Thompson v RNZ (16/013)

Content: Toby and Toby “The Panama Paper Chase”.

Publisher: RNZ

Complainant: R. Thompson

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The Chairman accepted the Complainant was offended by the cartoon in the article and noted their concerns it was inaccurate as there was no evidence to support the suggestion New Zealand was a tax haven for South American businesses.

The preliminary comment from the Publisher RNZ said as the content was clearly labelled as opinion, the complaint fell outside OMSA’s jurisdiction as previously found by OMSA in complaint 15/013 Loder v RNZ.

The Chairman noted that decision stated, in part:

“the Complaints Committee confirmed the item was covered by OMSA’s jurisdiction. In relation to the identification of the item, the Committee agreed to settle this part of the complaint as Radio New Zealand had acknowledged the item should have been labelled ‘opinion’ and this change had been made. The Committee agreed that as the item was opinion, the Standards for Accuracy and Balance did not apply and the matter relating to identification had been addressed by the labelling and classification changes.”

The Chairman considered whether the content fell within OMSA’s jurisdiction. He held it was comment on a news and current affairs event relating to the Panama Papers and the possibility of offshore trusts in New Zealand which met the grounds to be considered a matter of significant public interest. He also noted the opinion piece included several links to related news articles on the RNZ website, one of which featured an interview with the Complainant.

The Chairman concluded the content was news and current affairs for the purposes of the OMSA Code of Standards. However, noting the content was clearly labelled as opinion and its obvious satirical nature, he said Standard 1 – Accuracy of the OMSA Code of Standards did not apply as per the explicit exemption for opinion.

He also considered whether there was any breach of the Fairness Standard which required that Publishers deal fairly with any person referred to in online news and current affairs publications. The Chairman took into account the content was satirical opinion and was identified as such. He noted the content included a link to an interview with the Complainant where his position in relation to the news and current affairs aspects were identified. The Chairman held, taking into account the context, the content relating to the Complainant, R. Thompson, and the cartoon illustration which depicted him as a “central figure” in the Panama Papers did not reach the threshold to be considered a breach of the Standard for Fairness.

The Chairman ruled the content fell within OMSA’s jurisdiction but as it was clearly opinion, it was not considered against Standard 1 Accuracy. The Chairman said the content met the requirements of Standard 3 Fairness and there was no apparent breach of the Code of Standards.

The Chairman ruled there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.


 Ruling Date: 18 May 2016

Outcome: No Grounds to Proceed