Decisions

Bright v Whale Oil Beef Hooked (16/012)

Content: “Can Penny Bright Explain This?”

Publisher: Whale Oil Beef Hooked

Complainant: P. Bright

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The complaint was by and about Penny Bright, a 2016 Auckland City Mayoral candidate and the use of a Watercare water meter at her property in Auckland.

The content was headed “Can Penny Bright Explain This?” and was written by Cameron Slater.  It made statements about Ms Bright and recent Court action about outstanding rates.  It included photographs of Ms Bright’s property and water meter with statements and questions about whether Ms Bright had done something to bypass the property’s water meter.

The majority of the Complaints Committee agreed that the content was opinion, albeit expressed using statements about facts that were controversial and disputed.  As the majority agreed the content was opinion, Standard 1- Accuracy did not apply.  The Committee also ruled the complaint was not upheld under Standards 2, 5 and 6.

However, the complaint was upheld under Standard 3 – Fairness.  The content had focused on Ms Bright and made assumptions based on photographs and information from sources without giving Ms Bright an opportunity to comment prior to publication.  The Committee took into account Ms Bright’s candidacy for the 2016 Auckland City Mayoral campaign and her public stance relating to water restrictions but did not consider this was sufficient to justify publication without a right of reply in the public interest.

In summary, the complaint was upheld under Standard 3 Fairness, and not upheld under Standards 1, 2, 5 and 6.

Ruling date: 17 May 2016 

Outcome: Upheld, in part