Case Number: 2315

Council Meeting: MARCH 2013

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion Post

Ruling Categories: Discrimination
Headlines and Captions
Balance, Lack Of
Unfair Coverage

Allan Golden complains to the Press Council about a Dominion Post column about an inquiry by the New Zealand Stock Exchange into trading in Blis Technologies shares. The complaint is not upheld.

The ‘Chalkie’ column published on 13 February 2013 questioned the length of time it was taking for NZX Market Supervision to make any progress on the inquiry into “potentially anomalous trades” ahead of the conversion of preference shares to ordinary shares.
The column discussed what had happened to the Blis share price, and the trading by Edinburgh Equity Nominee, a holding company with a significant stake in Blis.

In Mr Golden’s view the column had taken too long to outline what amounted to some serious accusations and then paid only ‘lip service’ to the issue by not being prepared to hold those responsible to account.
He questioned the role of members of the Financial Markets Authority who had found no breach of securities legislation. “The newspaper should be prepared to say the decision does not stand up to scrutiny, probably because the FMA members are all Government-appointed and it will exonerate friends of the Government in order for the members to hold their appointments and receive others.”
He said the column breached Press Council principles including accuracy, fairness and balance. He also claimed the column had breached principles concerning headlines and captions, and discrimination.
Mr Golden said “the newspaper seemed to be saying that corruption has got too much of a hold that it can no longer hold the Government to account”.

The Newspaper’s Response
The writer of the Dominion Post’s Chalkie column, Tim Hunter, said he had taken a responsible rather than the sensational approach Mr Golden seemed to want. His column was drawing attention to questionable market behaviour that was not being met with an appropriate regulatory response. “Had I been able to prove wrongdoing I would have done so.”
He said it was undesirable to call someone a crook unless there was proof of crookedness. “Similarly, an accusation of secret agenda tends to carry more weight if there is some evidence to support it.”

The Press Council does not find the column has breached any of its principles and rejects Mr Golden’s view that the columnist should have labelled certain individuals as crooks.

The Council does not uphold the complaint.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson, Liz Brown, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Peter Fa’afiu, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding and John Roughan.