McDonald and Discovery NZ Ltd - 2020-131 (28 January 2021)
- Judge Bill Hastings (Chair)
- Leigh Pearson
- Paula Rose QSO
- Susie Staley MNZM
- Donald McDonald
BroadcasterDiscovery NZ Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority did not uphold an accuracy complaint about a Newshub item describing a new solar paint product as potentially ‘160 times less’ expensive than solar panels. The statement was a technical point unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the item as a whole.
Not Upheld: Accuracy
 An item on Newshub Live at 6pm on 1 September 2020 (channel Three) covered the development of a solar paint designed to transfer light to small solar panels ‘the width of [a] finger’:
Reporter: This paint could soon be coating New Zealand roofs and powering your home. It contains luminescent molecules that absorb and emit light.
Researcher: You paint just directly on top of the roof and then you put solar panels inside your guttering.
 The solar paint was described as cheaper than solar panels:
An average solar panel system on a New Zealand house will set you back about $9,000. But the solar paint is expected to cost up to 160 times less.
 Donald McDonald complained the item breached the accuracy standard as the statistic ‘160 times less’ should have been ’60 percent less’. He used coarse language in his referral and said the broadcaster ‘didn’t listen to the complaint’.
The broadcaster’s response
 MediaWorks did not uphold the complaint as ‘the Broadcast did not contain any material errors of fact that would have affected viewers' understanding of the item overall which focused on the development of solar paint’. It objected to the language in Mr McDonald’s complaint and said, ‘We did listen and he received a decision from the Standards Committee… within the statutory timeframe.’
 The accuracy standard1 states broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming is accurate in relation to all material points of fact, and does not mislead. The standard protects audiences from being significantly misinformed. It does not apply to technical or unimportant points that are not ‘material’ to the audience’s understanding of the programme as a whole.2
 We have watched the broadcast and read the correspondence listed in the Appendix.
 Our task is to weigh the value of the programme, in terms of the right to freedom of expression and the public interest in it, against the level of actual or potential harm caused by the broadcast. The harm alleged is the audience would be misled regarding the relative cost of solar paint compared with solar panels.
 The focus of the item was the development of and investment in solar paint, and why New Zealand companies such as Resene were interested in investing in it. Mr McDonald has not provided any detail on why the statistic ‘160 times less’ was material, and inaccurate. It was a technical point unlikely to significantly affect the audience’s understanding of the item as a whole. The point being made was that solar paint was expected to be significantly cheaper than solar panels. We therefore find ‘160 times less’ was not a ‘material point of fact’ to which the standard applied and we do not uphold the complaint.
 Mr McDonald seems to also be raising concerns about how the broadcaster has addressed his various complaints. We have received six separate referrals from Mr McDonald recently and in each case MediaWorks (now Discovery) has responded appropriately and within the statutory timeframe.
 We also remind Mr McDonald it is important to maintain decorum in the language of his complaints.
For the above reasons the Authority does not uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
Judge Bill Hastings
28 January 2021
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Donald McDonald’s complaint to MediaWorks – 4 September 2020
2 MediaWorks’ response – 2 October 2020
3 Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 2 October 2020
4 MediaWorks’ confirmation of no further comments – 9 November 2020
1 Standard 9 of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice
2 Guideline 9b
3 As above