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« Siemer’s right-to-jury case | Main | Offensive language »

Off-Target

By Steven | June 11, 2010

The BSA has just given TV3’s hidden-camera wielding consumer affairs show Target a spanking for wrongly claiming that Cafe Cezanne’s chicken was infested with faecal coliform. Turns out, Target had got its samples mixed up.

Worse than that, Top Shelf, the company that produces Target, initially provided wrong information to the cafe about when the sample was gathered.

Worse than that, when it corrected itself, Top Shelf provided another wrong date for the sample.

Worse than that, when it caught its error, TV3 tried to offer the cafe free promotional advertising across its radio network instead of broadcasting an apology.

Worse than that, when Target did broadcast an apology, it only said that it couldn’t be sure which cafe’s food was contaminated, leaving open the possibility that it was Cafe Cezanne. In fact, by then Top Shelf had tracked down the receipt that showed that the cafe’s sample was gathered and sent to the lab the day before the contaminated sample was sent to the lab. The receipt proved that the contaminated sample couldn’t have come from that cafe.

On the same day as the (half-arsed) apology was broadcast, the cafe’s lawyers asked Top Shelf for a copy of the receipt. It took Top Shelf more than ten weeks to supply it.

And worse than that, it wasn’t until January 2010 at the prompting of some searching questions from the BSA that Target revealed its policy of delivering samples to the lab on the same day as they were collected… the final piece in the puzzle that exonerated the cafe.

Not surprisingly, the BSA’s decision is scathing. It found breaches of the accuracy and fairness standards. TV3 was ordered to publish an apology on TV, on each of the MediaWorks’ radio stations, and in the Herald (only the second time, I think, this order has been made, and the first time that a broadcaster has been forced to broadcast a statement on associated stations), pay legal costs of $28,068.75 and $10,000 costs to the Crown (effectively a fine).

It’s not clear that Top Shelf or TV3 has been deliberately deceptive. TV3 insisted that it simply failed to make the connection due to human error (one of a burgeoning number of human errors revealed in this case), and the BSA accepted that the errors were not “intentional or malicious”, instead finding them “cavalier”.

I don’t know where the truth lies, but I’m not sure I’d be so charitable. Did Top Shelf really take more than six months to put all the pieces together? Why the huge delay on providing the receipt?

Topics: Broadcasting Standards Authority |

2 Responses to “Off-Target”

  1. James Says:
    August 17th, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    A programme that is premised on criticism of the standard of other peoples workmanship including their attention to detail is found to be shoddy in it’s own and wants to minimise publication of this. I wonder what Target would rate itself out of 10 for the Cezanne story. As an aside do contractors working in a house, admittedly someone else’s, have any expectation of privacy from wide publication of this sort? Consumer info that is incorrect or poorly put together seems unhelpful in the extreme.

  2. Steven Says:
    August 17th, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    James: yes, contractors do have an expectation of privacy, which was upheld by the BSA in O’Connell, another Target case: http://www.bsa.govt.nz/decisions/2007/2007-067.htm

    There can also be fairness issues, as that case also demonstrates.

    Privacy rights won’t help the contractor if the hidden camera reveals something of public interest, though it will need to be something more than the fairly trivial lapses by the care workers caught on tape in O’Connell. The broadcaster can also choose to pixilate, or to get consent.

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