Vanessa Alexander claims Rugby News failed to comply with Principles 1 (Accuracy, fairness and balance) and 11 (Photographs and graphics) of the Press Council Statement of Principles in relation to Rugby News’ “Rugby Championship 2014 Special Edition”. The edition referred to New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key and to the All Blacks.
Rugby News is not formally within Press Council jurisdiction and the editor has agreed to submit to the process.
The complaint was fast-tracked because of election-related content.

The Press Council does not up hold the complaint.


The cover of the edition included a picture of the Prime Minister in All Black kit, standing in front of four well-known All Blacks, including the captain Richie McCaw. The cover carried the caption “Pack Leader John Key - #1 All Black Supporter”. The edition included an article titled “All Blacks #1 Fan”. The article compared the Prime Minister’s role and the importance of the All Blacks to New Zealand’s standing particularly overseas.

The Complaint

Vanessa Alexander’s complaint refers, she says, to the cover of the Rugby News edition. Ms Alexander says that the cover implies that the All Blacks have “endorsed” the Prime Minister and the National party. Ms Alexander says that the presentation of the Prime Minister’s image in this way is a “cynical attempt to boost National’s election result”. Ms Alexander claims that this “breaches the rules of balance intended to help a functioning democracy” particularly given the edition has been published in proximity to the upcoming election. Ms Alexander says she has no complaint as to the article itself.

The Response

Rugby News responds by denying the connection Ms Alexander makes. Rugby News points Mr Key’s support for the All Blacks and to the All Blacks successes which have been for the country’s benefit. The portrayal is appropriate. The connection Ms Alexander sees does not exist.

The Decision

The Press Council does not agree that Rugby News’ use of Mr Key’s image suggests that the All Blacks or the New Zealand Rugby Union have endorsed Mr Key or his party. The super imposing of Mr Key’s image is obvious and cannot on any objective view be regarded as any kind of endorsement. Nor can the cover be isolated from the article proper as Ms Alexander claims. The focus of the article is on Mr Key as New Zealand’s prime minister and the relationship between his work and the achievement of the All Blacks. Indeed the caption to the article itself opens with the line “Whatever your politics…”.

The magazine has acted responsibly in acknowledging, in two separate places, the manipulation of the cover photo (photoshop), and in flagging the fact it was not an ABs or NZRU endorsement. More was not required of the editor.

The Press Council does not agree with Ms Alexander when she says that the cover is unbalanced and prejudicial especially leading into an election.

The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.


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