Case Number: 2548

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2016

Decision: Not Upheld with Dissent

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Conflict of Interest
Unfair Coverage


Please see also Case No 2547 Sky TV against New Zealand Herald. This decision carries on from the NZ Herald decision.

The Complaint

31. The complaint deals with four articles as follows :

Fairfax and NZME argue Sky TV’s Olympic rules are unfair, 19 July 2016;

Don’t criticise our commentators, Sky TV demanded in its Olympic media rules —21 July 2016;

TVNZ heads to Rio but criticises Sky TV demands, 29 July 2016;

Jonathan Milne: Our athletes who trained so hard are the losers in these disintegrating Olympic Games — 31 July 2016

The Response

32. We think it unnecessary to repeat the Sky position or the Stuff response. The Sky position was similar as that relating to theHerald. The Stuff response, provided by editor Patrick Crewdson, is covered in the decision below.

The Discussion

Fairfax and NZME argue Sky TV’s Olympic rules are unfair, 19 July 2016

33. This was an article about New Zealand news websites trying to negotiate a deal that would allow them to cover the upcoming Olympic Games. It states that without that, they may pull their reporting teams entirely. The essence of the dispute is set out, then there is a statement from a Sky TV spokeswoman, whom we presume to be Ms Way. That statement says that the rules for New Zealand media were more lenient than those imposed in Australia and Britain, and said more footage was being allowed than was available at previous Olympic and Commonwealth games, and that, “We are close to finalising the process”. It goes on to state that some of the requirements that have been criticised were requirements of the IOC, not Sky. The article concludes by saying that both Fairfax and NZME were hopeful of resolving issues with Sky.

34. There is nothing inaccurate, unfair or unbalanced in this story. There are no breaches of any principles.

Don’t criticise our commentators, Sky TV demanded in its Olympic media rules — 21 July 2016

35. This was a story that reported the end of several months’ negotiations, with Fairfax and NZME deciding not to accept the news access rules, and not to send journalists to the games. The headline comes from an opening comment that New Zealand journalists would have to agree not to criticise Sky commentators under Olympic Games rules the pay TV Company wanted to impose on its new rivals. It immediately goes on to say that Sky backed off that demand, but never backed down to the point where the demands complied with New Zealand copyright law. The article sets out the background, details the major publications owned by Fairfax, and concludes that the NZOC had rubber-stamped the rules and left it to the competing media companies to resolve issues.

36. After the comment on the headline the story then focuses on the actions of the NZOC. The next mention of Sky is well into the article and shortly thereafter there is a statement from Ms Way on behalf of Sky reported, which is then commented on.

37. Finally, the New Zealand Media Freedom Committee, through its chairwoman Joanna Norris, is quoted as saying it was “extremely disappointed” that NZOC had curtailed the right to freedom of expression. This comment was directed at NZOC.

38. Again, this is an accurate, fair and balanced report. It shows no breaches of any principles. However, while not upholding the complaint we considerStuff should have revealed that Ms Norris was editor of the Christchurch Press one of their publications. In this case it has not altered our decision because her comments are directed at NZOC.

TVNZ heads to Rio but criticises Sky TV demands, 29 July 2016

39. This was a story about TVNZ sending reporters to the Rio Olympics but at the same time accusing Sky of leveraging its market dominance over coverage. It quotes the Chief Executive of TVNZ and then goes on to note that neither Fairfax Media New Zealand nor NZME was sending reporters to Rio, because of restrictions demanded by Sky. The article then quotes Ms Way stating that the media companies were given alternatives of coverage; it makes clear all of which involved certain periods of delay. It goes on to state that the media companies have argued they would have greater rights to re-broadcast footage from Rio under the “fair use” clauses within copyright law. It says the acceptance of Sky’s commercial terms would sign away these rights. It concludes with the Sky statement that it was pleased an agreement had been reached with TVNZ:

As public interest is always high for these events where our athletes strive to succeed on the world stage, we expect there will naturally be extensive news coverage.

40. This is a balanced article on the TVNZ position. It includes the position taken by Fairfax Media and NZME, quotes Ms Way, and closes with a statement from Sky. We see no breach of any principles in this article.

Jonathan Milne: Our athletes who trained so hard are the losers in these disintegrating Olympic Games — 31 July 2016

41. This is clearly marked an opinion piece. It focuses to begin with on the situation of a former colleague from Fairfax who was a journalist in the Parliamentary press gallery, who then travelled to Rio de Janeiro with her partner for the Olympics. They were involved in some difficulties, apparently involving the police, and got out of the country (apparently with assistance from Fairfax) and went to Canada.

42. The story goes on to express opinions relating to the dispute with Sky television.

43. Sky cites one sentence fragment in its complaint:

… Sky TV tried to impose … a ban on any use of news and sports video whatsoever for 30 minutes.

44. Ms Way complains that this is not based on a material fact, as it was only one of three options. However, she concedes that a 30-minute delay was one of the proposals, which appears to us to agree with Mr Crewdson’s submission. The acknowledgement means that Mr Milne’s opinion on that matter was not based on an inaccurate fact.

45. In any event, as the submission of Mr Crewdson above pointed out, the other two proposals involved a 30-minute ban as well. The first allowed six minutes of footage in news bulletins delayed at least 30 minutes after each event, and the other allowed two minutes outside news bulletins, but again with a 30-minute delay.

46. This is an opinion piece. It is not based on inaccurate facts. There is no breach of the relevant principle.


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