Media Council ruling: Greyhound petition

Source: 1News

Greyhound petition complaint upheld by Media Council

On August 5, 2021 TVNZ published a story about a petition, organised by the Greyhound Protection League and animal rights group SAFE, being presented to Parliament. The petition was seeking a ban on greyhound racing in New Zealand.

The story noted that the petition was signed by 37,000 Kiwis.

TVNZ did not write the story – but published it in accordance with a copy-sharing arrangement with Australian Associated Press (AAP).

A complaint was lodged noting that the petition was open to people globally and it was therefore inaccurate to say 37,000 kiwis had signed. Later screenshots were provided by the complainant that showed American, Australian and Serbian animal rights groups soliciting for signatures on the NZ petition.

By the time the complaint was lodged TVNZ had removed the story from its website as per the contract it has with AAP. TVNZ argued this limited the scope of its investigation. They said they were unable to determine whether the signatures were all from NZ or included overseas signatures.

TVNZ noted that the country of origin of petitioners and signatories appeared to be irrelevant to the petition as NZ citizenship is not a pre-requisite for creating a petition.

The Media Council noted that the TVNZ responses suggested they absolved themselves of any responsibility as they didn’t write the story, only published it for a month and got it from a reputable agency.

As far as relevance of country of origin goes the Media Council noted it is far more telling to New Zealand readers if a substantial portion of New Zealanders have joined in, rather than there being a scattering of signatures from all over the world.

The story stated the petition was signed by 37,000 Kiwis. On the balance of the information available that was not so. Therefore there was a significant error of fact that misled readers.

It is certainly true that by the time the complaint was lodged the story had gone, so had TVNZ addressed the main point of the complaint – that there was an inaccuracy – there was little remedial action they could have taken in terms of the published story.

However the Media Council said TVNZ had a duty, as publisher, to assess the validity of the complaint. Just because it was only up for a short period of time was not an absolving factor. In the Council’s view, given the material available, TVNZ should have informed AAP of the complaint, and acknowledged this action with the complainant, and accepted that the report was in error. The complaint was upheld on this basis.

The full Media Council ruling is at www.mediacouncil.org.nz