Prime Minister's Office Fail | The Jackal

19 Sep 2011

Prime Minister's Office Fail

You have to wonder why the Prime Minister's office felt so hard done by the TVNZ story into New Zealand's biggest BMW dealership donating $50,000 to the National Party soon after a contract was signed for the manufacturer to provide a new fleet of cars for Government ministers.

Stop the press, they're telling the truth. I guess the story didn't fit in with John Keys smile and wave bullshit! The Broadcasting Standards Authority has slammed Nationals complaint with the NZ Herald reporting:
A promotion said the report raised "new questions" and a journalist was shown questioning Mr Key on the decision to accept the donation.

The Prime Minister's chief press secretary, Kevin Taylor, made a formal complaint to TVNZ after the article aired, alleging it was inaccurate and misleading.

The item misled viewers by "attacking the integrity of the Prime Minister in an utterly unfounded way", he said.
John Key doesn't have any integrity to attack. The BSA clearly understand that the press must be allowed to report facts. If John Key can't recall signing off on the BMW's, lied about having to go ahead with the deal and did not make a large donation known to the public as required by law, he should be exposed for his lack of integrity. The complaint by Kevin Taylor is simply farcical!

Unlike the $43 million deal for MediaWorks that ensures they give National a hand job for the foreseeable future, there's a few signs of journalistic light glimmering away in the distance. However these will soon be snuffed out according to National's plan in a second term.

If National wins the next election, we can kiss goodby to the fantastic TVNZ 7 for starters. Say goodbye to local content, say hello to even more brain dead overseas programming.

The BSA has put a lot of time into this one. But here's the guts of it:

Authority’s Determination
The complainant argued that the following aspects of the programme breached Standard 5:
  • The implication that there was a link between the donation and the car deal
  • The statement in the teaser, “new questions on a car deal related to John Key’s National Party getting money from a top BMW dealership”
  • The statement in the introduction to the item, “A new turn now in the Government’s upgrade of its fleet of BMW limousines”
  • The teaser and item were misleading because they gave the impression of a “dodgy deal” and attacked the Prime Minister’s integrity.
With regard to the complainant’s argument that the item implied there was a “link” between the donation and the car deal, we note that the item contained the following comments:
  • “new questions on a car deal related to John Key’s National Party getting money from a top BMW dealership...” (newsreader)
  • “A new turn now in the Government’s upgrade of its fleet of BMW limousines. New Zealand’s biggest BMW dealership donated $50,000 to the National Party soon after a contract was signed for more than 30 new cars.” (newsreader)
  • “Next month John Key will be ferried around in a new Series 7 BMW. That’s after the Government signed off on a deal to buy 34 of them. Now it’s been revealed that Team McMillan donated money to the National Party. The car dealership’s a separate entity from BMW Limited New Zealand, which has the contract with the Government.” (reporter)
  • “Documents show that on July 28 last year the Prime Minister’s chief of staff met the Internal Affairs Department to discuss buying the BMWs. Two days later a $50,000 donation was made to the National Party. One News understands part of the money was collected at a fundraising event in June hosted by the boss of Team McMillan. He then topped it up from his own pocket. We put that to the Prime Minister.” (reporter)
  • One News first broke the story about the BMW deal on February 15. The deal was signed by Labour and then rolled over by National; the new cars [will be] on our roads in a matter of weeks.” (reporter)
In our view, the item did not state as fact that there was a link between the Government’s car deal and the donation received by the National Party from a BMW dealership. Nor do we consider that viewers would have been left with this impression, or with the impression that the Government had made a “dodgy deal”. The item included clear statements refuting any suggestion that there was a link:
  • “Well it’s certainly an issue that got the Prime Minister fired up. He was short with us when we approached him for his reaction. He did release this statement though late this afternoon, saying that any link between the purchase of 34 new cars and a donation to the National Party are baseless, and, quote, a smear on his integrity.” (reporter)
  • “The car dealership’s a separate entity from BMW Limited New Zealand, which has the contract with the Government.” (reporter)
  • “...the contract was signed by Labour. The decision was made by Ministerial Services. As we’ve always said, we weren’t briefed actually at the time. That was one of the failures of the system so there’s no basis to the allegations.” (John Key)
  • “I’ve spoken to BMW New Zealand Limited and also to Bob McMillan who made the donation. They both say that there’s absolutely no link between the purchase of the cars and the donation, and Bob McMillan says there’s no financial benefit for him with the purchase of these new cars.” (reporter)
In these circumstances, we find that the item was not inaccurate in this respect, and would not have misled viewers, who were left to form their own judgement about the matters raised. We are also of the view that the audience would have understood that it was Labour MP Chris Hipkins who had questioned the Prime Minister’s integrity, rather than One News. In this respect, we consider that the broadcaster made reasonable efforts to fairly and accurately present the Prime Minister’s response to the allegations made by Mr Hipkins.

With regard to whether the item was accurate in referring to “new questions” and a “new turn”, we agree with TVNZ that this was a fair representation of the fact that a Labour MP had raised a question in Parliament, under privilege, relating to the donation. We therefore do not consider that the item was inaccurate or misleading in this respect.

Further, in our view, there was a high level of public interest in the story. Reporting on allegations of this nature which are raised in the House is an important role of the media, and a vital component of freedom of expression.

Accordingly, we decline to uphold the complaint that the item breached Standard 5.

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