated, funded or completed under National as opposed to under the previous Labour government. We therefore do not consider that most viewers would have been misled in that respect.
 Accordingly, we are satisfied that the advertisement was not inaccurate or misleading, and we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.
Standard E1 (election programmes subject to other Codes): Standard 6 (fairness)
 Mr Wood argued that the advertisement “uses Labour’s work to portray National in an unfairly positive light”.
 Standard 6 applies only to individuals and organisations taking part or referred to in a broadcast. As noted by the broadcaster, only the National Party was referred to in the advertisement. Because the Labour Party did not take part and was not referred to in the advertisement, the fairness standard is not relevant in the circumstances. Accordingly, we decline to uphold this part of the complaint.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
14 November 2011
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Greg Wood’s direct referral to the Authority – 3 November 2011
2 The National Party’s response to the Authority – 4 November 2011
3 SKY’s response to the Authority – 7 November 2011